Gregory Castle's research interests are primarily in Irish studies, with emphases in the Irish revival, nationalism, education and literary and cultural history, though his work on the Bildungsroman concerns English as well as Irish writers. Another primary interest is transnational Modernism. His theoretical interests are broad, but he favors historicist approaches (especially Frankfurt school critical theory), postcolonial studies and psychoanalysis.
Castle's first book, Modernism and the Celtic Revival (Cambridge University Press, 2001), was the “runner-up” for the Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature, sponsored by the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) in 2002. In this book, he explores the textual means by which anthropology and ethnography contributed to the formation of Irish culture. The “ethnographic imagination” of Revivalists like W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge and Joyce contributed a great deal to the creation of the Irish “subject”; it had a profound impact on both the ideology of the Free State (1922) and on literary Modernism.
Castle has also published an anthology of postcolonial theory, Postcolonial Discourses: A Reader (Blackwell, 2001), organized by region (India, Australia/New Zealand, Africa, Caribbean, Ireland) and prefaced by general essays by leading figures like Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said and others. His latest book, Reading the Modernist Bildungsroman (University Press of Florida, 2006), is the first full-length study of British and Irish Modernist Bildungsromane and features analyses of works by Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. Drawing on Theodor W. Adorno’s theory of “negative dialectics,” Castle argues that the Modernist Bildungsroman witnesses the failure of its own narrative telos (the dialectical harmony of social responsibility and personal desire) – a failure that does not prevent the Modernist hero from perfecting (or trying to perfect) what Johann von Goethe and Wilhelm von Humboldt called “inner culture” (Bildung). The instauration (to use Adorno’s term) of Bildung exemplifies the radical conservatism of Modernism, a position that paradoxically serves the progressive ends of finding alternatives to socially pragmatic educational systems and the vision of the subject that they aspire to produce.
The Blackwell Guide to Literary Theory was published February 2007. It consists of an introduction, a history of twentieth-century literary theory, discussions of sixteen major theories, short biographies of influential theorists and sample readings of literature from a variety of theoretical perspectives. It includes a timeline and a substantial glossary. The volume is designed for undergraduates and new graduate students (as well as instructors with no background in theory).
Castle's current research project (working title: Inventing Souls: Pedagogies of Irish Revivalism) focuses on the pedagogical methods and educational theory of nationalist and Revivalist groups. In this new work he argues that projects of “political education” had a significant impact on a broad spectrum of Revivalist and nationalist groups, including the physical-force Republicans who fought in the Easter Rebellion in 1916 and in the wars that led up to the Free State in 1922. The study will include chapters on Daniel O’Connell and the Repeal and Emancipation movements; Charles Gavan Duffy, editor of the Nation and, later, eminence grise of cultural nationalism; “Fenian Unionist” Standish James O’Grady, the historian Yeats considered the “father of the Revival”; Bram Stoker, whose Dracula can be read as a parable of Anglo-Irish history; Padraic Pearse, teacher and educational theorist, leader of the 1916 Rebellion and one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic; and of course W. B. Yeats, and his cohorts in the Literary Revival.
Castle's teaching areas are late-nineteenth and twentieth-century British and Irish literature, with an emphasis on modernism and the Irish Literary Revival. Many of his undergraduate courses focus on Irish studies, though he also teaches courses on British modernism and postmodernism, the Bildungsroman, postcolonial studies and literary theory. Recent courses have focused on Irish poetry, the “sense of the past” in modernist literature, nationalism and identity in the Irish novel, and “the subject at risk” in postcolonial fiction. In recent courses on Irish literature and Modernism, he has been incorporating film, painting and mural art. Recent graduate seminars have focused on Yeats and the Celtic Revival, the Irish Gothic, Quare Joyce, and Joyce and Psychoanalysis. Castle regularly teach a graduate course on Critical Theory.