Schenectady Putters and Leaving Certificate Ta-Tas: Satirizing Irish Nation-Building in ‘Echo’s Bones’

  • Feargal Whelan
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature book series (PMEL)


The decade directly following the achievement of Irish independence in 1922 witnessed the highly contested attempt to develop a coherent national identity which sought to accommodate inter alia the contrasting impulses of the historical tradition of Irish myth, the reality of a postcolonial existence, and the promotion of a modern industrialized nation based on new technology. ‘Echo’s Bones’, I argue, demonstrates Beckett’s direct assessment of the national debate through a savage parody of the Free State’s public attempts to provide a coherent new vision, by providing a significant and precise commentary on 1920s and 1930s Ireland that should be read as the author’s response of resistance to what he observed. The comic method which Beckett employs as political commentary will be demonstrated as a singularly modernist literary response, and one which he shares with a number of his Irish contemporaries.


  1. Barry, Liz. 2006. Beckett, Bourdieu and the Resistance to Consumption. Modernist Cultures 2 (1): 31–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bixby, Patrick. 2009. Samuel Beckett and the Postcolonial Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, Terence. 2004. Ireland: A Social and Cultural History, 1922–2002. London: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  4. Cleary, Joe. 2005. Outrageous Fortune: Capital and Culture in Modern Ireland. Dublin: Field Day Publications.Google Scholar
  5. Davies, Peter. 2005. The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms: From 1500 to the Present. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dean, Joan Fitzpatrick. 2014. All Dressed Up: Modern Irish Historical Pageants. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dineen, Rev. Patrick S. 1927. An Irish–English Dictionary. Dublin: Irish Texts Society.Google Scholar
  8. Drumm Lorries. 1933. The Irish Times, September 19, p. 8.Google Scholar
  9. Farren, Seán. 1995. The Politics of Irish Education 1920–65. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, the Queen’s University of Belfast.Google Scholar
  10. Ferriter, Diarmaid. 2005. The Transformation of Ireland 1900–2000. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  11. Gibbons, Luke. 2011. Peripheral Visions: Revisiting Irish Modernism. In The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s, 91–101. Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art.Google Scholar
  12. Johnston, Denis. 1932. A National Morality Play. Motley 1 (1): 4–5.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2011. Edmund Spenser, Famine Memory and the Discontents of Humanism in Endgame. Conference Paper. Samuel Beckett and the ‘State’ of Ireland, UCD. 9 July 2011.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2013. Echo’s Bones’: Samuel Beckett After Yeats. Conference Paper. Samuel Beckett: Form and History. Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. June 2013.Google Scholar
  15. Keogh, Dermot. 2005. Twentieth Century Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Lanters, José. 2000. Unauthorized Versions: Irish Menippean Satire, 1919–1952. Washington: Catholic University Press of America.Google Scholar
  17. Long, Patrick. 2009. Drumm, James Joseph. In Dictionary of Irish Biography, ed. James McGuire and James Quinn, vol. III, 471–472. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Mac Giolla Chríost, Diarmait. 2005. The Irish Language in Ireland: From Goídel to Globalisation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. McCormack, W.J. 1991. Irish Gothic and After (1820–1945). In The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, ed. Seamus Deane, vol. II, 831–854. Derry: Field Day.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 1994. From Burke to Beckett: Ascendancy Tradition and Betrayal in Literary History. Cork: Cork University Press.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 2014. Samuel Beckett’s ‘Echo’s Bones’: Politics and Entailment in the Irish Free State. Modern Fiction Studies 60 (2): 320–344.Google Scholar
  22. Rubenstein, Michael. 2010. Public Works: Infrastructure, Irish Modernism and the Postcolonial. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  23. Shepherd, Ernie, and Gerry Beesley. 1998. Dublin and South Eastern Railway. Leicester: Midland Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. The Pageant of Industry. 1929. The Irish Times, September 12, p. 5.Google Scholar
  25. Yeats, W.B. 1961. The Senate Speeches of W.B. Yeats. Ed. Donald Pearce. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2002. The Words Upon the Window-Pane: Manuscript Materials. Ed. Mary Fitzgerald. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feargal Whelan
    • 1
  1. 1.UCD Humanities InstituteDublin 4Ireland

Personalised recommendations