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Ireland: Authority and Crisis


Edited By Carine Berbéri and Martine Pelletier

This volume sets out to investigate how various forms of authority in Irish culture and history have been challenged and transformed by a crisis situation. In literature and the arts, a reappraisal of the authority of canonical authors – and also of traditional forms, paradigms and critical discourses – principally revolves around intertextuality and rewriting, as well as the wider crisis of (authoritative) representation. What is the authority of an author, of a text, of literature itself? How do works of fiction represent, generate or resolve crises on their own aesthetic, stylistic and representational terms?
The Irish Republic has faced a number of serious crises and challenges since it came into existence. In recent years, the collapse of the Celtic Tiger has acted as a catalyst for change, revealing various structures of political, religious and economic authority giving way under pressure. In Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement has led to major developments as new authorities endowed with legislative and executive powers have been set up. In its focus on the subject of authority and crisis in Ireland, this book opens up a rich and varied field of investigation.
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Mehdi Ghassemi - Authorial and Perceptual Crises in John Banville’s Shroud


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Authorial and Perceptual Crises in John Banville’s Shroud


In Shroud, John Banville stages his narrator-protagonist as a literary theorist very reminiscent of Paul de Man. Drawing on de Man’s own deconstructionist theories regarding the question of referentiality and the problem of (self-) representation, Axel Vander’s self-conscious narrative becomes increasingly obsessed with the nature of his own perceptions and representations. The narrative, in turn, becomes a solipsistic account that stretches and eventually splits Vander’s sense of self between a spectral and corporeal existence. In other words, the very attempt at finding authenticity leads him to further alienation from the real. The aim of this paper is to explore the way in which Shroud presents not only a crisis of authenticity, but also an authorial (as well as authoritative) crisis in which Vander’s very sense of self is undermined.

John Banville returns to his familiar theme of the relationship between fiction and reality in Shroud,1 another example of what Linda Hutcheon calls ‘historiographic metafiction’.2 Banville models his protagonist, Axel Vander, on Paul de Man, the deconstructionist literary theorist, whose early writings for a pro-Nazi newspaper were posthumously uncovered, marring de Man’s reputation as a prominent literary thinker. The second novel of Banville’s latest trilogy – the others being Eclipse and Ancient Light3 – Shroud is a first-person account and takes the form of an autobiographical ← 85 | 86 → confession while simultaneously drawing on de Man’s own deconstructionist theories regarding the...

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