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France and Ireland in the Public Imagination


Edited By Benjamin Keatinge and Mary Pierse

This engaging collection of essays considers the cultural complexities of the Franco-Irish relationship in song and story, image and cuisine, novels, paintings and poetry. It casts a fresh eye on public perceptions of the historic bonds between Ireland and France, revealing a rich variety of contact and influence. Controversy is not shirked, whether on the subject of Irish economic decline or reflecting on prominent, contentious personalities such as Ian Paisley and Michel Houellebecq. Contrasting ideas of the popular and the intellectual emerge in a study of Brendan Kennelly; recent Irish tribunals are analysed in the light of French cultural theory; and familiar renditions of Franco-Irish links are re-evaluated against the evidence of newspaper and journal accounts.
Drawing on the disciplines of history, art, economics and literature, and dipping into the good wines of France and Ireland, the book paints a fascinating picture of the relationship between the two countries over three dramatic centuries.
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Chagall, Balthus, Picasso, Lascaux: French Influences on Paul Durcan’s Engagement with the Irish Public Imagination


Born into a patrician family and counting among his relatives Maud Gonne, Major John MacBride and Seán MacBride, Paul Durcan has always been deeply engaged with the question of the Irish public imagination. In the public perception, Durcan’s name has become associated with philippics against the perceived narrow-mindedness of senior Catholic clergy, the chastising of media self-righteousness and the lamenting of the visionless cowardice of some in political high office. All of this, allied with a raft of such overtly topical works as ‘The Divorce Referendum, Ireland, 1986’ and ‘The Bloomsday Murders, 16 June 1997’ attests to the poet’s care for the moral and civic climate, for his country’s imaginative life. At the root of his care for the tenor and content of civil and moral discourse is the implicit understanding, shared with theorist of nationalism Benedict Anderson, that each nation is ‘an imagined political community’.1

Durcan’s world, in which public and private realms are seldom entirely distinguishable, is one where the social and epistemological centrality of imagination is paramount; a world where ‘in reality fiction is all that matters’.2 Though the poet does invoke imagination, public and private, by name, more often the word ‘dream’ is used as a cognate to connote generative, creative space and activity. Hence, for example, we find both a terrorist with a ‘dream gun blood-smeared’ and innocent lovers who ‘dreamed our ← 189 | 190 → dreams of a green, green flag’ in his 1978 volume Sam’s Cross.3 The gunman and the...

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