George Legg
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‘Middle-class shits’
Political apathy and the poetry of Derek Mahon
in Northern Ireland and the politics of boredom
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This chapter draws upon the work of Jacques Rancière to trace how Northern Ireland’s middle class have come to engage in a politics of apathy. Apathy is something of a pervasive phenomenon in the Global North but, by attending to its emergence in Northern Ireland, the chapter uncovers the complexities, contradictions and seductions that have served to shape the Peace Process. Focusing on the poetry of Derek Mahon, it charts how the politics of the middle class evolved from ‘pre’ to ‘post’-Troubles. In particular, the chapter pays close attention to how Mahon’s poetry is indebted to W.H. Auden as it attempts to induce a more socialist reading of the Troubles – one that reads the violence as formed around ideas of class conflict. The chapter hereby contests conservative readings of Mahon’s work and emphasises, instead, Mahon’s potential for a poetics of political ‘dissensus’. Taken seriously, this approach has the capacity to challenge the collectivised sense of apathy that otherwise overwhelms so much of present-day politics.

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Northern Ireland and the politics of boredom

Conflict, capital and culture


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