Magazine article European English Messenger

Hedda Friberg-Harnesk, Gerald Porter and Joakim Wrethed (Eds.) 2010. beyond Ireland: Encounters across Cultures

Magazine article European English Messenger

Hedda Friberg-Harnesk, Gerald Porter and Joakim Wrethed (Eds.) 2010. beyond Ireland: Encounters across Cultures

Article excerpt

Hedda Friberg-Harnesk, Gerald Porter and Joakim Wrethed (eds.) 2010. Beyond Ireland: Encounters Across Cultures. Bern: Peter Lang, 334 pp. ISBN 978-3-0343- 0270-8 pb.

Beyond Ireland greets us with the difficulty of talking about absolutes like tradition and authenticity in modern Ireland. The editors urge us to read the collection metaphorically, as not excluding intra-Irish subjects, with an ear for the "creative frictions and fictions that result from the dissolving of old loyalties, moving beyond nationalism to the culturally diverse, beyond a bilingual Ireland to a polyvocal one, beyond the imagined community towards a virtual one, beyond a territorial Ireland to an ex-centric one" (1). This is a timely and significant pursuit, because it touches on current trends developing in literary and cultural theory but also addresses the increasing necessity for visualizing another nation. This volume brings together many interesting articles presenting ways to read texts with new lens.

Ake Persson reads Kate O'Riordan's The Memory Stones (2003) using viticulture and wine-tasting as metaphors and tools in the unlocking of past tensions, but also, and crucially, as offering a strategy of "how to deal with the cultural pressures that Ireland is facing in the globalized world" (54): "the novel seems to suggest," Persson notes, "that a firm sense of belonging, of knowing who you are, attached to a uniquely local and personal narrative, makes it possible to open up and connect to the rest of the world" (83). Encounters across borders and the mapping of the ever-changing geographies of trajectories are favoured throughout Beyond Ireland, which starts with a look eastwards, mapping a trail increasingly blurred.

Charles Armstrong explores encounters with the oriental other, when Irish poets meet Japanese art, and finds that, though productive differences may come into play, "Buddha may sometimes look a little like Plato in fancy dress, Hokusai like Edmund Burke in a kimono" (30), while Billy Gray is interested in the ways in which Irish Orientalist writings promoted pluralism and cultural and religious tolerance, using as a test case the influence of Zen Buddhism on the work of Northern Irish essayist Chris Arthur and his trilogy of collected essays, namely Irish Nocturnes (1999), Irish Willow (2002), and Irish Haiku (2005). Carmen Zamorano Llena looks at the continuous reconstruction of the concept of the nation in the articulation of new narratives of difference and diversity in Roddy Doyle's The Deportees and Other Stories (2007) and Cauvery Madhavan's Paddy Indian (2001). Roism Keys discusses the constant re-negotiation of cultural identities as cultural boundaries are blurred in Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), suggesting that the play's closing monologue indicates that "all we ever have access to, in the pursuit of the 'real' or the 'authentic', is an array of representations and constructs and the many ways in which these are mediated, performed and reproduced in our lives" (120). In one of the final pieces included in the volume, we then read of the multidimensionality offered by the connection of history, literature, and geography and the outsider's viewpoint afforded to a writer who adopts an interpretative perspective along those lines; the "ever-changing geography of the walk," Anders Olsson suggests as regards Colm Toibm's Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (1987), constructs "a mosaic of transcultural encounters provides a multidimensionality of openings which subverts the rigidity of the two dimensions of the border tension" (309). …

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