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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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2. ‘Some unrelenting protagonist’: Postmodern ‘Hard Men’ in the Novels of Jason Johnson and Eoin McNamee 65


Performances 65 2. ‘Some unrelenting protagonist’: Postmodern ‘Hard Men’ in the Novels of Jason Johnson and Eoin McNamee While the first section of this chapter considered the ways and means of self-creation in the novels of Glenn Patterson and Robert McLiam Wilson, we must note that their characters were men who largely rejected direct involvement in the violence of the Northern Irish conflict. The paranoid and claustrophobic novels of Eoin McNamee, particularly in Resurrection Man and The Ultras, feature men directly involved with terrorism and the prevention of terrorism. While Chapter Three will engage with violence on a more psychodynamic level, this chapter considers what it means to perform masculinity as a participant in violent conflict. In The Blue Tango the main concern is the reconstruction of the life of a murdered girl, Patricia Curran. However, with recent Republican double agent controversies and the colourful lives of Loyalists such as Johnny Adair, Jim Gray and the Shoukri brothers, McNamee’s stylised prose can tell us much about the self-creation of the terrorist pose, as well as how military masculinities clash in Northern Ireland. There is a glut of so-called ‘Troubles trash’ and ‘true life’ stories fetishising those who were involved in violence. These include Mad Dog: The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and ‘C’ Company (2004) by David Lister and Hugh Jordan, The Billy Boy: The Life and Death Of LVF Leader Billy Wright (2002) by Chris Anderson and Tim Pat Coogan and Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland (2004)...

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