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‘Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse’

Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies


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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Chapter Ten ‘Tá Siad ag Teacht’: Guinness as a Signifier of Irish Cultural Transformation 171


Chapter Ten ‘Tá Siad ag Teacht’: Guinness as a Signifier of Irish Cultural Transformation That Guinness is a synecdoche of Ireland is almost, at this stage, a cultural given. This commodity has taken on a fetishistic association with Ireland, an association that is enunciated by the desire of tourists to have a pint of Guinness as a testament to having arrived in Ireland. In all tourist shops, practically every item of consumption can be found with a Guinness brand on it, from drinking glasses and alcohol-related products to all forms of clothing – including underwear. Indeed, Guinness has operated as a syn- ecdoche in a further dimension as in most pubs in Ireland, if one asks the barperson for ‘a pint’, the default beverage will be a Guinness. However, this chapter will look at a more macrocosmic index of Guin- ness, as by tracing a number of advertisements, I hope to demonstrate that Guinness as a commodity has followed, paralleled and at times anticipated, socio-cultural trends in contemporary Irish society. This may seem a large claim to make for what is, after all, a brand of beer, but a brief discussion of how cultural codes develop and change will provide the theoretical framework for an exploration of Guinness advertisements as published by the company themselves, in a special celebration of seventy-five years of advertising, published in 2004 (Guinness Calendar). This adequation between the product and a sense of Irishness is not accidental, as an example from the Guinness will demonstrate. The...

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