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Non-Violent Resistance

Irreverence in Irish Culture

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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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10 Deconstructing and Reconstructing Irish Folklore: The Irreverent Parody of An Béal Bocht (Vito Carrassi)

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VITO CARRASSI

10 Deconstructing and Reconstructing Irish Folklore: The Irreverent Parody of An Béal Bocht

The study of culture is the study of the inauthentic.1

— RONALD INAUEN

Folklore and Authenticity

Concepts such as tradition, folklore, ethnicity are essential to understand the history of peoples and nations, or, more precisely, to comprehend how and when peoples and nations conceive, fashion and enhance themselves. What is denoted by these concepts is commonly regarded, more or less purposely, as something fixed, unchangeable, original, almost natural, namely as an intangible heritage2 – intangible, I would say, both because it cannot be touched, being something non-material, and because it must not be touched, by virtue of its key role in the construction of a shared identity – coming from a more or less distant past. Hence, the (alleged) authenticity of this heritage, seen as a major, sacred value, needs to be preserved and safeguarded – if necessary, retrieved, revitalised or even ← 171 | 172 → (re)invented3 – from the risk of disappearing, but also from any kind of change, contamination, hybridism, and above all from the inauthentic influence of modernity.4

However, tradition, folklore, ethnicity – and all that is cultural and not natural – are subject to the processes and transitions of history, that is a dynamic and all-embracing space-time context, in which everything is continuously shaped and transformed according to the evolution of cultural, social, political, economic conditions, so as to be made suitable for...

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