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Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson: Space, Place, Writing

Volume: 58
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 237
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  • Book Info
    Ciaran Carson
    Book Description:

    A PDF version of this book is available for free in open access via the OAPEN Library platform, Click here to download Ciaran Carson is one of the most challenging and inventive of contemporary Irish writers, exhibiting verbal brilliance, formal complexity, and intellectual daring across a remarkably varied body of work. This study considers the full range of his oeuvre, in poetry, prose, and translations, and discusses the major themes to which he returns, including: memory and history, narrative, language and translation, mapping, violence, and power. It argues that the singularity of Carson’s writing is to be found in his radical imaginative engagements with ideas of space and place. The city of Belfast, in particular, occupies a crucially important place in his texts, serving as an imaginative focal point around which his many other concerns are constellated. The city, in all its volatile mutability, is an abiding frame of reference and a reservoir of creative impetus for Carson’s imagination. Accordingly, the book adopts an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon geography, urbanism, and cultural theory as well as literary criticism. It provides both a stimulating and thorough introduction to Carson’s work, and a flexible critical framework for exploring literary representations of space.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-620-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The publication in 2008 of Ciaran Carson’sCollected Poems, timed to coincide with the poet’s sixtieth birthday, is an obvious milestone along the way of his development as a writer. Leafing through its nearly 600 pages, which include work from eight principal collections produced over a period of more than thirty years, the reader is likely to be struck by the extraordinary scope and resourcefulness of Carson’s writing. Experimental rather than self-consciously avant-garde, Carson’s poetry exhibits a remarkable linguistic inventiveness, formal complexity, and intellectual daring, always making a concerted effort to communicate with the reader yet also foregrounding the resistances...

  2. CHAPTER ONE Imaginative Geographies: The Politics and Poetics of Space
    (pp. 23-56)

    The singularity of a literary work, argues Derek Attridge, is best understood as an event in which the reader experiences both inventiveness and alterity. Each reading constitutes ‘an appreciation, a living-through, of the invention that makes the work not just different but a creative reimagination of cultural materials’.¹ My contention is that the singularity of Ciaran Carson’s writing rests upon his far-reaching imaginative engagements with ideas of space and place, and particularly urban spatiality in an Irish context. It is the purpose of this chapter to set out a critical framework for exploring these engagements in their widest manifestations. Carson’s...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Mapping Belfast: Urban Cartographies
    (pp. 57-84)

    In the discourse of cultural theory it seems that there is considerable confusion, or at least deep ambivalence, concerning the status and function of maps and mapping. In this context it is important to note that mapping tends to be treated by cultural theorists less in terms of its specific histories and methodological principles than as a set of concepts that are often employed in explicitly metaphorical ways – ‘mapping’, then, rather than strict cartography. On the one hand, there is a tendency to equate mapping with the apparatuses of the state and of social control, as a sort of graphic...

  4. CHAPTER THREE Deviations from the Known Route: Reading, Writing, Walking
    (pp. 85-111)

    Given his desire to know the street map with his feet, it is unsurprising that the act of walking should play such a prominent role in Carson’s writing. Indeed, his is a distinctively peripatetic aesthetic. Time and again walking serves not only as a means of registering urban experience, the medium through which all manner of encounters, associations, and sidelong observations are made; it also functions as a figure for the meandering, digressive nature of Carson’s narratives, in which ‘one thing leads to another’ (FFA, 152) much as the pedestrian wends her way through the divagating and interconnecting streets of...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR Revised Versions: Place and Memory
    (pp. 112-142)

    The importance and complexity of memory in Carson’s aesthetic is apparent when, as in ‘Ambition’, time is conceived as a road that rarely runs straight, its course marked by manifold obstructions and convolutions. After all, the action of taking one step forward, two steps back can be understood in temporal as well as spatial terms, and in Carson’s writing the past typically manifests itself as ‘a trail of moments/Dislocated, then located’ (IFN, 58) that precludes a commanding overview. This much is clear in the opening lines of ‘Ambition’, where the narrator and his father have climbed Black Mountain in order...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE Spatial Stories: Narrative and Representation
    (pp. 143-174)

    At the end of Volume VI ofThe Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, GentlemanLaurence Sterne’s eponymous author-narrator pauses to review his progress so far, presenting the reader with a series of visual diagrams representing the course taken by his narrative in the preceding volumes. In each of these a series of turns and detours, loops and spirals indicate the various digressions, whimsical flourishes, and redundant elaborations he has made along his meandering and pointedly non-linear way from beginning to middle to end. Moreover, in a characteristically Sternean irony, it is during this digression upon his tendency to digress...

  7. CHAPTER SIX Babel-babble: Language and Translation
    (pp. 175-215)

    Translation is a longstanding and recurrent component of Ciaran Carson’s work, not only as practice, process, and artefact – as his recent book-length versions of Dante’sInferno, Brian Merriman’sThe Midnight Court, and the Old Irish epic,The Táin, attest – but also as a theme or trope that relates to the multifarious effects of language itself. In this regard ‘translation’ concerns itself with the ways in which transactions between words, idioms, discourses, and languages reveal the difference that is internal to all language. Or, as Walter Benjamin expresses it, ‘all translation is only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms...

  8. Index of Works by Ciaran Carson
    (pp. 235-238)