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New Crops, Old Fields

Reimagining Irish Folklore


Conor Caldwell and Eamon Byers

From our homes to our houses of government, from our schoolyards to our stadia, from our galleries to our gable walls, folklore is not only preserved but continues to be reimagined in all aspects of everyday life in Ireland. In the twenty-first century, the traditions of Irish folklore are engaged in a constant process of regeneration, where the old and the new, the oral, the textual and the visual intermingle. However, while the «first life» of Irish folklore has amassed a vast literature, what has attracted less attention is its «second life»: the variety of ways in which traditions have been reused and recycled in other contexts by politicians, poets, visual artists, sportsmen, tourism officers, museum curators, writers and musicians.

This volume is concerned with those moments of cultural creation that occupy the space between the «first life» and «second life» of folklore and, in particular, the ways in which folk traditions are reinvented. Featuring essays from both authorities in the field and emerging voices, this interdisciplinary collection demonstrates the rich diversity of folk culture, as a practice and as an area of study, in contemporary Ireland.

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4 Who Knows Where the Time Goes: Songs of the Past and Stories of the Present in Kate Thompson’s The New Policeman (Rebecca Long)


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4   Who Knows Where the Time Goes: Songs of the Past and Stories of the Present in Kate Thompson’s The New Policeman

This essay will discuss how The New Policeman (2005) by Kate Thompson uses the performative nature of story and music to reimagine and re-narrate key aspects of Irish folklore and how children’s literature, as a genre, provides a dynamic space within which this reimagination can occur. As a children’s literature text, The New Policeman seeks actively to promote the regeneration of folkloric narrative tradition – with a specific focus on musical performance – and through this regeneration to present an image of a modern yet ultimately pastoral Ireland, which exists in harmony with its mythic counterpart, Tír Na nÓg.

The New Policeman is the story of a country that has lost itself in the stream of modern time and of a young boy – JJ Liddy – whose destiny it is to find himself and to bring his community back to a sense of its heritage and tradition. No one in the village of Kinvara knows where the time goes and JJ, as the novel’s protagonist, is always waiting for the ‘imaginary time’ (2005: 48) when he will catch up with himself, when he will have enough time to be himself. It is in this waiting, in this space between the reality of modern life and the desire for a connection to a traditional past that JJ finds...

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