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The Irish Fairy Tale

A Narrative Tradition from the Middle Ages to Yeats and Stephens

Vito Carrassi - Translated by Kevin Wren

Beginning with a critical reappraisal of the notion of “fairy tale” and extending it to include categories and genres which are in common usage in folklore and in literary studies, this book throws light on the general processes involved in storytelling. It illuminates the fundamental ways in which a culture is formed, while highlighting important features of the Irish narrative tradition, in all its wealth and variety and in its connections with the mythical and historical events of Ireland. The Irish Fairy Tale argues that the fairy tale is a kind of “neutral zone,” a place of transition as well as a meeting place for popular beliefs and individual creativity, oral tradition and literary works, historical sources and imaginary reconstructions, and for contrasting and converging views of the world, which altogether allow for a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of reality. The book focuses on stories by Yeats and Stephens, whose approach to the subject marks the culmination of a long tradition of attempts at linking past and present and of bridging the gap between what appear to be contradictory facets of a single culture. This leads to a comparative study of Joyce’s Dubliners, which illustrates the universal and exemplary nature of the notion of fairy tale put forward in the work. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / John Cabot University Press
Pages: 218Size: 6 x 9
978-1-61149-380-1 • Paperback • March 2012 • $35.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61149-379-5 • eBook • March 2012 • $35.99 • (£24.95)
Vito Carrassi is a writer and translator who teaches folklore at the University of Bari. His main fields of research are literary anthropology, narratology, Irish and Italian folklore.
AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Narrativity, between Orality and Writing
2.The Fairy tale: Reformulation of a Concept
Chapter 1. A Celtic Legacy and Christian Syncretism1. A Methodological Introduction2. The Celtic Heredity
3. The Christian Appropriation of Celtic Tradition

Chapter 2. The Precursors of Yeats in the Recuperation of the Narrative Tradition1. TheRoyal Hibernian Tales
2. Thomas Crofton Croker and His Followers
3. Patrick Kennedy
4. Letitia McClintock, Lady Wilde, Douglas Hyde
5. The Literary Reception of the Written Gaelic Tradition

Chapter 3. A Rebirth in the Light of the Tradition
1. The National Question and Literary Rebirth2. Yeats, the Inspiration of the Irish Revival
3. The Distinguishing Characteristics of Yeats’ Collections
4. The Fairy Tale according to Stephens

Chapter 4. The Fairy Tale between fabula and historia
1. The Space-Time Coordinates of the Fairy Tale
2. The Dynamic Established by the Fairy Tale
Chapter 5. The Process of Composition of the Fairy Tale
1. The Triangle Composed of Etain, Midir and Eochaid and the Origin of the Fairy Tale
2. An Analysis of the Priomscel and the Structure of the Fairy Tale
3. Classification of the Functions and Characterization of the Fairy Tale

Chapter 6. Plurality and Metanarrative in the Fairy Tale
1. Substructure and Metastructure
2. Deep Structure and Surface Structure
3. The Narrativity Produced by the Fairy Tale

Chapter 7. The Significance of the Fairy Tale in the Historical and Cultural Context
1. An Indicative Metaphor
2. The Epiphanic and Pragmatic Components of the Fairy Tale
3. The Dialectic between Signifier and Signified

Chapter 8. Between the Fairy Tale and Tale
1. The Five Phases of the Fairy Tale
2. The Fairy Tale and the Pseudo-Fairy Tale
3. The Joycian Tale in the Light of the Fairy Tale

Chapter 9. Narrative Construction and Re-Construction of the World
1. Paradigm and Syntagma, Fabula and Plot
2. An Essential Dialectic

Chapter 10. Beyond Ireland: a General Perspective1. Narrativity as a Quest for Meaning
2. A Model of Universal Significance

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Carrassi (University of Bari, Italy) contributes to the ever-burgeoning field of fairy tale studies with a densely packed volume that reveals various influences, including narratology, structuralism, archetypal criticism, and Catholicism. His focus is the fairy tale in Ireland from the Celtic period through the Irish Revival to James Joyce. But Carrassi's goal is to go beyond the regional and interrogate and then redefine the fairy tale genre itself. His aim, he writes, ‘is to analyze the relationships that, in a determined space-time context, have been created between two opposed ambits of the narrative tradition ... the oral and popular components and the written and cultured.’ Relying heavily on the foundational works of the field (by, for example, Max Lüthi, Vladimir Propp, Stith Thompson, and Tzvetan Todorov), Carrassi shuns more recent approaches, such as feminist and Marxist analyses. Focusing on what he terms the ‘narrative patrimony’ of Ireland and the ‘congenital narrativity’ of the Irish people, he hypothesizes about the process of composition, the meta-narrativity, and the meanings of the traditional tales. Summing Up: Recommended.