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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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Chapter 5: Whodunnit or Who Didn’t Do it? Authority and Poetic (In)Justice in Eoin McNamee’s The Blue Tango and Orchid Blue



Whodunnit or Who Didn’t Do it? Authority and Poetic (In)Justice in Eoin McNamee’s The Ultras, The Blue Tango and Orchid Blue

Crime fiction, or detective fiction, is undoubtedly a privileged fictional space in which to probe, configure and reconfigure the aesthetics of violence in contemporary society in the North of Ireland and to contest the ‘rhetoric of sameness’ found both in crime novels themselves and criticism of them which tend to reduce the history of violence in the North to a ‘single, configurative narrative of violence’ (Kelly 5). Against this possibility of dehistoricising the North, crime fiction, as Kelly goes on to point out, also ‘facilitates a more subversive logic, which attempts to trace and confront the seemingly unfigurable complexities, and criminalities of the state’ (Kelly 24). The author of crime fiction (or what might be more adequately described as thrillers) also penned under a pseudonym, Eoin McNamee occupies a specific space in crime/thriller fiction from the North. As well as contributing to the thriller genre, he also delves into the world of violent crime in his ‘literary’ fiction for which he has received significant critical acclaim. Contrary to his novels written under the John Creed pseudonym which adhere to the impetus of most contemporary crime fiction, however, McNamee’s ‘literary’ novels do not so much lead towards the gradual discovery of ‘whodunnit,’ but rather who didn’t do it. In Resurrection Man (1994), The Blue Tango (2000), The Ultras (2004), 12.23 (2007) and...

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