Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

'Without Contraries There Is No Progression': The Paradoxical Heterogeneity of Identity in Sinead O'Connor's Poetic Expression

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

'Without Contraries There Is No Progression': The Paradoxical Heterogeneity of Identity in Sinead O'Connor's Poetic Expression

Article excerpt

Abstract. As a pop culture icon, the Irish musician Sinead O'Connor has been exposed to harsh criticism, which, unfortunately, centres specifically on the superficial stratum of her artistic work. The shocking events which mark her career have diverted attention away from the sources of and ideas behind O'Connor's songs, words and acts, overshadowing the fact that, among the abundance of contemporary art/showbusiness personalities, she remains one of the few who both create and interpret their own works. In fact, it is this situation and the consequent tension between the personal and the public which constitute the greatest source of inspiration for O'Connor, thus making the resulting heterogeneity of identity both the background and the foreground topics of her lyrics. The intention behind the following article is to place the writings of the Irish "bald-headed banshee" (Buckley 1999: 704) in the postmodern context of fragmentation and confusion within the Self, but also to prove the genuineness which puts her beyond such straightforward categorizations.

Key Words. Postmodernism, the Other, fragmented identity, pop culture, poetry.

Resumen. En tanto que icono de la cultura pop, la cantautora irlandesa Sinead O'Connor ha sido blanco de duras criticas, que, lamentablemente, se centran unicamente en los aspectos mas superficiales de su trabajo artistico. Los escandalosos acontecimientos que salpican la carrera de O'Connor han desviado la atencion de las fuentes y tematica de sus canciones, palabras y actos, ensombreciendo el hecho de que, entre las abundantes personalidades contemporaneas del mundo del arte y del 'showbusiness', ella sigue siendo una de las pocas que crea y a la vez interpreta su propia obra. De hecho, esta situacion y la resultante tension entre la esfera personal y la publica constituyen la principal fuente de inspiracion para O'Connor, haciendo de la heterogeneidad de la identidad el tema y el trasfondo de sus canciones. Este articulo pretende situar los escritos de la "meiga calva" (Buckley 1999: 704) irlandesa en el contexto postmoderno de la fragmentacion y confusion del Ser, asi como demostrar la autenticidad que la situa mas alla de tales simples clasificaciones.

Palabras clave. Postmodernismo, el otro, identidad fragmentada, cultura pop, poesia.

Without contraries there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence. William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

What do a trade unionist, a Tory, a Christian, a wife-beater and a consumer have in common? They can all be the same person. A riddle (Sarup 1996: 57)


According to Baudrillard, the postmodern theorist, in modern society, characterized by excessive consumption, media orientation and bureaucratization, the notion of a stable identity is not only threatened, but in fact ceases to exist. The processes which contribute to the formation of the so-called mass or global society have also produced a new model of a subject, the nature of which is decentred, multifaceted and self-contradictory, and as such denies all fixity (Kellner 1992: 143-145). The aim of this article is to argue that the awareness of such fragmented identity and the anxiety induced by this state are substantial motifs in the lyrics of Sinead O'Connor, a well-known Irish songwriter and rock musician.

The analysis undertaken here focuses mainly on the inner conflicts which the subjects of O'Connor's texts experience while being exposed to the reality of the outer world, its systems of values and beliefs, defining the general theme of Self versus the Other as the keynote of her writing. (1) Its recurrence will be observed in one of O'Connor's earlier lyrics, namely "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" from the musical album bearing the same title (1990), as well as in more recent ones: "The Healing Room" and "The Lamb's Book of Life" from the album Faith and Courage (2000). …

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