For many people, the Irish and the fantastic are synonymous. From the ancient texts and medieval illuminated manuscripts to 20th century poetry, painting, drama, stories and novels, Irish writers and artists have found the fantastic not only congenial but necessary to their art. In his introduction to this collection of 15 essays that focus on the fantastic in Irish literature and the arts, Donald E.Morse contends that the use of the fantastic mode has allowed Irish writers and artists to express ideas, emotions and insights not available through the direct imitation of everyday reality. Morse argues that for the Irish, the road to insight was often through the territory of the marvelous and the fantastic rather than through literalism, rationalism or logic. In seeking to arrive at a definition of what consitutes the fantastic, Morse looks at work by Sean O'Casey and Seamus Heaney and finds that the fantastic occurs during encounters with what is considered to be the impossible, a concept contingent upon personal beliefs.
To demonstrate how the fantastic may yield new insights into human beings, their behaviour, feelings and thoughts as well as lead to innovations in art, Morse scrutinizes "Circe" from James Joyce's "Ulysses", probably the most famous use of the fantastic in all modern Irish literature. The works of Yeats, Field, Shelly, Synge, Beckett, Swift and others are examined in chapters written from the point of view of the fantastic.
Introduction: "More real than reality" - an introduction to the fantastic in Irish literature and the arts, Donald E.Morse. Part 1 Ancient knowledge and the fantastic: myth and the fantastic - the example of W.B.Yeats' plays, Csilla Bertha
siren or victim - the mermaid in Irish legend and poetry, Maureen Murphy
ghosts recycling the elements, Bettina Knapp. Part 2 The fantastic and Irish arts - theatre, music and paintings: Irish drama and the fantastic, Christopher Murray
"my unshatterable friend of clay" - fantasy in the paintings of Jack B.Yeats, Hilary Pyle
John Field's imaginative achievement - parallels with Chopin, Shelly and Turner, Peter Egri. Part 3 Uses of the fantastic by Irish playwrights: interrogating boundaries - fantasy in the plays of John M.Synge, Toni O'Brien Johnson
the uses of the fantastic in the later plays of Sean O'Casey, Jurgen Kamm
"fidelity to failure" - time and the fantastic in Samuel Beckett's early plays, Donald E.Morse
Thomas Murphy's psychological explorations, Csilla Bertha. Part 4 The occult, fantasy and phantasmagoria in Swift, Dunsany, Joyce and Yeats: Swift and fantasy, C.N.Manlove
Lord Dunsany - the geography of the gods, Vernon Hyles
the fantastic in James Joyce's "Ulysses" - representational strategies in "Circe" and "Penelope", Aladar Sarbu
the displacement of the real - from Coleridgean fancy to Yeats' vision and beyond, Joseph Swann
looking backward, looking ahead - the study of the fantastic in Irish literature and the arts, Donald E.Morse and Csilla Bertha.