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Chapter 15. “Finn Mac Cool in his mind was wrestling with his people”: Polyphonic dialogues in Flann O’Brien’s comic writing

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Abstract

Flann O’Brien’s novels and chronicles are characterised by their exuberant conversations. Whether they involve two or more explicit speakers, O’Brien’s dialogues reflect a keen linguistic sense of the multiplicity of voices within any given speech. Based on the analysis of two examples from O’Brien’s satirical novels, this study examines the workings of his consciously polyphonic dialogues, and their consequences on a literary level and from the point of view of Conversation Analysis. My analysis of polyphony in Flann O’Brien’s fictional dialogues enables us to understand his representation of dialogue, not as a fixed structure of linguistic interaction between speakers, but rather as a series of constant readjustments resulting from the interaction between assenting and dissenting voices.

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