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Celtic Connections

Irish-Scottish Relations and the Politics of Culture

Series:

Willy Maley and Alison O'Malley-Younger

While a number of published works approach the shared concerns of Ireland and Scotland, no major volume has offered a sustained and up-to-date analysis of the cultural connections between the two, despite the fact that these border crossings continue to be politically suggestive. The current collection addresses this area of comparative critical neglect, focusing on writers, from Charles Robert Maturin to Liam McIlvanney, whose work offers insights into debates about identity and politics in these two neighbour nations, too often overwhelmed by connections with their larger neighbour, England.
The essays in this collection are distinct yet connected, and are designed to come together like the intricate cross-bars and precise patterning of the plaid to capture the complexity of the Celtic connections they address. They move from pre-history to postmodernism, from Gothic to Gaelic and from Macbeth to Marxism, incorporating gender and genre, and providing a detailed survey of responses to the Irish-Scottish paradigm.

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DEIRDRE O’BYRNE ‘My ways are my own’: Female, Family and Farm in Hanna Bell’s December Bride

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Sam Hanna Bell’s 1951 novel December Bride is set in a rural Presbyterian community in the North of Ireland in the early twentieth century. The narrative centres on the life of transgressive Sarah Gomartin, who comes with her mother Martha to live with farmer Andrew Echlin and his two sons, Hamilton and Frank. After their father’s death, she forms sexual liaisons with both men, and bears two children out of wedlock. The plot is drawn from Bell’s family background, so that the novel functions as a fictional imagining of his ancestors, as well as a parable of the autodidac- tic Bell’s own progressive path. It cannot escape our notice as readers that the composite surname Hanna Bell has a feminine ring to it, and while I am not for a moment questioning either the writer’s gender or sexuality, I am concerned here with exploring his adoption/adaption of a female protagonist in December Bride, his first novel and his most famous work. I will discuss the writer’s representation of the links between female, farm and family in the text, concentrating specifically on the characterisation of Sarah. The most remarkable passages are the ones in which the writer ventriloquises this young woman, and her direct speech often functions as a personal manifesto, a particularly female, and demonstrably feminist, Declaration of Independence. The narrative is, for the most part, focalised through her, with some digressions which I aim to demonstrate are the author’s own disruptive and occasionally self-contradictory voice. Bell asserted that he...

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