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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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Whatever You Say, Say Something

During the build-up in 2011 to what was arguably the most exciting Presidential election campaign in decades in Ireland, not least because of entertaining shenanigans surrounding brown envelopes, one thing at least became perfectly clear thanks to the candidacy of Martin McGuinness: the extreme violence which marked the process leading to and continuing on from the birth of the Irish Free State is so unpalatable to both the political class and state media that few were prepared to acknowledge the hypocrisy and absurdity of attempts to disqualify McGuinness as a worthwhile contender on the basis of his past as a member of the IRA. This attitude was hypocritical on many different levels; not only did it reveal the double standards which mean that while it was deemed acceptable for McGuinness to be Deputy First Minister in the North and therefore to occupy a position of relative power, the idea that he might become President of Ireland was somehow objectionable, but it also highlighted only too obviously the collective amnesia which has allowed Irish people to forget that Eamon De Valera, and others who would become major political actors in the Free State, were also, once upon a time, involved in political violence. When Miriam O’Callaghan (RTÉ) felt justified in asking the other candidates what they thought of McGuinness’s candidacy and how he himself ‘square[ed] with [his] God the fact that [he was] involved in the murder of so many people’...

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