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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.1, 89 ~ 106, 2020
Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes: Dialectic Melancholy and Apocalyptic Hope
Sangwook Kim
This paper illuminates a social side of Catherine McKenna’s melancholic affect in Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes. A composer of classical music, Catherine is a character whose musical musings about Northern Irish liberation from sectarian politics parallel the liberation from Irish inner oppressions Stephen Dedalus artistically envisions in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Catherine’s postpartum depression, or her ongoing melancholy as its extension, signifies two things in Grace Notes. On the one hand, the melancholy of Catherine figures the elegiac mood in the emotional profile of Irish identity. It echoes the Irish melancholic psyche displaying collectively internalized mourning for Irish sectarian deaths throughout English colonialism. On the other hand, Catherine’s melancholy is regarded as a dialectical means for messianic noumena in Walter Benjamin’s terms. In particular, Catherine’s melancholy is viewed in Benjamin’s messianic idea of dialectic melancholy, an affective cathexis in which a superhuman possibility is inspired for uncreated, integrative identity at the moment of hopelessness. Vernicle, Catherine’s conciliation symphony, is the melancholic feminine contemplation of an a priori reality carrying the apocalyptic hope for an Irish reconciliation overturning the Northern Irish masculine patriarchies perpetuating sectarian schisms.
Key Words
Grace Notes, melancholy, sectarianism, Northern Ireland, Walter Benjamin
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