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Across the Margins

Across the Margins: Cultural Identity and Change in the Atlantic Archipelago

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Across the Margins
    Book Description:

    Contributors to this text discuss what it is to be British or Irish, and how people come to describe themselves as such. The study offers a comparative, theoretically informed analysis of the cultural formation of the Atlantic Archipelago, working across the disciplines of history, geography, literature and cultural studies. It also includes specific case-studies on contemporary poetry, fiction, drama, popular music and art. The essaye respond to recent constitutional developments in Great Britain and Ireland, exploring their implications both for the cultural negotiation of marginality and for established critical paradigms.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-127-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Introduction: crossing the margins
    (pp. 1-10)

    ‘So there it was, our territory’, writes the narrator in Seamus Deane’s novel-cum-memoirReading in the Dark(1997: 59), claiming his own particular domain with all the confidence of childhood. We are drawn to the identification of places, impelled to categorise our territory. It is, however, only movements within and across space that actuate, modify, transform it; as Michel de Certeau puts it, ‘space is a practised place’ (1988: 117). Any identification of boundaries is in itself an act of construction, a spatial practice that recognises its mutability. From this paradox emerges the need for what Homi K. Bhabha terms...


    • 1 Ireland, verses, Scotland: crossing the (English) language barrier
      (pp. 13-30)

      One measure of the strength of a new subject is its capacity to attract major funding. With this in mind it is worth noting that the Irish Government recently gave its largest ever grant in the humanities – £400,000 – to Trinity College Dublin to develop Irish– Scottish Studies. At the same time, the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), from a list of 145 applications, published a shortlist of twentyfive that included only one Scottish University for its Research Centre funding. Aberdeen University, whose Research Institute in Irish and Scottish Studies (RIISS) piloted the UK’s first postgraduate programme in Irish-Scottish...

    • 2 ‘A warmer memory’: speaking of Ireland
      (pp. 31-49)

      The role of the intellectual voice in the construction of radical identities has been central to the post-colonial critique of Ireland.¹ Memmi’s amusedly affectionate dismissal of ‘venerable scholars’ sleepwalking their way through a history that is constantly passing them by is an appealing way to circumvent the interminable question ‘Can the subaltern speak?’, which shadows,in potentia, all pronouncements on the post-colonial subject and, by analogy, all acts of speaking of Ireland too. Spivak’s question and its possible declensions essentially deny that an academic voice can be elevated to a point of enlightenment above the shadows of history and, since...

    • 3 ‘Where do you belong?’: De-scribing Imperial identity from alien to migrant
      (pp. 50-66)

      Understanding the novel as a formative influence on the imagining of national collectivity, Timothy Brennan argues that ‘it is especially in Third World fiction after the Second World War that the fictional uses of “nation” and “nationalism” are most pronounced.’ He goes on to say that, following the war, English social identity underwent a transformation based on its earlier imperial encounters. Colonialism in reverse created ‘a new sense of what it means to be “English”’ (1990: 46–7). However, Brennan does not consider what changes have been wrought on that society, what reinventions of tradition have manufactured new Englands of...

    • 4 Gender and nation: debatable lands and passable boundaries
      (pp. 67-82)

      ‘Debatable lands’ and ‘passable boundaries’: both concepts are emblematic of the kind of inevitably shifting, multi-dimensional perspectives that are found in any consideration of nation and gender.¹ Homi K. Bhabha writes of the ‘ambivalent margin of the nation-space’ and ‘the ambivalent, antagonistic perspective of nation as narration’ (1990a: 4). These ‘ambivalent margins’ are contained in the Scottish metaphor of the Debatable Land. Originally the term was for that area ‘holdin to be Debateable Lands betwixt the twa nations of Scotland and England’, and very specifically defined as ‘now forming the Parishes of Canonbie in Scotland and Kirk Andrews on Esk...

    • 5 The Union and Jack: British masculinities, pomophobia, and the post-nation
      (pp. 83-98)

      Starting with a general theoretical investigation into nationalist imageries of masculine and feminine embodiment, this essay offers a tentative outline of some of the most problematic shifts in the conceptualisation and literary representation of man, self and nation in Britain throughout the twentieth century. The second part of the essay comprises a close reading of John Osborne’sLook Back in Anger(1993 [1956]), which is to illustrate the syndromic inextricability of masculinist and nationalist discourses within a patriarchal context and, moreover, to disclose the representational symptoms of these discourses’ critical decline as interpellative models of successful self-identification in post-imperial Britain....


    • 6 Paper margins: the ‘outside’ in poetry in the 1980s and 1990s
      (pp. 101-116)

      Poetry emanating from what a few decades ago would have been deemed ‘the margins’ has become the major focus of publishing houses, journals and criticism, the latter evident in two recent collections of essays:Poetry in the British Isles: Non-Metropolitan Perspectives(Ludwig and Fietz 1995) andContemporary British Poetry: Essays in Theory and Criticism(Acheson and Huk 1996). I say ‘were deemed’ because, as Terry Eagleton has observed, the marginal has become ‘somehow central’ (1989/90: 4), an observation cited by the editors ofThe New Poetry(Hulse, Kennedy and Morley 1993: 18) and by Romana Huk inContemporary British Poetry...

    • 7 Sounding out the margins: ethnicity and popular music in British cultural studies
      (pp. 117-136)

      In their discussion of the development of British cultural studies,¹ Jon Stratton and Ien Ang point out that the ‘energizing impulse’ of the field has ‘historically … lain in [a] critical concern with, and validation of, the subordinate, the marginalized [and] the subaltern within Britain’ (1996: 376). Accordingly, many of the field’s principal practitioners have paid a considerable amount of attention to questions of ‘race’² and ethnicity in post-war Britain (CCCS 1982; Gilroy 1987; Hallet al1978). Much of this work has, in turn, centred on popular culture in general, and popular music in particular (Gilroy 1987: 117–35,...

    • 8 Cool enough for Lou Reed?: The plays of Ed Thomas and the cultural politics of South Wales
      (pp. 137-153)

      In the conclusion to his 1985 bookWhen Was Wales?the historian Gwyn A. Williams declared that the Welsh were now ‘nothing but a naked people under an acid rain’ (305). Written in the aftermath of the antidevolution vote of 1979 and the fatal blow delivered to the economy and confidence by the defeat of the 1984 miners’ strike, Williams’s work, for all its tentative faith that some form of Wales will survive, is a litany of loss. Above all it mourns the loss of a Welshness of class and community which provided illuminating moments of inspiration, and in particular...

    • 9 Waking up in a different place: contemporary Irish and Scottish fiction
      (pp. 154-170)

      In his 1994 essay entitled ‘The lie of the land: some thoughts on the map of Ireland’, the Irish journalist and cultural commentator Fintan O’Toole made the point that although Dublin and Edinburgh are equidistant from the Rhine, the latter city, according to a certain German map of Europe’s new economically defined regions, was

      part of the core whereas Dublin is part of the outer periphery, simply because Edinburgh is more accessible and richer. In this sense, the new map of post-1992 Europe is one in which Dublin, and Belfast, are in the West, along with Warsaw, Bucharest and Lisbon,...

    • 10 Finding Scottish art
      (pp. 171-184)

      The relationship between nationality and art, or something like it, has been central to the history of art – scholarly or popular – whether in the minimal form of this national school or that national school, or in a more focused way as in ‘the Italian Renaissance’ or ‘French Impressionism’. The art in question is seen as directly related to a national or quasinational set of circumstances, and indeed the art is seen as having some significant link to the nationality of those who carried it out.

      A question that tends to be begged in such approaches is: what is nationality? It...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-205)
  9. Index
    (pp. 206-214)