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A Poetics of Dissensus

Confronting Violence in Contemporary Prose Writing from the North of Ireland


Fiona McCann

Twenty years after the peace process began in the North of Ireland, many thorny political issues remain unresolved. One of the most significant questions involves the means by which acts of violence and the ideologies that subtended them can be dealt with, interrogated and questioned without rekindling conflict. This book focuses on a number of fictional and non-fictional texts published during the last two decades and analyses, through the prism of French cultural philosopher Jacques Rancière’s work, the emergence of an aesthetics of dissensus within these novels, short stories, graphic novels and memoirs. Associating close textual analyses with wider contextual readings, the book investigates the overlap of politics, aesthetics and the redistribution of the sensible in recent prose works, revealing how the authors avoid the pitfalls of a facile discourse of peace and reconciliation that whitewashes the past and behind which unaddressed tensions may continue to simmer.
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It is always hard to know where to start when it comes to thanking those who have contributed, whether they know it or not, to the writing of a book. The most obvious place to start in this case is with Christabel Scaife and Eamon Maher at Peter Lang who encouraged me to pursue my writing and who offered invaluable advice throughout the process.

I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the financial help and intellectual support provided by my research laboratory CECILLE EA 4074 (Université de Lille 3), without which this project could never have come to fruition.

Some of the content has appeared as chapters or articles elsewhere and I am very grateful to the editors and peer reviewers in each case for their constructive advice. The genesis of Chapter 1 can be found in ‘“The Good Terrorist(s)?” Interrogating Gender and Violence in Ann Devlin’s “Naming the Names” and Anna Burns’ No Bones,’ Estudios irlandeses, Vol. 7 2012, 69–78 and that of Chapter 2 in ‘“The post-past city”: Apocalyptic Cityscapes and Cultural Stagnation in the Fiction of Sean O’Reilly,’ Marie Mianowski (ed.), Irish Contemporary Landscapes in Literature and the Arts, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 94–105.

Numerous colleagues have, of course, informed my thinking on the various issues raised by this volume. I would like to thank members of the Irish studies community in France and, in my own university in Lille, Catherine Maignant and Claire...

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