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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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Catherine Rees The postnationalist crisis: Theatrical representations of Irish anxiety, identity and narrative in the plays of Martin McDonagh and Marie Jones 221


Catherine Rees The postnationalist crisis: Theatrical representations of Irish anxiety, identity and narrative in the plays of Martin McDonagh and Marie Jones Recent cultural criticism in modern Irish studies frequently describes the nation as experiencing moments of revolution, of crises of identity within a global context and of instabilities surrounding the deconstruction and problematisation of national distinctiveness. Ireland and ‘Irishness’ are thus rendered unstable concepts, describing geographies and borders in states of flux, anxiety and crisis. This essay explores the fragmentation of pre- viously considered national certainties through the study of Irish theatre. Significantly, it seeks to describe national identity as narratives: represen- tations which are ascribed, adopted or constructed, but ultimately remain formulated in terms which contain little or no objective stability. In this way, Irish theatre can narrate a process by which narratives once thought stable and unchanging, such as history, culture and politics have become subject to misapprehension and are thus open to being written or re-written in ways that are affected by other conflicting narratives. Richard Kearney argues that the conflict between Britain and Ireland has led to a need to move ‘towards a new configuration of identities’ (1997: 15). He goes on, ‘Contemporary Irish identity is most at ease with itself […] when the obsession with an exclusive identity is abandoned’ (1997: 101) and coins the term ‘“depressive” nationalism’ (1997: 184) to describe a ‘crisis’ in the sense of a singular or definite sense of nation. Edward W. Said defines this sense of fracturing identity in...

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