Literature and Theatre

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David Lloyd, subjectivity and the popular
Conor Carville

This chapter concentrates on David Lloyd's work, and in particular his substantial attempt to recruit Beckett to the postcolonial fold: 'Writing in the Shit: Beckett, Nationalism and the Colonial Subject'. Thu author chose this particular essay as primary focus not only due to its dense and complex address to the problem of subjectivity but also, and perhaps relatedly, because it is one of Lloyd's most conflicted and contradictory texts. For Althusser, in an infamous formulation, individuals 'are always already subjects': there can be no form of individuality outside subjectivity, and ideology is the horizon of all forms of consciousness. By contrast, Lloyd's work constantly posits the existence of a mode of subjectivity that is beyond domination and outside the law. The chapter also discusses Lloyd's most recent book, Irish Times, where he considers in detail the relation of the popular and the subaltern.

in The ends of Ireland
How Smith understands historical progress and societal values
Noel Parker

This chapter focuses upon a particular dimension of the Wealth of Nations. Partly in order to underpin his procommercial prescriptions for government, Smith tried to understand how the societies he knew of (especially contemporary commercial ones) develop - values and all. His notion of historical progress was imbued with the optimism of Enlightenment thinking, and took for granted the special, and specially favourable, qualities of contemporary European society. These are the qualities which we would today think of as belonging to modernity. But vital elements to account for historical progress are drawn from outside the strictly economic field. 'Authority' and 'utility' interlock even in Smith's original, most general version of the processes conveying societal values. Smith examines the processes through which enculturation of societal values occurs, in order to discover how the values of the new urban bourgeoisie may measure up to their role in the coming commercial society.

in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations
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The stripping of the altars in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Richard Wilson

A Midsummer Night's Dream ends with Puck's plea that we think its 'weak and idle theme; but Stephen Greenblatt remarks how its final moments depend on a belief that there is after all 'something of great constancy' about 'love in idleness', for 'when the fairies "consecrate" the marriage beds with field-dew they are, in a mode at once natural and magical, enacting the Catholic practice of anointing the marriage bed with holy water'. Oberon's relegitimation of the asperging ceremony restores the dukedom of the play to a late-medieval Christianity in which, as Duffy details, holy water was supplied to the laity for protection of every household. Shakespeare's miracle plays depend, Greenblatt proposes, on our willing suspension of disbelief in the punning doubleness of fact and fiction that is incarnated in the actor's own body.

in Secret Shakespeare
Maureen Ramsay

This chapter attempts to clarify Machiavelli's position on the means-end relationship and the relationship between politics and morality. In particular, it examines the originality and uniqueness of Machiavelli's views in relation to past and present political and ethical thought, and argue that, despite their notoriety, his ideas and their attendant problems are a common feature both of political thought and practice and also of personal and political life. An effective political morality must be one designed for human beings as they are, in the circumstances they find themselves in, in order to create a situation where human beings will be fit for morality. But, broadly speaking, the legacy of Machiavelli is the contrast not between the political and the moral but between consequentialist ethics and all other forms. At certain political conjunctions there can be no ethical neutrality in decision-making - 'all roads lead to the mire'.

in Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince
Medieval and Renaissance attitudes to history
Janet Coleman

This chapter examines what Machiavelli means by 'history' and his understanding of the past as exemplary and imitable. It shows how his examination of historical texts was part of a distinctive medieval tradition of textual study. Machiavelli's historical analysis of ancient texts and the laws of human behaviour which he believes can be elicited from past writings about human action was part of a long tradition of reading texts that was elaborately developed during the Middle Ages. It was a method of reading that was not new to the Renaissance. Machiavelli links a psychological theory of human nature with a theory about how language in its written form can represent past perceptions of appearances. In short, it is a kind of Aristotelianism that was developed most influentially by theologians, philosophers and rhetoricians who were grouped together especially from the fourteenth century onwards and known as the via moderna.

in Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince
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Gender, genre, exile

This book examines critical assessments of the woman and her work (again, that almost unavoidable conflation) from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first. The author conveys some of the creative energy of Cavendish and her work in the middle years of the seventeenth century. More importantly, though, the author wants to show how her work was politically charged, not in any immediately evident way, but in a highly complex and imaginative way. The book illustrates and expands upon the book's central hypothesis: that Cavendish used genre in her writings of the 1650s as a means of articulating her powerlessness in the face of what the author comes to define as a 'triple exile'. In this book the author has, further, identified affinities in intention and circumstances surrounding the writing of texts earlier than those of Cavendish. Her take on earlier authors' rhetorical stances facilitates her own, acutely contemporary, comment and creativity. Cavendish's treatment of genre undergoes a transformation during and because of the civil wars which, to royalist minds, spelled the end of an epic past. The book differs in its emphasis from earlier examinations of Cavendish's writings. The author returns to the 'rehabilitative' nature of recent work on Cavendish and her writings, demonstrating how her own study has participated in this process of rehabilitation. Literary canonicity was, analogously, another 'place' from which Cavendish was for centuries exiled. This book represents a redemption of the writer from, at the very least, that particular iniquitous cultural corollary to the triple exile.

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Charles Olson and C. G. Jung
Anthony Mellors

Charles Olson is significant in developing an entire poetic from the relationship between a transcendental self and its origins in the collective unconscious filtered through world religion and arcane knowledge. However, Olson's own prescriptions are the subject of this chapter, and the author argues that their dependence on the tenets of analytic psychology leads to the same contradictions of archetypal selfhood found in Jung's theories of consciousness. His historical practice attests to the unity of experience as the prime matter for poetry, but it supports a phallic, egotistical ideology that is inconsistent with its universalist claims. Because of his dependence on phallic mysticism, Olson had no worries about the 'objective' validity of his mythifications: 'Olson's analogies are usually more metaphoric than logical, his appropriation of scientific terminology dependent more upon parallels of resonance than upon any objectively defined reference'.

in Late modernist poetics
Four figures from ‘The Dead’
Conor Carville

This chapter moves away from the analysis of Irish cultural criticism as a discourse and attempts to put to work some of the concepts formulated in the previous chapters. It examines some aspects of James Joyce's 'The Dead', which might be termed the Ur-text of contemporary Irish cultural criticism. The chapter discusses the relationship between modernist space and nationalism. It draws on the work of Fredric Jameson, and demonstrates how a consideration of Joyce's text draws out a profound ambiguity in the former's notion of 'modernist style', which he ascribes on the one hand to the impact of new technologies and on the other to disruptions in perception wrought by geopolitical transformation. The chapter suggests that Joyce's text articulates both aspects of Jameson's notion of modernist style in a distinctive way and can thus provide a template for a new understanding of the relations between modernism and nationalism.

in The ends of Ireland
The emergence of modern self-consciousness

This book calls attention to a special kind of self-consciousness displayed by Montaigne: its instantaneity in the very moment of experience. It suggests that it may account for his doubts concerning the stability or the very existence of the self, thus anticipating Hume's analysis and the later interrogations of modern and post-modern writers. The book traces the evolution of subjectivity from Greek and Roman Antiquity to the Renaissance in literary, philosophical and religious works. It turns attention to the English predecessors and contemporaries of Shakespeare, scrutinizing their evolution from a moral insistence on self-knowledge to an emphasis on self-assertion, but discovering only in Donne the kind of self-consciousness displayed by Montaigne. The book explores the various forms of subjectivity and self-consciousness manifested in the Sonnets of Shakespeare, traceable even though their autobiographical significance is doubtful. It also traces the slow growth of subjectivity from the medieval dramatic monologue to the Shakespearean soliloquy, positioning the character of Hamlet as a turning point in this evolution. The book assesses the extent of the influence of Montaigne on Shakespeare. The book offers a study of three tragedies, Hamlet, Macbeth and Lear. The analysis demonstrates that the complexity of Shakespeare's characters and their occasional evolution does not impair the essential coherence of their individual selves, often denied nowadays. It qualifies the scepticism and moral relativism nowadays generally ascribed to Montaigne and Shakespeare. Their adherence to universal humanistic values is demonstrated; its emotional and religious bases are investigated and its modernity acknowledged.

Rehana Ahmed

This chapter focuses on particular moments of Muslim space-claiming, controversy and cultural resistance in early twentieth-century Britain. It offers a brief sketch of Muslim agency through the period of heightened racial tension that followed the Second World War, and up until the beginning of the Satanic Verses controversy of 1988-89. In doing so, the chapter seeks to historicise and thereby add complexity and nuance to understandings of tensions involving Muslims in contemporary multicultural Britain that form a context to the readings of literary texts that follow. The description of Eid at the Shah Jahan Mosque, Working, from a 1934 article in the Islamic Review, reproduced as an epigraph to the chapter, captures the way in which Islam had begun to shape British space in small but significant ways in the early twentieth century.

in Writing British Muslims