"Thought-Tormented Music": Joyce and the Music of the Irish Revival

Martin Dowling

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


"In this special issue's opening essay, Martin Dowling devotes almost half of "'Thought-Tormented Music': Joyce and the Music of the Irish Revival" to what he calls "the situation of music in the Irish literary revival." He focuses chiefly on 1904, which was both an intensely productive period for the revival movement and a year chock-full of crucial events and decisions for Joyce. Drawing on the works of Pierre Bourdieu and Jaques Lacan, Dowling explores the revivalists' efforts to "de-anglicize" Irish music, to remove foreign influences that distorted the "pure tradition of Irish song," and to achieve an improbable harmony between the music favoured by the disappearing Anglo-Irish aristocracy and the Irish-speaking peasantry. Inevitably, disputes occurred over what constituted "authentic" Irish music. Factions quarrelled over whether pristine Irish music existed in the Atlantic seaboard or more inland; whether "authentic" songs were sung with or without instrumental accompaniment; and whether the piano, rather than the traditional harp, was a legitimate instrument of accompaniment. Having delineated the historical and theoretical context, Dowling offers a richly detailed analysis of Joyce's story "A Mother." He reveals how almost every element in the story--from the Eire Abu Society to the Antient Concert Rooms, from the conflict between Mrs. Kearney and Hoppy Holohan to the plight of Kathleen Kearney--is charged with meaning by the subtextual conflicts of the revivalists' agenda. Dowling explains also the "authenticity" in Joyce's depiction of vocal performances of "The Lass of Aughrim" in "The Dead" and "The Croppy Boy" in "Sirens," which he calls two "true gems" of authentic Irish music." --Introduction by Charles Rossman and Alan W. Friedman, Guest Editors, pp. 409-410
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-458
Number of pages22
JournalJames Joyce Quarterly
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of '"Thought-Tormented Music": Joyce and the Music of the Irish Revival'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this