Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Thesis)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Angeline O'Neill

Second Supervisor

Professor Chis Wortham


Ireland possesses a cultural heritage that is particularly literary and musical. The island is also renowned for its extensive and ongoing history of emigration, and imagery of exile and return is as intrinsic to conceptions of Irishness as the island’s artistic lineage. The impact on the creation of a modern Irish identity by exilic Irish writers and musicians is testament to this relationship.

The act of emigration can be conceived as a narrative of individual identity framed by a wider cultural discourse. It is therefore natural that the themes of exile and departure are a frequent presence in Irish art, especially literature and music. Literary expressions of the complex negotiation of self within culture that exile entails are enhanced by the connotative power of music.

This thesis assesses the vital role music plays in framing shifts of identity within Irish emigration literature. Individual migration events occur alongside developing biographies of the self and the nation, and music provides crucial insight into the mechanisms of identity formation within social constructions of exile.

This research analyses musical devices in the prose works of a series of Irish authors, focusing on the period between the commencement of the Gaelic Revival, circa 1880, and the middle of the twentieth century. Drawing on a variety of theoretical bases, including literature, geography, musicology, and history, it examines how musico-literary portrayals of emigration reflect and mediate the multiplicities inherent in narratives of exilic Irish identity.


Supplemental content pertains to audio recordings indicated in the thesis Appendix: Annotated Discography. Permission, where necessary, has been granted by the relevant artist.

All other audio recordings listed in the Appendix are available through commercial digital music services; links to iTunes audio files have been provided by the thesis author.

2017_McCann_Ch1.1_Shepherd's Melody.mp3 (1910 kB)
1.1_Shepherd's Melody

2017_McCann_Ch1.3_Elfin Prelude.mp3 (357 kB)
1.3_Elfin Prelude.mp3

2017_McCann_Ch1.5_Demonstration of Scales.mp3 (2672 kB)
1.5_Demonstration of Scales.mp3