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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 8: Subverting Authority or Reinforcing Convention? Garth Ennis’s Graphic Novels



Subverting Authority or Reinforcing Convention? Garth Ennis’s Graphic Novels

‘Welcome to the Gutter’

This provocative statement marks the beginning of the introduction to one of the most recent collection of essays on graphic novels and comics, edited by Joyce Goggin and Dan Hassler-Forest. They go on to explain that they are simultaneously referring to ‘the cultural ghetto’ to which comics are usually relegated and to the technical term which denotes the space or border in between panels and which determines the construction of meaning (Goggin & Hassler-Forest 1). The graphic novel has long been the poor relation in the international arena of literary-artistic production, although not so much in terms of its popularity as in responses to it from within academia. The tide is, however, turning as the last couple of decades have seen the publication of major critical and theoretical investigations of this genre.1 It would be an understatement to point out that the graphic novel is the poor relation in contemporary Irish literature. In a literary landscape which is dominated by Nobel Prize winners, a considerable output in poetry and giants such as Yeats, Joyce and Beckett, it is not hard to see why the (admittedly) few graphic novelists who have emerged in Ireland have been overlooked by scholars and relegated to the ‘gutter’ of academic interest.

For Jacques Rancière (and many other contemporary theorists), there is of course no distinction to be made between high and...

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