Across The Margins: Cultural Identity and Change in the by Glenda Norquay, Gerry Smyth

By Glenda Norquay, Gerry Smyth

Around the Margins deals a comparative, theoretically expert research of the cultural formation of the Atlantic Archipelago. In its total perception and in particular contributions, this assortment demonstrates some great benefits of operating around the disciplines of background, geography, literature, and cultural experiences. It additionally offers new configurations of cultural varieties hitherto linked to particularly nationwide and sub-national literatures.

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In one way this is the purest of structuralist challenges; Barthes’ Michelet is engaged in writing a history of France through a self-consciously doubled order of signs, in which historical events as signifiers act as a sign system in themselves, revealing history as other historians write and read it, but also point to a mythological second order of signs which delineates the words of an embedded and ‘impossible language’. Michelet, as quoted by Barthes, writes: I was born of the people, I have the people in my heart.

Hence there must be a necessarily tremulous method of approaching ‘Ireland’ within Irish criticism; on the one hand seeking its definition as the key to all mythologies, as the langue of speaking about Ireland which binds together and explains the fact of speech in this discourse itself; on the other hand knowing that the act of defining ‘Ireland’ as langue begs a replacement which is unimaginable, given the exhaustion of resources deployed in order to get to that point of definition. For the critical voice, the ‘self’ which speaks in relation to ‘Ireland’ needs, expects and functions by the anticipation of continual deferral; only its own collapse into a vacuum is imaginable at any point beyond the ever held-off future moment of absolute fulfilment.

If that’s meant to be Ulster-Scots idiom, the implications are almost racist. As Thomas maintained: ‘Only when a word has Norquay_02_Ch1 22 22/3/02, 9:43 am 23 Crossing the language barrier become necessary can a man use it safely; if he try to impress words by force on a sudden occasion, they will either perish of his violence or betray him’. Even Synge went a bit far in the matter of idiomatic vitamin-injections. And prose-writers, particularising character and scene, can perhaps do more than poets to preserve local words.

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