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Anne Enright’s novel brings the theme of betrayal in Irish life down to the near present. It is the story of the generation which, heir to a century of rhetoric and propaganda, finally had to face up to the truth of widespread, systematic, institutional abuse at large within Irish society. The Gathering traces the impact of that abuse in the lives of an ordinary Irish family, exposing the ways in which the sins of the past continue to poison and distort the present (in which respect it is of course a very typical Irish novel). The characters of Liam and Veronica Hegarty symbolise different aspects of the potential response to the single act of betrayal lurking in their family history: one ‘resolves’ the past through suicide, the other through a search for healing via the process of narrative.
The concept of 'margins' denotes geographical, economic, demographic, cultural and political positioning in relation to a perceived centre. This book aims to question the term 'marginal' itself, to hear the voices talking 'across' borders and not only to or through an English centre. The first part of the book examines debates on the political and poetic choice of language, drawing attention to significant differences between the Irish and Scottish strategies. It includes a discussion of the complicated dynamic of woman and nation by Aileen Christianson, which explores the work of twentieth-century Scottish and Irish women writers. The book also explores masculinities in both English and Scottish writing from Berthold Schoene, which deploys sexual difference as a means of testing postcolonial theorizing. A different perspective on the notion of marginality is offered by addressing 'Englishness' in relation to 'migrant' writing in prose concerned with India and England after Independence. The second part of the book focuses on a wide range of new poetry to question simplified margin/centre relations. It discusses a historicising perspective on the work of cultural studies and its responses to the relationship between ethnicity and second-generation Irish musicians from Sean Campbell. The comparison of contemporary Irish and Scottish fiction which identifies similarities and differences in recent developments is also considered. In each instance the writers take on the task of examining and assessing points of connection and diversity across a particular body of work, while moving away from contrasts which focus on an English 'norm'.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on the history of the Atlantic archipelago. It explores paradoxes in relation to different definitions of 'the margins', a spatial concept which has had much currency but which might increasingly be questioned on theoretical, geographical and political grounds. The book offers a different perspective on the notion of marginality by addressing 'Englishness' in relation to 'migrant' writing in prose concerned with India and England after Independence. It presents the broader critical implications of postcolonial theory through analysis of its application in a specific context. The book draws on a wide range of new poetry to question simplified margin/centre relations. It also focuses on the work of cultural studies and its responses to the relationship between ethnicity and second-generation Irish musicians from Sean Campbell.
This chapter presents an alternative critical project: an analysis of contemporary Scottish and Irish fiction through a comparison of the ways in which relations between cultural representation and spatial construction are negotiated to produce places called 'Scotland' and 'Ireland'. Both 'Scotland' and 'Ireland' trailed an array of well-established connotations from earlier points in their cultural history. One means of reading Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh together, but without reinforcing their function within a centralising metropolitan culture, is to place them within the context of other contemporary writers in Scotland and Ireland. Reading Doyle and Welsh in relation to other writers, a more complex process of spatial reconfiguration and cultural representation emerges. Perhaps the most striking difference between fictions produced in Ireland and Scotland has continued to be in their confrontations with history.
Number of authors have sought to establish popular music as an important element within the Irish critical imagination. The popular music produced in Northern Ireland since the 1960s offers a key means of understanding the wider cultural and political fate of its people. In the 1960s the showbands ruled supreme throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. The emergence of the punk subculture in Northern Ireland is usually traced to the visit of The Clash to Belfast in 1977. The Clipper Carlton's played jazz instrumentals, novelty pop, calypso, rock 'n' roll, show tunes, Irish ballads, Country 'n' Western, any form of music that would elicit a response from their audience. Van Morrison may not have been as commercially successful as some, but his influence upon Irish popular music has been pervasive, even if much of the time that influence has been filtered through a variety of other sources.