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Liminal Borderlands in Irish Literature and Culture


Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Elin Holmsten

Liminality, if interpreted as a concern with borders and states of in-betweenness, is a widespread theme in Irish literature and culture, which is perhaps not surprising considering the colonial and postcolonial background of Ireland. The liminal, from the Latin word limen, meaning «a threshold», can be broadly defined as a transitional place of becoming. It is a borderland state of ambiguity and indeterminacy, leading those who participate in the process to new perspectives and possibilities.
This collection of essays examines the theme of liminality in Irish literature and culture against the philosophical discourse of modernity and focuses on representations of liminality in contemporary Irish literature, art and film in a variety of contexts. The book is divided into four sections. The first part deals with theoretical aspects of liminal states. Other sections focus on liminal narratives and explore drama as liminal rites of passage, while the last part examines transformative spaces in contemporary Irish women’s poetry.


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7 Identity as Becoming: Polymorphic Female Identities in the Poetry of Boland, Meehan and Ní Dhomhnaill Katarzyna Poloczek 131


7 Identity as Becoming: Polymorphic Female Identities in the Poetry of Boland, Meehan and Ní Dhomhnaill Katarzyna Poloczek Drawing upon Celtic tradition that allows for the fluidity and migrations of different polymorphic shapes,1 Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill challenge the homogeneous and unified vision of identity in favour of pursuing the network of intensities and becomings that undergo continuous shapeshifting. As I will argue, this alternative has empowering and liberating potential for women, since it goes beyond the restrictive framework of various ideologies.2 Paula Meehan’s “Coda” raises the issue of what remains of female corporeal identity when “everything is taken away,” that is after eradi- cating what Guattari and Deleuze define as fantasy, significance and significations (151). In “Coda,” Meehan deconstructs the coding of the body/text as a receptive surface for signification, upon which various social, cultural, punitive or medical inscriptions can be marked, thereby subverting the practice of reading the body as text, which Grosz refers to as the “fictionalisation of living narratives” (119, 141). Thus, “Coda” exhibits a case of the counter-textuation of female corporeal identity, in direct opposition to social inscriptions. The “I” of the poem resists the decoding process of her self, conceived as an intru- sive assault on both textual and bodily integrity. As the textuation of the female body proceeds, printed signifiers gradually erase her presence in 1 See Matthews (1994) and O’Donohue (1999). 2 See Braidotti’s application of Deleuzian notion of becoming-woman in Nomadic Subjects (1994) and her more...

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