A death in late Victorian Dublin

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This essay examines the language used when describing the 1895 death of Father Flynn in James Joyce’s short story ‘The Sisters’ (Joyce J, Dubliners. London: Grant Richards: 9–20, 1914). Father Flynn’s death follows the paralysis that was the result of his third stroke. His physical and mental degeneration reputedly began after he broke the chalice at the Eucharist. The broken chalice and the priest’s paralysis are a metaphor for the state of the Irish Church. It is Father Flynn’s death resulting from central nervous system decay of a morally moribund Catholic priest, the rituals that precede and follow it, along with the attendant reactions from the characters in Joyce’s story that form the substance for this essay on the language of death in late Victorian Dublin. Throughout the story Joyce makes recourse to a packet of scripts that plot the various aspects of death and the pragmemes that are components of those scripts. The scripts correspond to recurrent and largely predictable events such as: the administration of last rites, the report of death (which includes the pragmeme of death notices), the cause of death – which is the main focus of ‘The Sisters’, laying out of the body, paying respect to the dead person (which includes the pragmeme always speak well of the dead), and expressing empathy with the bereaved (which includes the pragmeme of condolence and the pragmeme of questioning the manner of dying). Although preparations for the funeral are briefly mentioned, no funeral is described, the likely reason for which is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Pragmeme of Accommodation:
Subtitle of host publicationThe Case of Interaction around the Event of Death
EditorsVahid Parvaresh, Alessandro Capone
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783319557595
ISBN (Print)9783319557588
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePerspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophyv & Psychology
ISSN (Print)2214-3807
ISSN (Electronic)2214-3815


  • Dementia
  • Disease
  • Irish catholic church
  • Meningoencephalitis
  • Mourning practices
  • Paralysis
  • Pragmemes
  • Scripts

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