Date of Completion

Spring 4-28-2021

Thesis Advisor(s)

Mary Burke

Honors Major



This project investigates how Purgatory became such a prevalent trope in Irish literature and an important metaphor for societal problems. To do so, I followed the cultural history of the concept of Purgatory, especially in relation to the history of Ireland, by reading through accounts of Catholicism, Celtic imramas, and the first literary depictions of Purgatory as locations in Ireland, such as Gilbert’s St. Patrick’s Purgatory. After establishing how Purgatory entered the public imagination of Ireland, I move chronologically through literary depictions of Purgatory and analyze the shift from the religious to the secular idea of Purgatory. My ultimate goal in the thesis is to create connections between earlier accounts of Purgatory and uses of Purgatory in literature, with more modern instances, such as James Joyce’s Dubliners and Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane. By doing so, I hope to uncover the deeper metaphorical and social reasons Irish authors choose to use the trope of Purgatory.