Vol. 13 (2023): A Global Ireland: New Audiences and New Alliances

A Socratic Revelation: Sebastian Barry’s Roadmap to Understanding Identity

Andrea Ciliotta-Rubery
SUNY Brockport

Published 2023-07-31


  • Irish Literature,
  • Nationalism,
  • Philosophy,
  • Political Identity,
  • Socratic Thought

How to Cite

Ciliotta-Rubery, A. (2023). A Socratic Revelation: Sebastian Barry’s Roadmap to Understanding Identity. Studi Irlandesi. A Journal of Irish Studies, 13. https://doi.org/10.36253/SIJIS-2239-3978-14625


Critics have suggested that Sebastian Barry’s works provide a platform for omitted narratives within the Irish story. While I agree, I argue that Barry goes further, presenting the readers with a “structural paradigm” for understanding political identity. Grounded in Socratic thought, this paradigm establishes the connection between citizen and state, whereby the internal order of a state is directly linked to the internal order of its citizens. In the absence of such ordered citizens, the state is unlikely to possess a cohesive identity. For Barry, individual self-awareness is requisite for Ireland’s establishment of a unified identity. This Socratic “roadmap” towards understanding political identity is best seen in the turbulent nature of the principal characters in A Long Long Way, On Canaan’s Side, and The Temporary Gentleman.


Metrics Loading ...