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Affecting Irishness

Negotiating Cultural Identity Within and Beyond the Nation

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Edited By James P. Byrne, Padraig Kirwan and Michael O'Sullivan

This collection of new essays addresses a key debate in Irish studies. While it is important that new research endeavours to accommodate the new and powerful manifestations of Irishness that are evident today in our globalised economy, these considerations are often overlooked. The writers in this book seek to reconcile the established critical perspectives of Irish studies with a forward-looking critical momentum that incorporates the realities of globalisation and economic migration.
The book initiates this vital discussion by bringing together a series of provocative and thoughtful essays, from both renowned and rising international scholars, on the vicissitudes of cultural identity in a post-modern, post-colonial and post-national Ireland. By including work by leading scholars in the fields of film studies, migration and Diaspora studies, travel literature and gender studies, this collection offers a thorough twenty-first-century interrogation of Irishness and provides a timely fusion of international perspectives on Irish cultural identity.

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‘No Rootless Colonist’: John Hewitt’s Regionalist Approach to Identity Aoileann NÍ Éigeartaigh 121

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‘No Rootless Colonist’: John Hewitt’s Regionalist Approach to Identity Aoileann NÍ Éigeartaigh This essay proposes to interrogate the paradigms of identity explored in the writing of John Hewitt, the Northern Irish poet. Unable to recon- cile the contradictions inherent in his Protestant or ‘Planter’ heritage, yet unwilling to embrace or even acknowledge the heritage of the nationalist tradition, Hewitt advocated a ‘regionalist’ approach to identity. His theory was that if identity was reduced to its most basic, local focus – in this case, the province of Ulster – it could offer something with which people of all backgrounds and communities could engage. The advantage of focusing solely on the region of Ulster to the exclusion of the surrounding world was two-fold. It offered the opportunity to avoid (or perhaps ignore) the increasingly divisive political situation in Northern Ireland; while cel- ebrating shared and potentially unifying elements of its culture, such as the ballads of the nineteenth-century ‘Rhyming Weavers’. This essay will examine Hewitt’s approach to Northern Irish culture and identity, inves- tigating the problems he encounters in his bid to define and develop his regionalist approach. These problems emanate both from his own difficulty as a member of a divided society to fully embrace the possibilities of the opposing culture; and from the increasingly bitter divisions at the heart of Northern Irish society. Hewitt’s relationship to Northern Irish culture is an ambiguous one. He is often hailed as the ‘father figure’ of a generation of contemporary Northern Irish poets – a glowing though...

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