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‘Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse’

Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies

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Eugene O'Brien

This collection of essays reconsiders aspects of Irish studies through the medium of literary and cultural theory. The author looks at the negotiations between texts and their contexts and then analyses how the writer both reflects and transforms aspects of his or her cultural milieu. The essays examine literary texts by W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and Sean Ó’Faoláin; media texts such as Father Ted, American Beauty and a series of Guinness advertisements; as well as cultural and political contexts such as globalisation, religion, the Provisional IRA and media treatment of murders in Ireland. The author also looks at aspects of the postcolonial and feminist paradigms and makes use of a theoretical matrix based on the work of Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan.

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Introduction Negotiating Texts and Contexts 1

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Introduction Negotiating Texts and Contexts One of the strongest criticisms aimed at the project of Jacques Derrida in particular, and indeed at literary and cultural theory in general, is the relativistic and apolitical nature of its epistemological position. Derrida has been seen as a nihilist and a relativist and as someone for whom any- thing goes in terms of ethics and politics. One of the most celebrated examples of this was the Cambridge affair where Derrida’s putative award of an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University became a point of contestation among the fellows of that college, and later among the wider academic community. In a series of flysheets, supporters and critics set out their arguments and among the reasons offered for the non-awarding of this degree, the following were set out: Despite occasional disclaimers, the major preoccupation and effect of his volumi- nous work has been to deny and to dissolve the standards of evidence and argument on which all academic disciplines are based ... What determines us to oppose this award is not just the absurdity of these doctrines but their dismaying implications for all serious academic subjects ... By denying the distinction between fact and fiction, observation and imagination, evidence and prejudice, they make complete nonsense of science, technology and medicine. In politics they deprive the mind of its defences against dangerously irrational ideologies and regimes. (Non Placet Flysheet 1992, 687) I would counter this assertion and in this book I will use many of Derrida’s ideas to demonstrate the...

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