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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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7 ‘A Remnant in the Land’: The Ulster Scot, Writing and Resistance (Wesley Hutchinson)


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7 ‘A Remnant in the Land’: The Ulster Scot, Writing and Resistance

Ulster-Scots has often been the object of attack. These attacks have taken a variety of forms. They range from the now classic put-down by the republican Andersonstown News that Ulster-Scots is just a ‘DIY language for Orangemen’ to the infinitely more worrying Ian Knox cartoon in the nationalist Irish News which represents the performers at the first night of the Ulster-Scots stage show, On Eagle’s Wing, as Nazis in kilts dancing at a Nuremberg-style rally.1 The standard representation is that Ulster-Scots is simply ‘English with a Ballymena accent,’ or that it is nothing more than, ‘a mish-mash of bad English, pidgin Irish and Scottish colloquialisms.’2 Thus, in November 2011, when a small rural school in County Down threatened with closure was applying to become the venue for an Ulster-Scots education project, another Knox cartoon in the Irish News said it all: ‘There is no Ulster-Ulster-Scots language.’3 Such statements show something of the root and branch nature of the attacks, and reflect an infinitely more radical critique and a greater level of stridency than that which is commonly ← 123 | 124 → found elsewhere in Europe with regard to indigenous minority languages like Gallo, for example. At a broader cultural level, the criticism is just as radical. In this representation, whatever culture there is is seen as politic-ally driven.4 Fundamentally, it is argued, there is no cultural grounding.


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