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Beyond Ireland

Encounters Across Cultures


Edited By Hedda Friberg-Harnesk, Gerald Porter and Joakim Wrethed

This collection looks beyond Ireland metaphorically as well as geographically, moving beyond nationalism towards the culturally diverse, beyond a bilingual Ireland to a polyvocal one, beyond the imagined community towards a virtual one, beyond a territorial Ireland to an excentric one. The focus is on outsiders, ranging from Colm Tóibín’s subversion of establishment norms to Paul Muldoon’s immersion in Jewish discourse to John Banville’s extensions of the parameters of Irishness to the Lass of Aughrim finding a new role through her exclusion from the domestic hearth. The contributors to the volume work mainly with poetry and prose fiction, but genres such as autobiography, the essay and song lyrics are also represented.
The issues addressed all look ‘beyond Ireland’. In considering the creative frictions and fictions that result from the dissolving of old loyalties, these essays examine contested concepts such as ‘the nation’, and attempt to shed light on global forces that demand cultural re-definitions and transformations. The world order that let loose the Celtic Tiger has brought, together with a diversified Ireland, new forms of dependence. It is one of the main aims of this book to explore how Irish writers have regarded this diversification and contested that dependence.


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Gerald Porter Distant Transformations: The Shifting Topologies of a Diaspora Song 197


Gerald Porter Distant Transformations: The Shifting Topologies of a Diaspora Song The Chinese philosopher Guo Xiáng (d. AD 312) is associated with those Neo-Taoists whose work is characterized by the epithet xuan xué ‘dark (or mysterious) learning’. His central concept is tu-huà, or self-transformation, in which things are not created but are produced by countless transfor- mations in relation to distant others, annihilating space and time in the process: When a man [sic] is born, insignificant though he be, he has the properties that he necessarily has. However trivial his life may be, he needs the whole universe as a condition for his existence. All things in the universe, all that exist, cannot cease to exist, without some ef fect on him. If one factor is lacking, he might not exist. If one principle is violated, he might not be living.1 This striking anticipation of modern chaos theory is my starting point for a study of transformations of the localized narrative ballad often known as ‘Lord Gregory’ in the Irish diaspora. There are many localities in Ireland where this confrontation is pointed out as having taken place, the most frequently encountered being Aughrim in County Galway, which has long been associated with the historical battle that took place there in 1691. This version, known by various titles such as ‘The Lass of Aughrim’, is, of course, best-known as the ‘distant music’ of James Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’. It is 1 Fung Yu-Lan, Selected Philosophical Writings (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press,...

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