Bridget Cleary Speaks!
Coleman, Steve (2006) Bridget Cleary Speaks! Irish Journal of Anthropology, 9 (1). pp. 35-36. ISSN 1393-8592
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.
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