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Cultural Perspectives on Globalisation and Ireland

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Edited By Eamon Maher

In the space of a few short decades, Ireland has become one of the most globalised societies in the Western world. The full ramifications of this transformation for traditional Irish communities, religious practice, economic activity, as well as literature and the arts, are as yet unknown. What is known is that Ireland’s largely unthinking embrace of globalisation has at times had negative consequences. Unlike some other European countries, Ireland has eagerly and sometimes recklessly grasped the opportunities for material advancement afforded by the global project.
This collection of essays, largely the fruit of two workshops organised under the auspices of the Humanities Institute of Ireland at University College Dublin and the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies in the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, explores how globalisation has taken such a firm hold on Irish society and provides a cultural perspective on the phenomenon. The book is divided into two sections. The first examines various manifestations of globalisation in Irish society whereas the second focuses on literary representations of globalisation. The contributors, acknowledged experts in the areas of cultural theory, religion, sociology and literature, offer a panoply of viewpoints of Ireland’s interaction with globalisation.

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11. ‘The Universal is the Local without Walls’: John McGahern and the Global Project Eamon Maher 211

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11. ‘The Universal is the Local without Walls’: John McGahern and the Global Project Eamon Maher John McGahern (1934–2006) has long been considered a writer who was rooted in a very specific place – the northwest midlands around Leitrim and Roscommon – as well as someone with a finely attuned understand- ing of the rural communities who inhabit this area. The idea of his work being included in a book on globalisation and culture might initially seem inappropriate. After all, he did not concern himself excessively with the emergence of the Celtic Tiger, other than to say that he thought the newly found prosperity was wonderful: instead of seeing generations leaving Ire- land to seek work abroad, it was pleasant to know that there were ample opportunities for young people to stay and work in their country of birth. The spin-offs of globalisation such as immigration, the arrival of multina- tional companies, global capital flows, increased opportunities for travel, the internet, full employment, improved GNP and GDP, did not impact on his characters to any great extent, mainly because he wrote about com- munities who tended to live at a temporal and geographical remove from this sort of thing. Getting livestock to the fair, saving the hay, interacting with family and friends, attending Mass and religious services, facing up to the prospect of death, these are the main preoccupations of the characters we encounter in McGahern’s novels and short stories. What I will seek to demonstrate in the course of this...

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