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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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9 The (Translato)logic of Spectrality: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Her English Doubles Maryna Romanets 173


9 The (Translato)logic of Spectrality: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and her English Doubles Maryna Romanets Almost every interview with one of the most widely known and inter- nationally acclaimed contemporary Irish poets, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, contains a haunting, invariant question: “Why do you write in Irish?” Ní Dhomhnaill deliberately chooses to write in a language that was once in a position of power as the medium of “the richest vernacular literature in medieval Western Europe” (Language and Tradition 5), but which has regressed to the precarious status of a minority tongue in a predomi- nantly Anglophone contemporary Ireland, rejected by both revisionist historians and recent Irish feminists as a language that seems too closely connected with patriarchal nationalism and certain repressive aspects of Irish culture (Gender and Sexuality 305). Moreover, Ní Dhomhnaill consistently emphasises the symbiotic relationship between her subcon- scious creative impulses and their lingual expression: “I feel my creativity is like this island inside of me, in the subconscious, that emerges. It’s like the demon lover of my parthenogenesis poem: it’s a merman, an energy from underneath the subconscious, and obviously I need to get that in the native language” (“Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill: Interview” 100). By evok- ing the significatory power of the folkloric demon lover trope, which implies ecstatic yet ominous perpetual reunions and returns,1 the poet’s self-referential explanation unfolds a liminal space for her passionate romance with the language, which has been charting its “phantomical map” (Derrida 65), as Jacques Derrida would have it, on...

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