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Affecting Irishness

Negotiating Cultural Identity Within and Beyond the Nation


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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Irish Multicultural Fiction: Metaphors of Miscegenation and Interracial Romance Jason King 159


Irish Multicultural Fiction: Metaphors of Miscegenation and Interracial Romance Jason King The image of blackened hands digging into the Irish earth constitutes a core motif in contemporary Irish literature. One of its most prominent figures is that of the ‘farmer-poet’ whose agricultural labour is imagined to be a metaphor for creative expression. Whether it be the ‘frosty fingers’ of Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘farmer-poet’ ‘Art McCooey’ (1939) that work the ‘stony grey soil’ of County Monaghan, or Seamus Heaney’s recurrent image of ‘cold’, ‘dead’, ‘fingers’ in Death of a Naturalist (1966), each of them employs the metaphor of digging as a synecdoche for the cultural conditioning of the Irish writer who grounds his or her creative imagination in an experience of tactile contact with the Irish soil. More recently, the Latvian migrant and author of The Mushroom Covenant Laima Muktupavela has written about how her Irish employer ‘forbade’ her to wear gloves until ‘the mush- rooms quickly turned her fingers black’ (Bilefsky). This chapter considers whether Muktupavela’s blackened fingers can be incorporated into the Irish literary tradition of Kavanagh and Heaney, and the extent to which Irish culture is either receptive or racialised to the exclusion of immigrant voices like her own. Broadly speaking, my intention is to examine the emergence of what I will define as Irish multicultural literature, and the narrative strategies employed by Irish and immigrant authors who seek to broaden and con- test cultural definitions of Irishness by emphasising its openness and hos- pitality or ingrained hostility to...

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