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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice


Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan

Exploring the Utopian Impulse presents a series of essays by an international and trans-disciplinary group of contributors that explores the nature and extent of the utopian impulse. Working across a range of historical periods and cultures, the essays investigate key aspects of utopian theory, texts, and socio-political practices. Even as some critique Utopia, others extend its reach beyond the limits of the modern western tradition within which utopianism has usually been understood. The explorations offered herein will take readers over familiar ground in new ways as well as carry them into new territories of hope and engagement.
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Rhyming Hope and History in the “Fifth Province”


← 266 | 267 → AIDAN O’MALLEY

The concept of the “fifth province” entered contemporary Irish cultural discourse with the announcement of its “rediscovery” in the editorial of the first number of the journal The Crane Bag in 1977: “Modern Ireland is made up of four provinces, whose origin lie beyond the beginning of recorded history. And yet, the Irish word for province is cóiced which means a fifth. This fivefold division is as old as Ireland itself, yet there is disagreement about the identity of the fifth fifth” (Kearney, “Editorial” 4). The first task of my essay is to unveil the tensions within the utopian impulse that informed the idea of the “fifth province.” I will do this by looking first at how this site was uncovered in The Crane Bag, where two rather distinct versions of the “fifth province” ultimately found expression: one that leaned towards a transcendental reading of the site, while the other articulated its potential in terms of human interaction. The connection between these two tendencies, versions of which might be thought to mark all utopian ideas and projects, and the act of translation, the process that brought the “fifth province” into being in The Crane Bag, are investigated in light of the fact that an interaction between transcendental idealism and human possibility also informs the act of translation.

In order to observe this contradictory dynamic more closely and to come to terms with the possible significance of the “fifth province,” the second...

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