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‘Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse’

Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies

Series:

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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Conclusion 189

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Conclusion In these readings of Irish literary and cultural texts and contexts, and the numerous crossings over between them, I have attempted to liberate dif- ferent layers of meaning. I am not trying to conflate the generic and epis- temological differences, nor am I trying to say that a body in a Heaney translation carries the same weight of meaning as the real-life body of a murdered human being. However, I am saying that if we read carefully, that these two bodies can speak to each other – that Hawkins and Belcher do have a sense of meaning that tells us more about the bodies of Robert McCartney or Jerry McCabe, and that reading the Frank O’Conner story in the light of these very real guests of the nation, or of a group that purports to speak for the nation, is a culturally and politically significant act. The same is true of reading The Burial at Thebes in tandem with the campaign of the McCartney sisters, as in both the political and the literary test, we see the voiceless finding their voices and we see the figures of the com- munity – both Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft – being called to question by these female voices. In these readings, strongly influenced by the work of Derrida, I am attempting to demonstrate that to read any text correctly, then the anas- tomosis of text and context must be taken into account if we are to liber- ate the full range of meanings inherent in these...

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