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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. ‘South Belfast’s Concerned Classes’: The Battle for Hegemonic Masculinity in Transitional Northern Ireland 134


134 Chapter Three funny has been regarded as a cause for paramilitary intervention’ (TWW 3). Patterson described, in interview, how he and Wilson shared [t]he idea that when someone dies that’s a story ended. I think that, if I thought about my work and Robert’s, no-one gets shot off their horse from the back of a stage-coach. It means something when someone dies. It means more when someone dies if they had a life before it. A novel is an invitation to imagine, and the impact should be felt, the purpose is to remind the reader that this is what happens anytime someone dies. The person you just read about is no longer alive and able to have fumbly sex. (Appendix B) 4. ‘South Belfast’s Concerned Classes’: The Battle for Hegemonic Masculinity in Transitional Northern Ireland This section will argue that these novels are concerned with a shift in hege- monic masculinity and the individuation of the male subject. This sec- tion will consider the anti-violent ideological perspective of the novels of Wilson and Patterson, but it will endeavour to show that their politics are not identical and consider how this might have been shaped by their social circumstances and relation to discourses of class, nation and art. Hegemonic masculinity for a great deal of Northern Ireland does not involve status through violence but rather accumulation of wealth and professional achievement. Peace movements in Northern Ireland have nor- mally been the preserve of women, from the Peace People to...

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