The Celtic Unconscious offers a vital new interpretation of modernist literature through an examination of James Joyce’s employment of Scottish literature and philosophy, as well as a commentary on his portrayal of shared Irish and Scottish histories and cultures. Barlow also offers an innovative look at the strong influences that Joyce’s predecessors had on his work, including James Macpherson, James Hogg, David Hume, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The book draws upon all of Joyce’s major texts but focuses mainly on Finnegans Wake in making three main, interrelated arguments: that Joyce applies what he sees as a specifically “Celtic” viewpoint to create the atmosphere of instability and skepticism of Finnegans Wake; that this reasoning is divided into contrasting elements, which reflect the deep religious and national divide of post-1922 Ireland, but which have their basis in Scottish literature; and finally, that despite the illustration of the contrasts and divisions of Scottish and Irish history, Scottish literature and philosophy are commissioned by Joyce as part of a program of artistic “decolonization” that is enacted in Finnegans Wake. The Celtic Unconscious is the first book-length study of the role of Scottish literature in Joyce’s work and is a vital contribution to the fields of Irish and Scottish studies. This book will appeal to scholars and students of Joyce, and to students interested in Irish studies, Scottish studies, and English literature.
“Provocative, suggestive, and deeply read in Joycean sources and criticism, this book is a new map of the cultural crossings between two parts of an archipelago whose contours are centuries deep. This is an excellent addition to Joyce studies and an important intervention in the reception of Scottish writers from Burns to MacDiarmid." — Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English, University of Georgia
“This excellent study firmly and convincingly establishes the importance and roles of Scotland, Scottish history, and Scottish literature in Joyce’s works. And it shows Joyce’s awareness of both Ireland and Scotland as hybrid societies.” — Vincent J. Cheng, Shirley Sutton Thomas Professor of English, University of Utah
“Irish-Scottish studies is now a recognized field with a growing footprint, part of a larger concern with archipelagic relations. But where others have merely dabbled, Barlow has dug deep and brought buried meanings to the surface. His grasp of the complexity and subtlety of Joyce’s engagement with Scotland, its levels and layers, its sediments and strands, particularly in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, is exemplary.” — Willy Maley, University of Glasgow
“This entertaining and nuanced work argues convincingly for the centrality of Scotland in Joyce’s Celtic consciousness and in so doing is a significant intervention not only in Joyce studies but in Irish studies more generally. While underlining the importance of Ireland in Scotland’s history, Richard Barlow’s original, lively, and painstakingly researched volume throws valuable light on key figures and works from Scottish culture and from the Scottish literary and philosophical canon present in Joyce’s writings. It brings Joyce’s works to life in new and altogether unexpected ways.” — John McCourt, Università Roma Tre