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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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Mathew D. Staunton and Nathalie Sebbane - Authority and Child Abuse in Ireland: Rethinking History in a Hostile Field


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Authority and Child Abuse in Ireland: Rethinking History in a Hostile Field


Questions of authority loom large over the historiography of child abuse in Ireland. Chief among these is: who has the authority to decide whether or not abuse took place in the past? And what, if any, authority do historians have to make that decision? Should we accept testimony from survivors as legitimate sources (the religious orders accused of abuse, their representatives and their apologists do not) or craft our histories around ‘official’ written documents only, even if those documents have been produced, maintained or manipulated by organizations that systematically abused children? At what point should we question the Government’s claims that its employees had the authority to treat children in ways we now know were abusive, that the past was simply ‘like that’? When do we authorize ourselves to challenge apologists and negationists and frame our own stories historiographically?

In 1974, psychohistorian Lloyd de Mause wrote that ‘the history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken’.1 At that time there was cause to be optimistic: a new field of historical research was developing around L’Enfant et la vie familiale sous l’Ancien Régime by Philippe Ariès2 and the increasing volume of literature on Henry ← 135 | 136 → Kempe’s ‘Battered Child Syndrome’,3 including David Bakan’s seminal Slaughter of the Innocents: A Study of...

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