Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies
Chapter One Ireland in Theory: The Influence of French Theory on Irish Cultural and Societal Development 11
Chapter One Ireland in Theory: The Influence of French Theory on Irish Cultural and Societal Development That contemporary Irish society and culture is in the process of a radical transformation is beyond question. However, what is open to question is the context within which this process has been set in motion. From being a socially and religiously conservative, homogenous culture, Ireland has now begun on the problematic journey towards becoming a European pluralist society. The hegemonic pillars of traditional Irish society – the church, the twin governmental parties of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and ‘republican- ism’ (however undefined) as a default position within the national psyche – are in the process of undergoing a searching interrogation and critique. The position of church and state as arbiters of opinion and unquestioned sources of wisdom has never been more tenuous. This chapter will offer a reading of the engine that initiated this change and will suggest that increasing levels of education, specifically in the areas of literary and cultural theory, much of which originated in France, have been the catalyst behind this process. I think that the emancipatory and political force of such critical discourse is often obscured by the arcane terminology and overzealous jargon of some practitioners. In this discus- sion, only broad strokes will be traced, as the underlying imperative behind the theoretical writings of the last forty years will be examined, and then applied to the Irish situation. Before looking at the process of change, and its contexts, it...
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