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Non-Violent Resistance

Irreverence in Irish Culture


Edited By Agnès Maillot, Jennifer Bruen and Jean-Philippe Imbert

Humour, by its very nature controversial, plays an important role in social interaction. With its power to question assumptions, it can be used a weapon of subversion, and its meaning and interpretation are embedded within the culture that generates them in complex ways. The scrutiny of Irish culture through the lens of humour is highly revealing, contributing to an alternative, and sometimes irreverent, reading of events. As John Updike wrote of Raymond Queneau’s witty re-imagining of the Easter Rising, humour can effectively expose «casual ambivalence».

This volume investigates the many ways in which writers, playwrights, politicians, historians, filmmakers, artists and activists have used irreverence and humour to look at aspects of Irish culture and explore the contradictions and shortcomings of the society in which they live.

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6 Seán Hillen’s Troubles: A Long-Censored Satire of the Conflict (Valérie Morisson)


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6 Seán Hillen’s Troubles: A Long-Censored Satire of the Conflict

Born in 1961 in Newry, Co. Down, Seán Hillen studied at the Belfast College of Art, the London College of Printing and the Slade School of Fine Art. As a child and adolescent, he witnessed and experienced the Troubles. Before he settled in Dublin in the 1990’s, he regularly travelled from London to his hometown, which is likely to have caused him to question the political situation and possibly led to a form of ‘cultural schizophrenia’. Years before he embarked on his widely acclaimed Irelantis series,1 Hillen had devised several sets of photomontages dealing with the Troubles in a satirical manner.2 4 Ideas for a New Town (1982), Jesus Appears in Newry (1991–1992), Londonnewry, A Mythical Town (1983–1992), Northern Sunsets, and Newry Gagarin (1992) are series of collages in a postcard format which collate Hillen’s black and white documentary photographs of the Troubles, popular images related to American movies or the space odyssey, kitsch icons of Jesus or romantic Irish landscapes. A postmodern satirist, Hillen offers a provocative interpretation of the conflict by pasting together real and fictitious, serious and comical, Irish, English or American images. Although the hybrid scenes he composes toy with the utopian genre and prove irresistibly humorous, they convey a fierce criticism of the Northern-Irish conflict and its mass-media representations. ← 103 | 104 →

Collage is fundamentally critical and subversive.3 It...

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