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“Absence does not cast a shadow”: yeats's shadowy presence in McGahern's “The wine breath”

Abstract : Most analyses of McGahern’s “The Wine Breath” justify the title of the short story by the main character’s alcoholism. This explanation may well be true but it is not quite satisfying, for it overlooks an important allusion to Yeats’s poem “All Souls’ Night” which contains the following lines: (…) A ghost may come; For it is a ghost’s right, His element is so fine Being sharpened by his death, To drink from the wine-breath While our gross palates drink from the whole wine (…) It is surprising that the connection between these two Irish texts is never underlined, not even in Neil Corcoran’s essay, After Yeats and Joyce, which focuses on the immense influence of Yeats’s work on the styles, stances and preoccupations of those who have succeeded him in the 20th century. This is why this paper explores the intertextual articulations of McGahern’s story in connection with Yeats’s poem, specifically through the notion of return. McGahern’s interest in a piece of writing published several decades before “The Wine Breath” calls attention to the solitary protagonists who, in both texts, call up past episodes of their lives. This “dreaming back” is mirrored by the circular framework of the story and the refrains of the poem. Thanks to these characteristics, the two texts also suggest a return to the local Celtic tradition of the land in which both of them prove to be anchored.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, July 3, 2019 - 12:00:16 PM
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Bertrand Cardin. “Absence does not cast a shadow”: yeats's shadowy presence in McGahern's “The wine breath”. Journal of The Short Story in English / Les Cahiers de la nouvelle, Presses de l'Université d'Angers, 2009, The Short Stories of John MacGahern. ⟨hal-02171928⟩

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