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Limits of Orality and Textuality in Ciaran Carson’s Poetry


Grzegorz Czemiel

Following the evolution of Ciaran Carson’s work, this book aims to trace the tension between orality and textuality, which can be discerned in the poetry of the Northern-Irish writer. Assuming these forces to be the two major sources of all literature, the author delineates, using deconstruction, how they inform and structure Carson’s poetic œuvre. Further thematic analyses focus on three major themes: memory, city and history, adopting various critical approaches, among them New Historicism and psychoanalysis. Finally, taking cue from Carson’s later work, an epistemological and metaphysical dimension of his poetry is revealed. This serves as the final vantage point from which the author offers a potential glimpse beyond the said dialectic, unveiling Carson’s broadly ethical project.
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III History


The dialectic of orality and textuality takes a yet another interesting turn as Carson begins to investigate the questions of history and its relationship to literature, language and the community. He proposes a radical transformation of historical discourse and provides a pragmatic solution to the problems of historical relativism, imperialism and expropriation – quandaries that are especially troubling for poets of Northern Irish origin. It can be argued that he attempts to achieve symbolic restoration of history by adopting a particular, deconstructive stance in the area of philosophy of history, which is inscribed in his highly self-conscious works. Ciaran Carson has been preoccupied with the questions of history and its representations for natural reasons. Like many other Northern Irish poets, he was witness to the violent events of the Troubles and the transformations that changed the face of Ulster in terms of sociology and ideology. Thus, consciously or not, he has become himself a historian, albeit not a traditional one, but rather as a man of letters. To the poets of his generation it was literally impossible to omit the question of what stance poetry should assume in the face of conflict. He attempts to perform linguistic deconstruction of historical discourse, which lays the foundations for annulling the arbitrary divisions that separate the society and foster violence. In this way, his work could be seen as reparatory, insofar as we assume, alongside the poet himself, that the problem is essentially a linguistic one. The inability to escape history, the...

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