Bridget Cleary Speaks!
Irish Journal of Anthropology, 9 (1).
Bridget Cleary's death in 1895 at the hands of her
husband, in the presence of several of their neighbours
and relations, became enmeshed in a web of public
narrative as it was recounted in courtrooms, reported in
newspapers worldwide, and debated in scholarly and
popular journals. Angela Bourke's The Burning of Bridget
Cieuly (1999) demonstrates, however, that this event
emerged from another type of narrative web, the folk
beliefs which provided Michael Cleary and his
neighbours with an explanation and rationale for her
murder and a course of action for 'driving out the fairy'
which they believed had taken over Bridget's body.
Meanwhile, in other discursive networks, this same fairy
lore was also providing data for the emering science of
folklore, and at a further remove, inspiration for the
aesthetics of the Celtic Twilight. It also functioned
negatively as an image of superstitious primitivism -
fodder for Unionist mistrust of the Irish peasantry and
a foil for both the modernising Catholic church and the
belief in rational progress which guided Irish civic
nationalism. Bourke shows the dalogic interrelationships
between all these discourses, not least in the way that fairy lore was both believed and doubted by its carriers, and the intense conflicts about belief and superstition that
informed Michael Cleary's actions.
||Bridget Cleary; Angela Bourke; The Burning of Bridget Cleary; fairy lore; folk beliefs.
||Social Sciences > Anthropology
Dr. Steve Coleman
||20 Jan 2009 16:21
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||Irish Journal of Anthropology
||The Anthropological Association of Ireland (AAI)
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