The Apostate's Wake: Cultures of Irish Catholicism in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake

Chrissie Van Mierlo

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

76 Downloads (Pure)


This project takes a new approach to the treatment of Catholicism in Finnegans Wake by looking beyond established theological and philosophical readings in order to focus on the intricacies of Joyce’s engagement with Irish Catholic culture, c. 1850-1939. This period accounts for the years of Cardinal Cullen’s ‘devotional revolution’ in Ireland, for the formation of the deeply conservative and Rome-centred religious culture into which Joyce was born, and for the emergence of a new Irish Catholic state following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. As my title suggests, this thesis highlights Joyce’s critique of the Church. Adopting a historicist methodology, and drawing upon extensive archival research, I consider how Joyce’s sources—both textual and cultural—are transformed through his revolutionary aesthetic into a radical dismantling of Irish Catholic society.
Topics considered include the following: the role of the artist-intellectual in the ‘new’ Ireland, as shown through the portrait of Shem the Penman; the nature and reach of Joyce’s devastating anticlerical satire of Shaun; the difficulties faced by unmarried Irish Catholic girls, as embodied by Issy, and the impact of ALP’s concerted attack on the material culture of Irish Catholicism, an act that is performed in defence of her husband. The final section of this thesis turns to the historical complexities of Book IV. It attempts to articulate how ALP’s closing monologue can be understood against the backdrop of a new dawn of conservative Irish Catholicism,and in relation to the decline of the Anglicised patriarch HCE.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Fordham, Finn, Supervisor
Award date1 May 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

Cite this