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Sons of Ulster

Masculinities in the Contemporary Northern Irish Novel


Caroline Magennis

Both masculinity and the Northern Irish conflict have been the subjects of a great deal of recent scholarship, yet there is a dearth of material on Northern Irish masculinity. Northern Ireland has a remarkable literary output relative to its population, but the focus of critical attention has been on poetry rather than the fine novels that have been written in and about Ulster. This book goes some way towards remedying the deficiency in critical attention to the Northern Irish novel and the lack of gendered approaches to Northern Irish literature and society.
Sons of Ulster explores the representation of masculinity within a number of Northern Irish novels written since the mid-1990s, focusing on works by Eoin McNamee, Glenn Patterson and Robert McLiam Wilson. One of the key aims of the book is to disrupt notions of a hegemonic Northern Irish masculinity based on violent conflict and hyper-masculine sectarian rhetoric. The author uses the three sections of the text to represent the three key facets of Northern Irish masculinity: bodies, performances and subjectivity bound up with violence.


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4. ‘Laid it open to the bone’: The Hermeneutics of the Tortured Body in Resurrection Man 46


46 Chapter One already considered how Ripley Bogle’s relation to his body is tempered through Catholic and Nationalist imagery of sacrifice, hunger and denial. By contrast, Patterson’s men have a more relaxed, more secular, relation to their bodies. The casual sex of Danny in The International is testament to this as he admits: ‘We did it standing up against a workbench, wasted on vodka and cider, climaxing without thrill’ (TI 99–100). The male body, though, in both Wilson and Patterson, is offered a temporary satiation, but McNamee’s men, even in climax still lack. While Patterson’s sensualists and Wilson’s romantics often find their male bodies leaking, they rarely do violence to other men and render their bodies incapable. The male body, rendered passive through violence, will be the focus of the next section. 4. ‘Laid it open to the bone’: The Hermeneutics of the Tortured Body in Resurrection Man This is the city as cadaver … a city whose mortification precludes all possibility of change. (Patterson 1994: 43) This quotation, from Glenn Patterson’s 1994 review of Resurrection Man for Northern Irish magazine Fortnight, considers the ways by which Eoin McNamee exploits, in Patterson’s view, Northern Irish political violence. Now, it is not the aim of this author to question the moral rectitude of Resurrection Man, or indeed, the author Eoin McNamee, but rather to examine the ways in which McNamee imagines masculine hegemony and the radical symbolic potential of the abjected body in these novels. This section will examine Eoin McNamee’s...

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