Paratextual Politics in Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry

By on Jun 28, 2013 in Papers and Talks | 0 comments

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“This paper will consider the political wrangling played out in some ‘paratexts’ which are key to our understanding of contemporary Northern Irish poetry. In using the term ‘paratext’, I will draw primarily on the ideas of Gerard Genette who first surveyed and explained the use of features such as dedications and epigraphs in his 1997 work Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. These paratexts are on the threshold of the text proper and play a part in our appreciation of it by their often implicit meanings and the reader’s conditioned understanding of them. Further, they are of interest when considering recent Northern Irish work because their prevalence is an ostentatious display of the flourishing tradition’s continued dominance.Dedicatory ‘networks’ have been a noticeable feature in Northern Irish poetry during the late 20th-century, often indicating friendships or artistic kinship between writers such as Michael Longley and Derek Mahon. Epigraphs, meanwhile, often recall the greatness of precursory writers and emphasize their continuing high renown. As a younger generation of writers emerges in the 21st-century there are now new issues of a more political nature to consider. How, for example, does dedication and epigraphy signify anxieties of influence while paradoxically reinforcing canonicity?Further, by surveying the use of dedication and epigraphs in the work of younger poets Colette Bryce, Sinead Morrissey, Jean Bleakney, Leontia Flynn and Kerry Hardie, this paper will address how a politics of gender may potentially transform the existing dedicatory network, and inform a quite new gender and generational kinship”

Delivered at Return to the Political: Literary Aesthetics and the Influence of Political Thought, University of Oxford, Faculty of English Graduate Conference, June 2012

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