A Postnationalist Approach
Matt McGuire The postmodern promise of Robert McLiam Wilson’s fiction 125
Matt McGuire The postmodern promise of Robert McLiam Wilson’s fiction The epilogue to Richard Kearney’s Postnationalist Ireland (1997) features a quotation from Seamus Heaney: ‘Whatever is given / can always be re - imagined, however four-square, / … it happens to be’ (1995: 200). It is the role of fiction in this process of reimagining that the following essay seeks to explore. As this volume of essays attests, in the wake of the Celtic Tiger the term ‘postnational’ encompasses a diverse range of contemporary Irish experience. This contribution will examine the roots of our postnational era within the framework of postmodern theory and apply these ideas to the work of the Northern Irish writer Robert McLiam Wilson. Postnationalism as a concept was born out of the ideological impasse of late-twentieth-century Northern Irish history. It was part of Richard Kearney’s response to three separate forums, each addressing the political crisis in Northern Ireland. The impulse to reimagine is something of a leit- motif within Northern Irish art. From punk rock to poetry, the search for an alternative Ulster has never been far from the cultural agenda. In recent years a number of critics have looked to the language of postmodernism as a tool with which to deconstruct and subsequently reconstruct the dis- cursive certainties of Northern Irish life. This essay investigates whether postmodern theory can provide a meaningful alternative to the terminal logic and exhausted narratives of Northern Irish culture. Kearney’s own definition of postnationalism is heavily indebted to what he calls...
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