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Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003)

This chapter begins by continuing with a close reading of Auster’s Smoke, exploring the film’s portrayal of local community and interracial male friendship. It then turns to two sprawling neighbourhood novels, Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude (2003). With a theoretical framework informed by queer theory, continental philosophy, and Marxist historicism, the chapter analyses how Chabon’s and Lethem’s narratives of interracial male friendship are freighted with the legacies of 1960s and 1970s political radicalism, and argues that both novels explore the availability of utopian thinking in a ‘post-utopian’ and ‘postracial’ contemporary moment.

in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction
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Northern Ireland’s paralysis in a world of uncertainty

This chapter concludes the book by considering three ‘existential’ challenges to Northern Ireland as it enters its second century of existence. The first is that of the coronavirus pandemic. The chapter considers how the pandemic put pressures on the Executive that had been newly established after the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ accord of January 2020. The integration of Northern Ireland with Ireland and with Great Britain posed particular challenges when it came to managing the coronavirus. Managing the challenge was made a lot easier in practical and political terms when the approaches of the British and Irish governments became more closely aligned. The ease with which the coronavirus could become another issue over which unionists and nationalists could have opposing views was no surprise. The pandemic hit within a few weeks of the UK leaving the European Union. What it meant for Northern Ireland depended greatly on the compromise negotiated between the UK and EU in the form of the Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol. This compromise was made necessary by those same open borders between Northern Ireland and Ireland and Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This chapter summarises what this may mean for Northern Ireland and how the Brexit debate further polarises unionism and nationalism in Northern Ireland. The constitutional debate has re-emerged as a ‘live’ issue. This could lead to deepening polarisation, but it could also provoke serious consideration of what sort of society people would like to build out of a wholly transformed global economic, political and social context.

in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday
Martin Ferguson Smith

Researched and written in collaboration with Helen Walasek, former curator of the Punch archive, the essay concerns the remarkably frank account which Clive Bell gave the select and influential Bloomsbury Memoir Club of his first lover, Annie Raven-Hill, the wife of the illustrator and cartoonist Leonard Raven-Hill. The full text of the memoir, read at a meeting on 2 February 1921, is published for the first time, with full annotation and discussion. The affair began in 1899, when she was thirty-five and he was not quite eighteen and about to go up to Cambridge. It continued, with interruptions, until 1914. The relationship was one of lust rather than love, although there was clearly some affection on both sides. The text of the memoir is preceded by an introduction of four sections. The first describes the foundation, character, and history of the Memoir Club. The second is about the presentation and reception of Clive’s memoir. The third, a selective chronology, illuminates his life and work and provides a context for his affair with Annie. The fourth, about Annie, is the first attempt to compare Clive’s account with the facts of her life and to present a fuller and fairer picture of her.

in In and out of Bloomsbury
Martin Ferguson Smith

Essay 2 presents and discusses ten previously unpublished nude photographs of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, and Roger Fry taken during a seaside holiday at Studland in Dorset. The photographs were taken out of doors on a single occasion in early morning. The Bells had several holidays in Studland, in 1909 and the following years, but there was only one occasion when Roger was there as well, and that was in September 1911. This was a time when he and Vanessa, unknown to Clive, were vigorously pursuing their love affair, and it is this circumstance that makes this nude-posing threesome particularly remarkable. It is most likely to have been organised by Vanessa. Although the Bells were in Studland for almost the whole of September, the event can be securely dated to the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th for several reasons, including the presence of the only known spectator, the economist Gerald Shove.

in In and out of Bloomsbury
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The Conclusion returns to the book’s central preoccupations of citizenship, equality, and community by way of an extended close reading of Benjamin Markovits’s 2015 novel, You Don’t Have to Live Like This.

in The politics of male friendship in contemporary American fiction
The perpetual trap of criminalisation

The most controversial provision of the Good Friday Agreement was the decision to free all prisoners belonging to paramilitary organisations observing ceasefires. In this chapter, we trace the experience of former combatants released on licence under Northern Ireland’s political settlement. The attempt to move beyond conflict in the region entailed a strategy of ‘Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration’. While the first two of these imperatives have been pursued largely successfully, there have been serious problems with the implementation of the third. Former combatants remain subject to intense vetting which often precludes them from certain jobs, and in so doing leaves them on the margins of Northern Irish society. The multiple ways in which ex-prisoners are stigmatically shamed impacts not only on them but also on their wider family networks. As we illustrate in detail, the current vetting procedures at times ensure that individuals are barred from employment because of their familial connection to former combatants they may never have met. While the success of the Northern Irish peace process required the reintegration of ex-prisoners, the ongoing attempts to stigmatise them means that there are many former paramilitaries who have made a real contribution to maintaining the political settlement, but who have nonetheless been condemned to material poverty and mental illness.

in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday
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Margarita Aragon

Examining the racialized discourses of the “illegal” alien and the Watts uprising, this concluding reflection will examine how early twentieth-century constructions of violence and masculinity were reconfigured in later decades but in ways that reiterated the enduring themes of savagery, death, and punishment.

in A savage song
Martin Ferguson Smith

The essay is a detailed study of the visit Virginia Woolf made to Greece with Leonard Woolf, Roger Fry, and Roger’s sister Margery Fry in April–May 1932 – the one happy time in an otherwise unhappy year for Virginia. The study, the first by a classical scholar, is based on close examination of the primary sources, published and unpublished. These are: Virginia’s diaries and letters; Roger’s letters; Leonard’s pocket-diary; and Virginia and Leonard’s photographs. After explanation of the background to the holiday and discussion of the relations between members of the party, especially Virginia and Roger, the exact itinerary and timetable are set out. Many of the scenes in the photographs are correctly identified for the first time, including one in which the Woolfs and Frys are seen standing in front of a ruined temple in Athens. The temple, said by leading Bloomsbury writers to be on the Acropolis, is shown to be no such thing. Comparison of the published versions of Virginia’s diary and letters with the manuscripts of them reveals some significant errors, including one that seriously misrepresents her assessment of Roger’s character – no trivial matter, given her admiration for him and their close friendship.

in In and out of Bloomsbury
Addressing the legacy of the Troubles

This chapter seeks to tease out the complexities and challenges surrounding the issue of legacy in Northern Ireland. In doing so, it argues that Northern Ireland requires a holistic approach whereby state and non-state endeavours work to mutually cooperate and reinforce each other in ways that support practices of social reconciliation and peace-building. While the discussion that follows details a wide range of legacy initiatives, the common thread running throughout is that many of Northern Ireland’s endeavours to address the past, though by no means all, are embedded in processes of assigning culpability and blame, rather than reconciliation and transformation. Thus, although reconciliation is of course contested, the chapter contends that until legacy is reframed as a process that is transformative, conciliatory and mutually beneficial, it will largely remain a communicative platform for expressions of recrimination, mistrust and oppositionality. Seeking truth and confronting the legacy of violence, whether through centralised formal commissions, bottom-up approaches or a combination of both, must be viewed not as a single panacea to legacy but as part of a broad suite of measures which include a discernible link with social reconciliation. While the prospect of dealing with the past and even the establishment of a truth recovery process presents significant challenges, the prospect of a present (and a future) that is continually vexed with regular, fragmented disclosures about the past is equally daunting.

in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday
Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement

In this chapter, we provide an overview of political developments since the Good Friday Agreement in order to establish the historical context for the diverse essays that follow. We begin by depicting the tensions, especially over the issue of ‘decommissioning’, that hobbled the early attempts at power-sharing government and would lead to several suspensions of the Stormont assembly. We then move on to explain how it was that the supposedly ‘extremist’ parties – Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party – were able to forge the deal that would, finally, bring seemingly stable devolved government to Northern Ireland. For all the semblance of stability, these unlikely coalition partners would over time become riven by multiple and deepening forms of division. Some of these arose out of the ethnonational disputes that are the traditional fare of Northern Irish political life – flags, parades and language rights. Others would derive from class issues less familiar to the political culture in the region – in particular, the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act. These tensions would eventually lead to the collapse of the Stormont institutions, a suspension that was widely attributed to a controversial renewable energy scheme but in fact owed a great deal more to developments elsewhere in the UK. The outcome of the Brexit referendum has altered, perhaps irrevocably, the political context of Northern Ireland, ushering in an era of profound constitutional flux. While the Stormont assembly has been restored, the advent of the coronavirus has merely served to highlight the animosities that exist among the supposed coalition partners. As Northern Ireland prepares for its centenary, there are forces at play that threaten/promise to question its very existence in the very near future.

in Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday