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

By Glenda Norquay, Gerry Smyth

Around the Margins bargains a comparative, theoretically expert research of the cultural formation of the Atlantic Archipelago. In its total belief and in particular contributions, this assortment demonstrates some great benefits of operating around the disciplines of heritage, geography, literature, and cultural reports. It additionally provides new configurations of cultural kinds hitherto linked to particularly nationwide and sub-national literatures.

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This is not a simple transition. Joyce both celebrates and mourns it; his readers have so far tended only to join in the celebration (1995: 181). 8 Nolan and Kiberd, in their different ways, insist on Joyce’s reintroduction and resolution of the post-colonial problematic of ‘the people’ as precept for intellectual speech. Seamus Deane’s remark on a post-Burkean Irish trope which sees Ireland as having ‘no narrative but the narrative of nostalgia’ embodies, in charged forms, both Kiberd’s ‘tradition’ ‘renovated’ (another of Deane’s words) and Nolan’s deeply ethical pleading for a ‘mourning’ of lost ‘identity’ and the realisation that incoherence is the price of the ‘devil’s era of modernity’.

The old eloquence that threatened to turn into stage Irishness, the eloquence of dialect or ‘poet’s talking’, has been supplanted by another eloquence, apparently invisible, in which writers adopt an anglicised mode that avoids engaging with an ‘inferiorised’ Irishness. Kiberd’s allusion to ‘a more modern Irish generation … less charmed by [the] disjunction’ between economic poverty and linguistic plenty is telling. For ‘reservations about eloquence’ are both an understandable reaction to the consoling and compensatory rhetoric that stands in for a fundamental lack – this is Williams’s argument in his essay on Synge and O’Casey – but at the same time they arguably amount to a desire for upward mobility that glosses over social and linguistic realities.

So for both Memmi and Spivak, the very moment at which ‘marginality’ is articulated is the moment at which its purity founders. In remembering the anecdote about Michelet, Bataille ‘embodies’ this dilemma; the impossibility of an authoritative margin. And Bataille thus ennobles the pathos of Michelet’s solution – Michelet, constantly ‘feeling’ history as personal physiological trauma, tries to break through to ‘the people’, his object of study, by forcing himself through another physiological trauma which brings him face to face with the evidence of ‘their’ literal body politic.

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