Macquarie University
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The land of heart’s desire: Nostalgia and the Irish fairy landscape

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posted on 2022-03-28, 19:30 authored by Hannah Claire Irwin
This thesis argues that multiple fairy sites in Ireland are constructed and produced as nostalgic places. Nostalgia is used for its affective properties in the production of Irish fairy sites in order to authenticate and perpetuate a particular effect and response. These fairy sites are aligned with powerful discourses of nationalism, heritage, and the sacred, allowing particular groups to control the narratives and space of these sites. The dominant and enforced discourses that construct and control these sites have implications in terms of the definition and use of space, and the Irish fairy landscape has become a site of political and social struggle over meaning and identity. I identify through my research an unequal distribution of power in favour of particular groups, limiting the possibility of alternative and diverse readings of and engagement with these sites, and by extension with nostalgia, folklore, and the Irish landscape. This thesis is comprised of a critical analysis and a creative work. Utilising the spatial theories of Doreen Massey (2005), the critical analysis focuses on the construction of Irish fairy sites as places, specifically how nostalgia is deployed to legitimise and control the narrative and physical space of these fairy sites. This is achieved through site-specific analysis on the three ‘new’ fairy sites of the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin, the ‘Last Leprechauns of Ireland’ site in Carlingford, County Louth, and ‘Gillighan’s World: The Field of Dreams’ in County Sligo, and the three ‘old’ fairy sites of Lough Gur in County Limerick, and Newgrange and the Hill of Tara in County Meath. Included in these analyses is a critique of the dominant nostalgic narrative of each site. The creative work, a novella entitled Astray, operates as a further contestation of the powerful discourses and narratives controlling these sites, and also aims to expand the definitions of nostalgia, place, and fairies. Through interwoven narratives, Astray works to make these six Irish fairy sites multivocal, and connected to the broader Irish fairy landscape.


Table of Contents

Introduction: Out of this dull world -- Chapter One - Literature Review: Hungry thirsty roots -- Chapter Two - Theory: In a place apart -- Chapter Three - Nationalism: Green jacket, red cap -- Chapter Four - Heritage: Up the airy mountain -- Chapter Five - Sacred: Spirits of wood and water -- Conclusion: The land of heart’s desire -- Creative: Astray -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 302-332

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ian Collinson

Additional Supervisor 1

Steve Collins


Copyright Hannah Claire Irwin 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (332 pages) colour illustrations, colour photographs

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