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Ireland and Popular Culture


Edited By Sylvie Mikowski

This book explores the differences between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures in an Irish context, arguing that these differences require constant revision and redefinition. The volume includes analysis of famous Irish writers such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, who are commonly regarded as part of the canon of elite Irish literature but who have either used elements of popular culture in their work, or else occupy a special position in popular culture themselves. Other chapters examine the elusiveness of the boundary between elite and popular culture using objects such as postcards, digital animation, surfing and the teaching of Irish mythology in schools, and demonstrating how this boundary is constantly renegotiated through subversion and parody or through the recycling of folk culture by state institutions. The book also explores the dichotomy between an ‘authentic’ Irish culture, as allegedly exemplified by Irish folklore, mythology, sport and theatre, all of which have been claimed as markers of national identity, and fabricated Irishness, designed to fit commercial or political purposes. The case of Ireland provides a rich and fascinating example of the debates which underlie the study of popular culture around the world today.
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Sandra Mayer: The Importance of Commemorating Literary Celebrity: Oscar Wilde and Contemporary Literary Memorial Culture


← 38 | 39 → SANDRA MAYER

‘A kiss may ruin a human life’, laments one of Oscar Wilde’s ‘fallen women’, Mrs Arbuthnot, in A Woman of No Importance.1 Recalling how, during his cross-examination in court, the author got himself into fatally deep waters over the question of kissing a male servant,2 one may be inclined to detect at least a modicum of truth in the claim. What has been established with a fair degree of certainty, however, is the fact that such expressions of human affection – especially when they come adorned with creamy lipstick – apparently prove ruinous to even such sturdy materials as Portland stone, as evidenced by the recent cleaning project and subsequent reopening of Wilde’s tomb at the Paris Père Lachaise cemetery in November 2011.

Ever since the late 1990s, when notes and flowers were replaced by permanently destructive forms of literary hero-worship, the fad of planting lipstick smears all over Jacob Epstein’s controversy-riddled 1912 monument with its characteristic Assyrian angel developed into a popular pastime on the Paris tourist trail, in spite of a heavy €9,000 fine for defacing listed historical monuments.3 Already in 2000, on the eve of the centenary of Wilde’s death, the author’s grandson Merlin Holland appeared seriously concerned that, after surviving censorship, graffiti and vandalizing attacks ← 39 | 40 → on the angel’s genitals, the monument might be ‘suffering from its most damaging assault’ yet in the guise of lipstick fats eroding the substance of the stone; hence, in mock...

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