The Literature of Northern Ireland: Spectral Borderlands by M. Ruprecht Fadem

By M. Ruprecht Fadem

Via shut readings of texts by means of playwright Anne Devlin, poet Medbh McGuckian, and novelist Anna Burns, this e-book examines the methods Irish cultural creation has been disturbed through partition. Ruprecht Fadem argues that literary texts deal with this stress via spectral, bordered metaphors and juxtapositions of the traditional and the modern.

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Example text

And I realize this now from a later perspective—is Beckett . . [His] image of purgatory . . is so wonderful a translation of this territory” (Ibid 108). Purgatory is a precise mimesis of Devlin’s location, and Beckett’s unhoused houses and “undead” beings, his absurd abstraction and (seeming) indifferent groundlessness, all the stultifying confinements and internal contradictions, however meant, likewise function as incisive representations of Northern Ireland. Both playwrights offer “[c]orpsed” characters that wait (1986, 106): his for Godot, hers for a dwellable nation; all occupy an interval bereft of a sense of history, place, or identity.

Muldoon uses the concept as a metaphor to explain a particular and pronounced feature of Irish literature: border locations that function like the theatrical apparatus, “a kind of world-scrim that hangs about” the characters (7) transporting them from one world or “place” to another while invoking “[t]he idea of there being a contiguous world, a world coterminal with our own, into and out of which some may move” (Ibid). 21 Scrims raise the perilous question of “falling” from one realm to another, whether from dreaming to waking, from dead to living, or from place to place.

Outside, a small crowd gathers, all eyes on her. As Amelia becomes increasingly agitated, she does an about-face so as not to see them, and now peers into the store through the scrim of a window covered by a security grill. Cohering as critical borderlands of the scene, and perhaps of the entire novel, after contemplating “what war is,” Amelia “held on, and she held on tight and she looked into the supermarket. She locked eyes with the guard” (289). While she is certain this man despises and plans to arrest or, worse, physically harm her—after all, she has experienced inexplicable hatred all her life, especially from officers of the British state—the guard doesn’t accuse her of a theft she didn’t commit.

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