Portraying the Self: Sean O’Casey and the Art of Autobiography
21.6 x 13.8 cm. xvi, 268 pp. 1988 Irish Literary Studies series (ISSN 0140-895X) volume 26
This is the first full-length critical examination of Sean O’Casey’s monumental six-volume autobiography. Beginning by tracing the extraordinary, twenty year evolution of the work’s composition, Professor Kenneally then makes some crucial distinctions between O’Casey’s unique self-portrait and related literary genres such as the memoir and the autobiographical novel. The study goes on to place O’Casey’s self-portrait in the context of autobiographical writing from St Augustine to George Moore.
With these critical perspectives established, the book examines O’Casey’s insistent experimentation with all aspects of autobiographical form: his blending of personal history with information on a host of secondary figures such as Parnell, Pearse, Yeats, Lady Gregory and Shaw; his various principles of selecting and arranging autobiographical materials; and, in particular, his innovative narrative strategies and changing stylistic modes of representation. O’Casey’s willingness to exploit the literary and artistic possibilities offered by the genre has produced multiple images of the self which provide insight into the complex nature of autobiographical identity. By pointing to the overall unity and governing vision of the work, Professor Kenneally confirms its stature as one of the century’s epic self-portraits in prose, a rich and challenging literary creation that enhances our understanding of O’Casey the man and the writer.