Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann
Derek Hand Living in a Global World: Making Sense of Place in This Side of Brightness
Ireland is a place of disjunction and disconnection, between what it is said and how it is said, between words and accent. It is a place where all experience appears split and doubled, the public realm competes with the private sphere, and the demands of the community are pitched against the rights of the individual. Place itself is a vexed concept in an Irish context. As W. B. Yeats wrote: ‘Out of Ireland have we come. Great hatred, little room, Maimed us at the start.’1 At a basic level, it would seem ownership and possession of land is a major source of conf lict in Ireland’s history. And yet, even in this assessment of the negativity of Irish hatred, Yeats is suggesting perhaps that this lack of space forces the Irish imagination to operate beyond the material confines of place, to begin to engage at a cultural level with the notion of territory. More recently, Seamus Heaney also accepts how the Irish experience of place, particularly, is doubled. In his essay, ‘The Sense of Place’, he argues that there are two ways in which place is known: ‘One is lived, illiterate and unconscious, the other learned, literate and conscious’.2 There is, for the poet, a productive tension to be exploited between landscape as something physical and real, and place as experienced through culture and the imagination. Not only has actual land been a site of contestation in Ireland’s history, but also representations of the geographical space of Ireland have been...
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