Introduction: Performing the Void: Liminality and the Ethics of Form in Contemporary Trauma Narratives
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The historical background against which Sebastian Barry's dramas and novels have to be read consists of a multitude of traumatic events that contributed to shaping the fate of Ireland. The nation never forgot the exigencies of mass starvation, disease, and emigration caused by the Great Famine in the years between 1845 and 1852. As a novelist, Barry knows quite well how easily biographical facts be turned into lies and myths, and as a sceptical 'subjective' historian, he tries to study how national history is transformed into anecdotes, legends, and myths which are incorrectly taken for truth. In order to diagnose and perhaps 'heal' the wounds of Irish history, Barry employs a wide range of genres comprising the picaresque novel, the pastoral, biography and autobiography, florilegia, and letter-writing. By not damning the; poor fish of circumstances', Barry's dramas exude a certain metaphysical charm of redemption and healing intensified by 'gravid lyricism' and an 'elegiac' tone.