Prose, Theatre, Translation: Beckett, the reluctant post-modernist
Helen Astbury (Université Charles-de-Gaulle Lille 3)
Beckett once commented that he began to write for the theatre in order to escape the difficult
prose he was writing at the time. Compared to the chaos of, for example, L’Innommable, the
theatre would at least allow him, or so he thought, to create physically intact individuals who
would evolve in the concrete space of the stage.
This shift from prose to theatre, which would eventually also correspond to another shift, that
from French to English, seems to have been motivated by a desire to escape what we would
now call the post-modernity of his prose. Beckett’s prose characters were, at the time, and
continued to be, fragmented body-parts devoid of an original voice, spewing forth words they
did little more than repeat without understanding, with no known or knowable history and no
hope of any future evolution – almost paradigmatically post-modern.
If Beckett did turn to theatre to avoid such a tendency, it is supremely ironic that when he
chose to return to English for his theatrical writings (after Fin de partie in 1957), he was
actually to take his theatre (and almost all 20th-century theatre in its wake) in the post-modern
direction his prose had already taken, fragmenting his characters physically, subverting
temporality and dissociating the voices the audience hears from the bodies they may or may
not be emanating from.
While Beckett’s theatre was veering always further in the post-modern direction, his entire
oeuvre was ineluctably doing the same. Beckett’s prose works in French were each unique
pieces of writing, with a clearly identifiable title, author and original language. The very
nature of self-translation transforms each of these works into fragments of a larger whole, no
longer the creation of a single author, but mediated by the work of the author-translator,
translating, to compound the matter, into his mother tongue, thus begging the question of the
originality of the original, suddenly supposed to have been preceded by an unwritten Ur-text.
This paper hopes to study how Beckett’s attempts to subtract his post-modern prose from the
post-modern paradigm, by switching language and genre, actually lead him, in fact, to an
“L'Irlande entre diversité multiculturelle et affirmation de l'identité nationale :
nouvelles problématique, nouveaux enjeux”. (Yann Bévant)
L'utopie selon P. Ricoeur est "la réplique la plus radicale à la fonction intégrative de
l'idéologie", mais elle est aussi "ce qui maintient l'écart entre l'espérance et la tradition".
L'histoire récente de l'Irlande pourrait aisément être analysée l'aune de ces définitions, de
l'échec du rêve essentialiste à la problématique que pose aujourd'hui le renversement des flux
migratoires et l'émergence d'une nation plurielle, multiculturelle, impliquant une redéfinition
de l'identité irlandaise.
La communication explorera, à la lumière notamment des enseignements de Ricoeur et
Bourdieu, des exemples concrets de la confrontation entre les représentations traditionnelles
de la nation irlandaise et les manifestations d'une richesse multiculturelle qui est aussi un
facteur de fragmentation de la société.
Cependant, loin d'être un simple facteur de déstabilisation des anciennes valeurs et pratiques,
la transformation culturelle que connait l'Irlande aujourd'hui apparaît avant tout comme une
confirmation de l'analyse de JF Bayart :" l'analyse des situations politiques qui semblent
dominées par des conflits identitaires et qui devraient logiquement corroborer la validité du
concept d'identité primordiale, infirme justement la pertinence de ce dernier car [...] elle
surestime l'ancienneté et l'unité de chacun des protagonistes en même temps qu'elle occulte
les échanges entre ceux-ci [...] l'emprunt, la dérivation créative, [...] les nouvelles associations
de valeurs." (JF Bayart, L'illusion identitaire, Paris Fayard, 2000)
Lillian Burke (MIC/UL)
Unity and Fragmentation – A Lacanian Reading of James Joyce.
French Theory and the Irish Example.”
This paper will illustrate the fragmentation of Irish society through the writings of Jacques
Lacan and James Joyce.
Fragmentation as a theme and a concept will be explained through Lacanian psychoanalysis.
Lacan’s study of the language of the self and his dissertation on self-alienation in light of the
development of self-consciousness will also be outlined for the purposes of highlighting the
fragmentation of the Irish human condition. Lacan’s emphasis on fragmentation will be
illustrated by looking at James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and some of
his short stories in Dubliners.
Postmodernity is characterised by the fragmentation of the self. In the Irish context the self is
both fragmented and self-alienated by the dominance of the symbolic order.
Nationalism and religion perpetuate this alienation to the point of exile. In attempting to
strengthen the Irish symbolic order for the purposes of identity, recognition and pride the Irish
self looses his/her real expression in the Lacanian sense.
Lacan’s psychoanalysis of the real and the effects of the symbolic order will be discussed
through a close reading of Joyce’s work in order to understand the fragmentation of Irish
society. The main argument of this paper will be that language, as a construct, alienates the
Irish self. Language fails to recognise the individual because language is objective and
universal. The subjectivity of every Irish man and woman is overshadowed by this construct.
Joyce’s work highlights the paralysing effects of a fragmented society and the consequences
St. Lawrence University
“SAND AND SPEED: TRACES OF FRENCH THOUGHT IN PAUL MULDOON’S
As Paul Muldoon’s poetry reflects more and more his immersion in an American
setting, it has also continued to grow defiantly in its confrontation with violence and death
and in its effort to embrace the many facets and demands of a contemporary urban (and
suburban) existence. In his recent collection Horse Latitudes (2006), the protest against the
war in Iraq explicit and implicit in the opening sonnet sequence evokes a desert, moral and
physical, reminiscent in some ways of the one described in the Amérique of Baudrillard
(whom Muldoon cites in The End of the Poem, also published in 2006). The longer poem
“Sillyhow Stride,” in which many of the themes and images of other poems in the book seem
to gather and collide in kaleidoscopic fashion, call to mind Virilio’s poetics of speed and
technology, a convergence he locates too in the contemporary American way of life.
Muldoon’s poetry may well reflect a sensitivity to these conditions especially acute in one
whose contribution to the Irish poetic tradition now is connected with life in America and
who remains fully in touch with current French thought.
Re-articulating identity in a post-modern world: boundary narratives of communities in
the Northern Ireland/Ireland border region
School of Business & Humanities, Institute of Tallaght
Post-modernity conceptualises a fundamental shift in society which renders the grand
narratives of modernity irrelevant and obsolete. It involves a new and destabilising conception
of the self, characterised by uncertainty, the undoing of authority and the freedom of the
To the contrary, I will set out in this paper, by drawing on Foucault’s genealogical
contributions, that the rationality of post-modernity provokes suspicion, evidenced by the
continuities and residues of the ‘modern project’.
Moreover, post-modernity should be conceptualised, not as an abstract phenomenon, but as a
shift in the ontology of self. In order to ‘problematise’ post-modernity, I will argue how the
current shift towards the ‘politics of difference’, represent the prevailing mode of government
and ‘guiding’ force for Western societal relations.
As Stephen Howe (2005) tells us, debates around the concepts of post-modernity and
globalisation in Ireland have generally been associated with the political project of ‘post-
nationalism’, involving the move towards cultural hybridity, European integration, and the re-
articulation of cultural and religious discourses. However, there has been little consideration
given to how these changes are rationalised north of the border and whether Northern Ireland
can be conceptualised within a post-modern context.
Drawing on the research findings of a comprehensive critical discourse analysis, I will
examine cultural boundaries constructed in the narratives articulated both north and south of
the Ireland/Northern Ireland border, to understand how the modern notions of the ‘self’, in
relation to rational truth, economics, science, technology and expert knowledge re-articulated
in post-modern ways, using discourses to produce alternative subjectivities.
The Other within: Migration, Postcolonialism and Cinema in France and Ireland
Dr Eóin Flannery, University of Limerick
Edward Said divines a dynamic counter-hegemonic animus in the movement of
migrant peoples; they are possessive of what he terms ‘exilic energies’, profoundly disruptive
and creative voltages that contradict the centralising reification of the modern, capitalist
nation-state. The migrant figure, who persists between languages and between homelands,
throws into relief the contingency of all historical and political narratives of possession,
origins and authorship. Clearly, such politically charged actions are not always conscious
affronts to incumbent political authorities. But rather the very existences of incommensurable
mobile populations, who refuse to, cannot, or partially participate in the micro-theatrics of
capitalist modernity, furnish affective rebukes to the complacent digestion of modernity’s
self-validating narratives and coalesce with the diffusive theoretical and political energies of
In this paper I intend to explore such ideas in relation to two recent films, the French
based Hidden, and the Irish made film Zulu. Ultimately both explore the fatal consequences
of colonial and postcolonial migratory patterns; exposing the uneven processes of social,
cultural and economic integration in the capitalist west. Themes explored include paranoia,
surveillance, desperation and self-sacrifice, all of which undermine the naturalised stability of
the western subject and broader ideas of national identity. Naturally there are contextual
divergences between the French case, as a former colonial power, and Ireland, a country that
is more often situated within the postcolonial world, some of which will be alluded to in the
paper. Likewise both films undermine the integrity of realist representation at the level of
cinematic form – both productions incorporate innovative and disorienting visual effects in
order to disturb the complacency of the viewer.
Paula Gilligan (IADT)
'A Taxi from The West: Modernity, Post-Modernity and Melancholy in Yves Boisset's Le Taxi
mauve/The Purple Taxi, (Co-Production France-Ireland, 1977)'.
This paper will explore the theme of post-modernity and modernity in the Yves Boisset’s cinema
version of Michel Déon's novel Le Taxi mauve. The film was the last French full-length French fiction
film to be set wholly in the Irish Republic and the first French film financed with a cash investment from
Irish sources. It was a box-office hit in France, figuring among the top three highest grossing French films
for the year. It attracted audiences of more than three and a half hundred thousand in Paris and the eleven
principal towns alone.i Déon was the main draw for audiences of the film. Following Frederic Jameson, I
argue that the purple taxi of the title is not the index of modernity it might seem at first glance. The use of
the Citroen in Diva, Jameson argues, shows a curious post-modern mixture of old and new and leads
ultimately, in Jameson's view, to the disappearance of 'affect' and the sudden unexpected absence of
anxiety and the effacement of negative impulses (ibid. 60). In my view, this is also the miraculous effect
of Skully and his car which takes us on a trip to a country inoculated against the ‘degeneracy’ of modern
French society and that ‘old French logic’ (line in Le Taxi mauve). This paper proposes to investigate the
function of the Ireland text as a refuge from modernity in the context of post-modern France as mediated
by this film and by its inter-texts.
Peter D.T. Guy, Postgraduate Fellow, National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies.
Walt Disney, Archbishop McQuaid and the
Possibilities of a ‘New Religion’ in the Age of Simulacra
The Catholic faith used to be called the Old Religion; but at the present moment it has a
recognized place among the New Religions. This has nothing to do with its truth or falsehood;
but it is a fact that has a great deal to do with the understanding of the modern world.
G.K. Chesterton The Catholic Church and
Conversion in The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, vol. 3 (San Francisco: Ignatius, c.
1990) pp. 64-65.
The basic thrust of my paper concerns the impact of post-modernism on Catholic Ireland and
how our increasingly secular society has responded to the resultant loss of faith and
rationality. Post-modernist philosophy took its origin from the anti-humanist novels and short
stories of the 1950s and early 60s. But as a philosophy it has attacked man chiefly on the level
of his rationality. Post-modernism has attacked modernism's grand schemes or meta-
narratives because post-modernism has called into question the idea that man is capable of
seeing the truth enough to construct such intellectual edifices.
These trends make the Church out to be as much a victim as a victimizer. The irony is that the
Church set about, unintentionally, prolonging and promoting Modernism whilst intentionally
seeking to censor it. As Declan Kiberd writes, ‘Yet the underlying paradox was that by
censoring modernism the Irish authorities maintained it at the level of an heroic opposition,
long after it had begun to lose that status in other countries and especially in the wake of
World War Two.’ Now, it has become common for Catholics to defend Modernist theses
against post-modernist ones, but this, in my opinion is a self-defeatist. Post-modernism gives
us the opportunity to look anew at the old religion and reassess, in ways that were not
apparent before. This reassessment will act as the central motif in my paper.
This paper will also take in account the representation of religion in the Irish novel: John
McGahern, we may argue, was concerned more with the power of ritual, Brian Moore with a
return to a more primitive community and John Broderick with the Church acting as a
safeguard to society’s sense of its own morality and mortality. Now that the Church has lost
much of its relevancy, how important are these themes in a modern day context? What can we
learn from the past and apply to a modern-day template, with an approach, that in post-
modernism may seem new, but is, in reality, old.
‘La modernité chez Jean Racine : une perspective beckettienne.’
Brigitte Le Juez, DCU.
Alors qu’il enseignait la littérature française à Trinity College, en 1930-31, Beckett révéla les
premiers signes de sa vive admiration pour Racine. Tandis qu’il menait son cours sur la
littérature française contemporaine, il exposa ses étudiants aux auteurs habituellement
associés à la notion de modernité à l’époque, tels que Flaubert, Proust et Gide. Cependant,
c’est dans son enseignement du théâtre racinien qu’il démontra sa propre recherche d’une
écriture moderne, celle de l’expression du profondément humain.
Ural State University,
“The Genre Peculiarities of Samuel Beckett’s More Pricks than Kicks in a context of Irish
The goal of my paper is to consider Samuel Beckett’s work as a specific piece of Irish
Modernism. In Samuel Beckett’s More Pricks than Kicks there is a problem, connected with
genre modifications in modern literature. Many researches consider Beckett’s work as a
novel, a cycle of the short stories. A genre of the short story and novel as posing a theoretical
and practical problem in literary studies has been a much-discussed topic in Russia. Michail
Bakhtin, Viktor Shklovskii, E.M.Meletinskii and other Russian scholars could be mentioned
here. The project proposal is an effort to explore Beckett’s More Pricks than Kicks as a
“novel of novellas” with the help of theoretical conceptions by Meletinskii (genre of novella)
and Bakhtin (genre of novel).
In addition, researchers of Beckett’s prose were particularly actively engaged in the
discussion of Irish short prose tradition and Beckett’s work. There are some critics who
consider early Beckett (e.g. More Pricks than Kicks or Murphy) as categorically Irish. I
would like to see Beckett’s novel of novellas against a background of the Irish short story and
in the context of modernist experiments with novels and novellas.
Plenary : John McDonagh (MIC)
Entre Deux Mers – Strands and Collages in Contemporary Irish Poetry
In one of his earliest publications, La Poétique du Possible (1984), Richard Kearney floated
the emancipatory possibilities of poetry as an interrogation of the perceived certainties of
identity. Indeed, contemporary Irish poetry seems happy to portray a changed and changing
Ireland, marked by its past yet resistant to the emergence of dominant ideologies.
Postmodernism, in all its complexities and elusiveness, has helped to create a climate in
which, in Kearney’s words, ‘Irish culture is best conceived as a complex web of interweaving
narratives that refuse the facility of a homogeneous totality’.
This paper will look at the work of a variety of contemporary Irish poets, including Paul
Durcan, Michael Hartnett, Medbh Mc Guckian, Micheal O’Siadhail, Kerry Hardie, Bernard
O’Donoghue and Cathal O’Searchigh, in which that tangible resistance to meta-narratives is
most pronounced. The influence of seminal French thinkers such as Paul Ricoeur and Roland
Barthes permeate their poetry, particularly Ricoeur’s assertion that the drive towards
modernity must involve the ‘reanimation of tradition’. This reinterpretation of Irish
landscapes and histories involves the repositioning of cultural iconography and a tacit
acceptance of the necessity of change. The very title of Medbh McGuckian’s latest
collection, The Currach Requires No Harbour, neatly encapsulates this meshing of tradition
and uncertainty, in which the currach, the uber-symbol of Irish rural identity, is allowed free
passage in the choppy waters of this postmodern age.
Eamon Maher, NCFIS:
“Jean Sulivan and post-Catholic Ireland.”
The French priest-writer Jean Sulivan (1913-1980) wrote at a time of great spiritual turmoil in
his country of birth. Brought up by a pious Breton mother whose death in 1965 caused her
son to re-evaluate many of his previously held religious beliefs, Sulivan formulated a radical
type of Christianity that sought to come to grips with a much changed religious climate in
post-World War II France. It can be argued that the spiritual climate of France at the end of
the 1970s closely resembles that which characterises third millennial Ireland: with a massive
fall-off in vocations and attendance at religious ceremonies, an all-pervasive and aggressive
secularism and a despair at the void created by the once all powerful Catholic Church. A
recent publication by a Church of Ireland bishop, Richard Clarke (A Whisper of God: Essays
on post-Catholic Ireland and the Christian Future, The Columba Press, 2006), describes how
the Irish Church ‘is now discredited and moribund in the eyes of many detached onlookers.’
There are many reasons for this according to Clarke, perhaps the main one being pride: ‘The
primary offence of the whole church, and certainly not the Roman Catholic tradition alone,
was to believe that it was somehow above and beyond accountability, perhaps even an
accountability to God himself.’ (p.27)
Jean Sulivan would argue that a humble (perhaps even ‘humiliated’) church has
greater potential for regeneration and rebirth than a powerful one. He wrote of the French
Catholic Church in his spiritual journal, Matinales (Gallimard, 1976): ‘Aujourd’hui, telle la
nuée de l’Exode son visage est plus lumineux que lorsqu’elle semblait régner. C’est dans son
humiliation qu’est sa gloire.’ (p.303) Sulivan captured the postmodern malaise that
accompanied the breakdown of grand narratives, the distrust of institutions and their
authority, the anguish caused by the absence of any viable alternatives. But instead of
bemoaning the collapse of a glorious edifice, he sought a renewal of the Church from the
margins, among the poor and the meek who, we should remember, were those whom the
founder of Christianity held most dear. This paper will demonstrate the relevance of Sulivan’s
writings in the context of what has been described by many commentators as ‘post-Catholic’
Cathy McGlynn (IADT)
‘There’s no lack of void’: Beckett, Derrida, and Deconstruction.
This paper will analyse Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction in relation to the plays of Samuel
Beckett, and through an outline of the deconstructive strategy that is prevalent in Beckett’s
work, will position Beckett as a postmodern playwright. Postmodern theory and
deconstruction have common aims; both express the impossibility of articulating truth
through language and both refute and subvert the traditional binary logic that informs
essentialist concepts of identity. Drawing on Derrida’s acknowledgment of the influence of
Beckett on his work, this paper will read Beckett’s plays through the lens of Derrida’s
undecidable non-concepts, and will highlight his deconstructive concerns in relation to
language and identity that foreshadow Derrida’s deconstruction. With reference to Waiting
for Godot, Happy Days and Endgame, this paper will highlight Beckett’s decentring of
language, and will analyse his characters according to the play between self and other that
undermines binary oppositions. Derrida merely invents a terminology for what is always
already taking place in Beckett’s work avant la lettre.
Sylvie Mikowski (Université de Reims)
« The Butcher Boy de Patrick McCabe et la « littérature de l’abjection » selon Julia
A propos de Céline, Julia Kristeva parle dans Pouvoirs de l’horreur de « la littérature abjecte
du XXe siècle », qui succèderait selon elle, à celle de « l’apocalypse » et à celle du
« carnaval ». Dans la première partie de cet ouvrage, elle définit l’abject comme une
subjectivité-limite, et la littérature de l’abjection comme une traversée « du Pur et de l’Impur,
de l’Interdit et du Péché, de la Morale et de l’Immoral ». Selon elle, « la littérature
contemporaine se fait fort de « dépenser » l’abjection en la disant ». Elle donne comme
exemples les plus grands noms de la littérature moderne : Dostoiëvski, Lautréamont, Proust,
Artaud, Kafka, mais aussi Joyce et surtout Céline. Céline « deviendra corps et langue
l’apogée de cette révulsion morale, politique et stylistique qui marque notre époque ». Or The
Butcher Boy de Patrick McCabe est un de ces romans dans lequel l’obscénité, la scatologie,
le meurtre et la folie rencontrent un langage disloqué, haletant, carnavalesque, énoncé par un
personnage borderline confronté d’une part à la douleur (côté intime, dit Kristeva, de
l’abject), à l’horreur d’autre part (« son visage public »). Francie Brady est un de ces
« rejetés », de ces « égarés en terrain exclu », toujours en danger de subir la violence comme
de la déchaîner envers les autres. Ce n’est pas un hasard si c’est une femme qui déclenche sa
chute dans l’abjection : on retrouve chez lui comme chez Ferdinand Bardamu le fantasme de
la mère bi-face, l’une, idéale, l’autre, associée à la souffrance et au sacrifice, mais aussi le
mélange d’abomination et de fascination des personnages céliniens pour « une féminité
abjecte.. qui déferle, maîtresse et victime, dans le monde des instincts, où elle mène
sournoisement…les institutions sociales », définition dans laquelle on pourra reconnaître un
portrait possible de Mrs Nugent. Depuis son style parlé, heurté et parfois argotique, jusqu’à
ses images sanguinolentes et répugnantes, à sa remise en cause d’un ordre social associé à la
perte d’identité et au déclin de la religion, l’objet de cette communication sera donc de traiter
le roman de McCabe comme un exemple d’écriture de l’abjection.
Adrian Millar (independent scholar)
Lacan’s development of the decentred, fragmented subject is at the forefront of the
development of post-modernism and of radical democracy which is meant, among other
things, to herald greater freedom, privilege the local, and allow humankind more meaning.
In this talk, providing examples from the Irish context, I examine the blind-spots of the post-
modernist project and argue that post-modernism has thrown the baby out with the bathwater
and, like the modernist Grand Narrative, overindulges in self-idealisation and vilification of
What is needed is a return to Lacan’s emphasis on ethics.
‘The real experiment is a constant experiment’: McGahern, Zola and Modernity
Raymond Mullen, ITT Dublin.
A criticism often levelled at John McGahern’s late fiction was that it neglected to chart the
modernisation of Ireland and her burgeoning Celtic Tiger economy. Whilst it is true that the
East Coast and Ireland’s major towns and cities have become more urbanised—even
cosmopolitan—and commercially viable (largely through EU infrastructural investment and
multinationals taking advantage of the Republic’s low corporation tax and IDA grants),
swathes of the country remain untouched, or, at the very most, merely scratched, by the
Tiger’s claw. It is worth pointing out that it was not until 2003 that McGahern’s home county
of Leitrim erected her first set of traffic lights—more than one hundred years after the first
motor car drove on an Irish road. However, as early as 1979 McGahern’s fourth novel, The
Pornographer set predominantly in Dublin city, portrays a developing Ireland, an Ireland
attempting to cast aside the yoke of the old quasi-theocratic Saorstát. But for the protagonist
of The Pornographer, this state of emerging modernity is ultimately unsatisfying and is
rejected in favour of a return to his ancestral home and bucolic ideal. Similarly, McGahern’s
last novel That They May Face the Rising Sun challenges the doubts raised by many
commentators in relation to the viability of traditional Irish rural life. While the community of
Shruhaun may seem a happy people far removed from what Declan Kiberd calls the ‘death-
of-rural-Ireland’, there is still the sense of closeness to dissolution. This paper will, therefore,
contrast McGahern’s appraisal of the strain of modernity on both rural and urban Ireland in
The Pornographer and That They May Face the Rising Sun with Émile Zola’s reaction to the
modern, and the influence this had on his monumental series Les Rougon-Macquart: histoire
naturelle et sociale d'une famille sous le second empire.
From Ballymun to Brazil: Bolger’s Postmodern Ireland
Paula Murphy, Mary Immaculate College
This paper will examine Dermot Bolger’s most recent play, The Townlands of Brazil. This
play acts as a counterpoint to his earlier From These Green Heights, in which he portrayed the
stories of the flat-dwellers in Ballymun. The Townlands of Brazil is also set in Ballymun for
the most part, but its characters reflect the new multi-racial demographics of postmodern
Theorists isolate two opposing epistemological strands in the postmodern culture. On
one hand is the obsession with the creation of newness, as evidenced in the insatiable desire
for new technologies or the desire to travel to ever more remote countries. On the other hand
is the acceptance that nothing completely new can exist, and that all we can do is re-cast the
old in different ways. In fashion, this is evident from the trend for retro clothes; in narrative it
can be seen in the re-emergence of the Gothic and other, older narrative traditions, for
In The Townlands of Brazil, Bolger cleverly presents this dualism of postmodernity in
a number of ways. Monika, a Polish immigrant remarks on the life of the migrant worker
that, ‘We leave home to seek work of sanctuary where nobody knows our past. And the
further we go, the more home becomes frozen in our minds’. In the next sentence, we’re told
of the Dublin-born Eileen, who left for England in the sixties because of an illegitimate
pregnancy, that ‘Ballymun became frozen in her mind’. Apart from verbal echo, the fate of
Irish emigrants to England and America is also juxtaposed with that of the immigrants in
Ireland today. Racist attitudes are examined and critiqued. In addition, most of the actors
play both an Irish and an immigrant character, embodying the dualism that enables Bolger to
fuse the experiences of the native Irish and the recent immigrants to Ireland in a manner that
promotes harmony and understanding, and, ultimately, records the shaping of postmodern
Conference Abstract IT Tallaght May 2007 Sarah Nolan
“Mother and Child – The female in the Poetry of Baudelaire, Eliot and Sirr.”
In this paper I will be examining the modern city as a location of longing and loneliness, as a
construct which leaves man craving his mother. The poetry of Charles Baudelaire and T.S.
Eliot is linked on many levels, not least in its portrayal of modern man; lost and wandering
alone, grappling with an uncertain future, grasping at woman for an often forced, and usually
unsatisfactory, break from solitude. Each city is peopled by female sinners, alluring
characters who have comodified themselves, physically or morally, having themselves lost
trust in others. Joining with them makes the poet’s life all the more noticeably empty. What I
will be focusing on in particular in both poets’ oeuvre are the moments when woman becomes
more than mere temptress and animal, when she steps out into the city from the poets’
subconscious, becoming part of the marble and concrete, a female presence that the poet
cannot escape, or write away, an all-encompassing mother figure, and, simultaneously, a pure
child, a girl calling to the innocent child in the poet, to the father he could become. This
unrelenting mother-child female, who continuously lurks, making herself known almost
without the poet realising, will be contrasted with the truly glowing and chosen
representations of the infant and mother in the poetry of Peter Sirr, a poet who has read his
way through the cities of Baudelaire and Eliot, digested them as part of his learning, and
identified them as part of his own modern/postmodern city experience.
Eugene O’Brien (MIC)
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Postmodern Pariah: Patrick McCabe’s Winterwood and the
forging of the conscience of his race.”
The Bildungsroman (a narrative someone’s growth from childhood to maturity) has long been
a staple in Irish writing, across the genres of short story, poetry but especially the novel. A
kind of subset of the Bildungsroman is the Kunstlerroman, the story of an artist’s growth to
maturity. Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes are
famous examples. The expectation of the Bildungsroman is some form of truth or of veracity
and in a modernist context this was a tenable objective.
However in postmodern Ireland, where as Lyotard would have it, the grand narratives have
broken down, and where as Baudrillard puts it, simulacra have replaced reality and truth is
now a construct, such certainty is no longer attainable. So postmodern novels must take
account of the new symbolic order, to use Lacan’s term, and respond accordingly to the
breakdown of these grand narratives in an Irish context.
Patrick McCabe’s Winterwood is just such a novel. It transcends generic description. It is a
love story, a mystery story, a crime novel, a social critique and it is also a novel that
deconstructs the conventions of the Bildungsroman and the Kunstlerroman in that the
narrator, Redmond Hatch, lies all the time, and the reader is left unsure of many of the key
points of the narrative.
This paper will examine the construction of Redmond Hatch, and look at the blurring of his
persona with Ned Strange and with Florian Hatch as the subject suffers a dehiscence into
multiple personality. It will also examine the postmodern epistemology of the novel, as
information is not given and all we are left with are questions as opposed to answers. With is
major theme of childhood abuse, the novel faces up to one of the core issues facing
contemporary Ireland but does so in an idiosyncratic manner which captures the ‘imaginative
truth’ of such abuse in a more authentic way than documentary evidence.
The portrayal of the postmodern artist is very different from that of his Joycean precursor, but
in a very real way McCabe also forges (in both senses of that word) the uncreated conscience
of his race. Indeed forgery, the creation of a false or simulated conscience, is the only
recourse of the postmodern condition.
« Nollag Shona ou Bonne Année? Pratique politique et pratique catholique en France et
en Irlande postmoderne. »
Penet Jean-Christophe, Research Fellow, National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies, ITT
Les cieux leur sont-ils tombés sur la tête ? Suprême ironie de l’histoire… En ce
monde postmoderne, alors que, débarrassé de sa croyance en l’enfer, le premier ministre, An
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, quitte le giron de Dame Catholique pour s’embarquer dans une
danse adultère aux bras de sa maîtresse, emmenant l’Irlande dans sa suite, François
Mitterrand, grand homme cette Ve République fièrement laïque, cache la sienne, de peur de
provoquer les remontrances de cette même Dame Catholique ! D’ailleurs, son successeur à la
présidence de la République, Jacques Chirac, n’a-t-il pas déclaré lors de sa visite au Vatican
en janvier 1996 qu’il souhaitait resserrer les « liens millénaires » entre la France et le Vatican,
témoigner de la « fidélité » de la France à son « héritage chrétien », et manifester son
« respectueux » attachement au pape ? Si de tels propos semblent répondre à la demande du
pape que les hommes aux pouvoir ne dirigent pas leur pays simplement comme des hommes
politiques, mais avant tout comme des hommes catholiques, ils n’en demeurent moins
surprenants de la part du président d’un pays qui, justement, selon une très récente enquête du
Monde des Religions, n’est plus très catholique… Quant à l’Irlande, bien que Bertie Ahern
réaffirme au détour d’une interview la conception assez « traditionnelle » selon laquelle
« religious belief and practice is not purely a private matter, with no place in public
discourse…», il semble que son histoire récente souligne avant tout une volonté politique
constante de séculariser sa constitution et ses institutions. C’est ce dont témoigne, dans le
domaine éducatif, l’annonce en ce début d’année de l’ouverture pour septembre 2008 d’une
école primaire pilote, une « Community National School », dans le Comté de Dublin, qui ne
sera aucunement soumise – et c’est une première – au contrôle de l’Eglise catholique. De la
sorte, l’Etat irlandais prive l’Eglise de l’un des ses bastions traditionnels de l’enseignement de
la pratique catholique : l’école.
Ainsi, si la pratique politique veut toujours que, en République d’Irlande, la
Présidente de la République, la très catholique Mary McAleese, souhaite « Nollag Shona » à
ses compatriotes, et que, en République française, le président Jacques Chirac souhaite la
bonne année aux siens, cet usage, d’un coté catholique et de l’autre laïque, n’en cache pas
moins une réalité bien plus nuancée en ce qui concerne les relations entre pratique catholique
et pratique politique en France et en Irlande. Ce sont les interactions entre ces deux types de
pratiques, fondamentalement liées depuis Constantin et qui nous apparaissent pourtant toutes
deux fragmentées en ces temps postmodernes, que nous nous efforcerons d’analyser au sein
de notre intervention.
“The poetic voices of Dennis O’Driscoll and Cathal Ó Searcaigh: in tune with Lyotard?”
(Mary Pierse, UCC).
Foregrounding difference and uncertainty, inspecting them close-up, and then embracing
them by times, the Irish poets Dennis O’Driscoll and Cathal Ó Searcaigh would appear to
evince characteristics of the postmodern and, like Jean-François Lyotard, to champion a
plurality of discourses. As they reject traditional forms and patterns, their lines are crowded
with a variety of imagery, opinions and vocabularies, which suggests at least an engagement
with the mixtures and excesses of postmodernism. On occasion, there is an echoing of
Lyotard’s belief that we have ceased to believe in grand narratives – as in O’Driscoll’s line
“Our one true God has died”; there is also explicit refusal of those grand narratives in the
same poet’s cry, “Scrap the misbegotten concept”. And yet, while the rigidity of the
metanarrative is underscored and freedom is celebrated, a loss of coherence and purpose is
registered by both poets.
Is this a case of the inseparability of the modernist lamentation for lost values and the
postmodernist’s brave new world? Is it that, as Ó Searcaigh says, “Tá muid leath réamh-
stairiúil/ agus leath-postmodern intertextúil” ? Looking at recent writings by both men, this
paper will, in a postmodern spirit, seek out possible, indefinite, variable, and ambiguous
Michel Savaric (Université de Franche Comté)
The Parades Issue in Northern Ireland: a Postmodern Conflict?
During the Peace Process, the parades issue gained special prominence in Northern Ireland. In
the few years that immediately followed the IRA ceasefire of 1994, the main bone of
contention concerned the Orange march in Drumcree on the Sunday that precedes the Twelfth
of July. It could then be argued that the various 'Drumcree crises' that occured were the 'pulse'
of the Peace Process. Disputes over other marches have at times attracted attention.
If the violence surrounding those parades was undeniably real, the issues at stake were largely
of a symbolic nature. In many respects, the disputes over parades or marches can be seen as
way for Northern Ireland to act out its own conflict (a conflict that otherwise would have been
nonexistent because of the 'silence of the guns').
With the aid of Baudrillard, this paper will attempt an interpretation of the disputes over
parades in Northern Ireland in the late 20th-early 21st century as a sort of 'simulated' or
'hyperreal' conflict. We will ask the question whether the Peace Process marked the coming of
the postmodern era for Northern Ireland.
Title : French Theory and The Postmodern Epiphany
Author : Brian Walsh, MIC.
20th century continental thought has taken our conceptions of the literary as far from the
romantic notion of an intuitively given or unmediated expressive access to the self and/or the
transcendental signified as they can go. Derrida’s deconstruction of Edmund Husserl’s
modernist seeking after the epiphany that was to reveal the transcendental ego is as profound
a statement of the transition from modernity to postmodernity as we have. In it we find a
paradigm shift from self-identical consciousness to consciousness on the abyss of an infinite
semiosis. This movement in the progress of French Theory has coincided with profound
positive and negative changes in Irish culture. Has a loss of religion been replaced by nothing
but a sort of Nietzschean will to the power to consume (itself)? I would like to consider the
progress of French thought and its consequences for theory in Ireland and questions about
cultural progress like this in tangent. Seamus Heaney’s poetry, given its acute postmodern
sensibility is something of an anomaly. His secularisation of the sprit is in one way modernist
since it seeks to ‘credit marvels’ (Seeing Things) of everyday existence. But it is surely also
postmodern not least because his environment is traditional and regional to rural Ireland
rather than the classic urban setting of modernist alienated subjectivity. My interest here then
is to try to reconcile these contrary impulses in Heaney’s poetry partly by exploring what kind
of epiphany his poetry presents to the reader, if any, and where it is to be found.
It was also in the top twenty-three of the total film release that year, competing with block-busters
such as Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (also filmed in Ireland), Marathon Man, King Kong and 200 000
Leagues under the Sea.