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Redefinitions of Irish Identity

A Postnationalist Approach


Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Carmen Zamorano Llena

Recently, the issue of postnationalism has encouraged intense debate, which has been reflected in the publication of numerous books and articles in various fields of study, including politics, history, philosophy and anthropology. However, the work produced in Irish literary criticism has been much sparser. This collection of essays aims to fill this gap and provide new insights into the debate on postnationalism in Ireland from the perspective of narrative writing. The book collects thirteen essays by academics from various countries, including Ireland, the United States and Sweden. It analyses the concepts of the postnational and the postnationalist in relation to globalisation, as well as the debate that postnationalist discourse has opened in various fields of knowledge, and its definitions and implications in the contemporary Irish historical and literary context. The literary forms under consideration include essay writing, drama, fiction, autobiography, film and poetry. The authors whose work is analysed here include Dermot Bolger, Hubert Butler, Ciaran Carson, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Marie Jones, Derek Mahon, Frank McGuinness, Robert McLiam Wilson, Conor McPherson, Sinéad Morrissey, Nuala O’Faolain and David Wheatley.


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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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