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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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Shades, Minstrel and Majestic Daniel Tobin 275


Shades, Minstrel and Majestic Daniel Tobin John Berryman’s The Dream Songs is a masterwork of twentieth-century American poetry that places minstrelsy front and center as its defining conceit. At the same time, The Dream Songs is nothing if not an epic of con- sciousness, a kind of fractured, postmodern anti-narrative of ‘the growth of the poet’s mind’ (or perhaps more aptly its dissolution), though the reader is never quite sure how much of Henry, Berryman’s protagonist, is derived from Berryman’s own life experience – certainly much of his identity is, though fictionalised. Yet, more than an epic of consciousness, Berryman’s great long poem sequence may be read as a saga of double consciousness, one that exhibits all the characteristics of that term, its association with internal psychic conflict, its affiliation with cultural insecurity, as well as its origin in a deeply felt experience of diaspora. Berryman, through Mary Kanar Smith, his grandmother on his father’s side, is a son of the Irish Diaspora (Haffenden 1980, 11). He is also the son of the Jim Crow South through his mother and, perhaps most evocatively, through his grandfather Robert Glenn Shaver, a renowned confederate colonel and a commander of the Klu Klux Klan (Haffenden 1980, 420–1). It is not a far stretch, then, to see Berryman’s poetry – already supremely obsessed with matters of iden- tity – as being shaped in pervasive and subtle ways by this dual heritage, necessarily involving both Irish and African American history. Berryman announces Henry’s double consciousness in the...

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