The Irish storyteller
Supported by documents, many of which were not readily available or have never been published before, this book studies images of the ‘Irish traditional storyteller’ offered at different periods, from several viewpoints and for various purposes.
Invariables, changes, ruptures and the effect of conflicting attitudes and ideologies are identified. Contextualized in Irish history and on the wider European scene, this huge book explores the testimony of early antiquarians, accounts of meetings with storytellers by 18th- or 19th-century travellers, representations of acts of elite storytelling in ancient Irish literature or of popular ones in oral tradition itself and in fiction in English – attention is given to the works of Maria Edgeworth, Lady Morgan, the Banim brothers and Griffin, Carleton, Lover, Le Fanu, Somerville and Ross, Yeats, Synge, George Moore and Joyce, and some more recent authors.
The evolution of the aims and methods of folklorists, from the Romantic Age to the institutionalization of collecting and to modern ethnographic projects, and the links between definitions of folklore and cultural nationalism are investigated, as are the complex relationships between storytelling, history and truth and the concepts of Irishness and tradition.
Another section tries to establish what is known of actual storytelling in the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th: the tellers’ training, their techniques and conception of tradition, their status, the etiquette of performance and the role of the audience. Themes and formal characteristics of different kinds of oral narratives are examined. This book is, perhaps, the definitive account on the subject and should be of interest to those working in Irish history, literature, folklore and society.
‘This book is dynamite and has no rivals’, W.B. McCarthy, Choice.
Professor Zimmermann, now retired, taught in Swiss universities. He is the author of the classic Songs of Irish rebellion (1966, paperback reprint by Four Courts Press 2002) and has also written on Yeats, Walter Scott, and the short story.