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Estopped by Grand Playsaunce: Flann O'Brien's Post-colonial Lore

Brooker, Joseph (2004) Estopped by Grand Playsaunce: Flann O'Brien's Post-colonial Lore. Journal of Law and Society 31 (1), pp. 15-37. ISSN 0263-323X.


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This article seeks to extend our understanding of the Irish writer Flann O'Brien (Myles na gCopaleen, Brian O'Nolan) by reading him from a Law and Literature perspective. I suggest that O'Nolan's painstaking and picky mind, with its attention to linguistic nuance, was logically drawn to the languages of law. In this he confirmed the character that he showed as a civil servant of the cautious, book-keeping Irish Free State. The Free State, like other post-colonial entities, was marked at once by a rhetoric of rupture from the colonial dispensation and by a degree of legal and political continuity. I suggest that O'Nolan's writing works away at both these aspects of the state, alternating between critical and utopian perspectives. After establishing an initial context, I undertake a close reading of O'Nolan's parodies of actual legal procedure, focusing on questions of language and censorship. I then consider his critical work on the issue of Irish sovereignty, placing this in its post-colonial historical context. Finally I describe O'Nolan's treatment of Eamon de Valera's 1937 Constitution. I propose that his attention to textual detail prefigures in comic form the substantial rereadings of the Constitution that have been made in the last half-century.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > English and Humanities
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2005
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2016 12:00

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