Joyce, Ireland, and the American South: Whiteness, Blackness, and Lost Causes

  • Vincent J. Cheng
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


This chapter explores the historical connections between Ireland and the American South—particularly the shared dedication to lost causes, the role of Irish nationalism and Irish immigration in the formation of Irish American identity, and the divisiveness of racial issues involving the Civil War and slavery. The Irish—considered racially other at the time, not white—nevertheless managed to become accepted by Southern natives as white Southerners, so much so that Gone with the Wind, the most influential cultural representation of Southern culture of the Civil War era, could have its heroine (Scarlett O’Hara) be the daughter of an Irish immigrant whose Southern white status is not even questioned. The chapter discusses how this union between Irishness and Southernness came about—and explores Joyce’s depictions of the South in several of his works, concluding with a discussion of the opening pages of Finnegans Wake, which have much to say about the Irish presence in the South, the Ku Klux Klan, and racial strife.


Ireland South Carolina Civil War Lost Cause Nostalgia Slavery Race Whiteness Joyce Emmet Gone with the Wind Birth of a Nation Ku Klux Klan 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vincent J. Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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