Teaching Revolution: Teachers and Nationalism in Patrick McCabe's 'The Dead School'

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This paper will explore Patrick McCabe's representation of the school teacher in The Dead School (1995). The narrative revolves around two teachers in 1970s Ireland, Raphael Bell (a headmaster), and Malachy Dudgeon (a young teacher). Bell represents a traditional conceptualisation of Irishness, strongly Catholic and nationalist, whilst Dudgeon represents a new form of Irishness, suburban and adrift, hi the inevitable collision of morals and values between the two, McCabe explores the metamorphosis of Irish identity from traditional nationalism to contemporary postnationalism. In doing so, he explores how the school teacher has long served as a symbol of nationalism in Ireland, and how the education system functioned as an institution for the perpetuation of cultural and social stasis. In The Dead School, McCabe presents a version of Ireland in which both the traditional teacher and school are under ideological threat. In Ireland, the association of nationalism with education has had a long history that reached its apogee with Padraig Pearse, leader of the 1916 Easter Rebellion. In 1908 Pearse opened St. Enda's school in Dublin with the intention of teaching Irish children in both English and Irish, and fostering a love of Irish culture in his pupils. Since then, generations of Irish children have sat in classrooms beneath photographs of Pearse and his proclamation of an independent Irish Republic in 1916. Ultimately, this paper will argue that such traditional nationalism has become anachronistic for most Irish people, and that McCabe's novel presents, in the forms of Raphael Bell and Malachy Dudgeon, a fictional representation of the ideological overthrow of Irish nationalism by a more cosmopolitan and youthful state.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventThe Teacher: Image, Icon, Identity - University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20084 Jul 2008


ConferenceThe Teacher: Image, Icon, Identity
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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