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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture


Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration of its cultural, political, constitutional and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the dominant discourses and narratives that have seemingly defined the nation. The essays in this collection examine the ways in which established Irish socio-cultural structures of authority and their constructs of collective identity have been challenged within literary and cultural discourses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Every challenge to the purported wisdom of these authority structures adds a new facet to the complexity of Irish national identity and contributes to the continuous evolution of the ‘New Ireland’, a phrase often used to signify the momentous transformations of the country in times of change.
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Benjamin Keatinge - The Charismatic Authority of Paul Durcan


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The Charismatic Authority of Paul Durcan


This essay considers the relevance of German sociologist Max Weber’s models of authority in relation to the work of Irish poet Paul Durcan. Of particular interest will be Weber’s conception of ‘charismatic authority’ through which Weber defines ‘a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with […] exceptional powers or qualities’ (Weber 1968: 48). Durcan’s work comprises a considerable body of poetry which is supplemented by Durcan’s parallel role as reader of his work at public readings which he considers to be ‘the life blood of the art of poetry’ (Durcan 2009: xix). The formal properties of Durcan’s work, including his free-flowing rhetoric, his absurdist scenarios, surreal mini-narratives, and use of dramatis personae, all contribute to an unconventional vitality at the level of the form. But Durcan’s well-known qualities as a reader of his work can be seen as an extension and endorsement of the charismatic properties of the poems themselves; Durcan as reader intensifies the dramatic properties of his own work.

Critic and poet Peter McDonald has maintained that the authority of poetry is bound up exclusively in form, as distinct from what he terms ‘personality’. He suggests that: ‘the unique property of a real poem is its capacity to work against the grain of opinion, or in complex and guarded relation to it, so as...

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