After and Against

Today I ordered up plenty of materials from the stacks. Today the stack request system was suspended because of a power cut/a broken printer/an overload of requests to do with Northern Irish literature…

Thankfully, there are more than enough other libraries here to retreat to. The English Faculty Library has a great Irish poetry section and my college library has just generously purchased The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: vols 4 and 5, Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions for their collection at my request. At something around or over 1500 pages each, just one volume filled my bike basket for the ride home.

The college library's newest door stop.

I also read some really interesting and well put together thoughts on the intertextual obsession, derivative anxieties and tradition consciousness of the younger Irish poets:

‘In the face of chronology, Heaney therefore often seems to emerge, in textual responses to his presence in the traditions, as a predecessor after and against whom one writes […] involving an assertive and self-defining relation towards canonical reference’

Rui Carvalho Homen, Poetry and Translation in Northern Ireland: Dislocations in Contemporary Writing (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 21.

Some of Carvalho Homen’s later thoughts on textual translations in Morrissey and Flynn have also helped clarify how one of my chapter structures could work – although I’m still undecided on which structure to plump for.

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3 thoughts on “After and Against

  1. It’s interesting you mention Field Day here. I could be wrong, but was the first anthology of this re-drafted after it was noted that no female writers were included in the anthology? I recall hearing lecturers at Uni commenting on this a few months ago when I attended a Brian Friel seminar.

    In terms of intertextuality; I suppose the reason that NI writers have never really grasped my attention is the reason you state: the obsession with being intertextual takes away from the writing a little, in my opinion! 😉

  2. Field Day vols. 1-3 were published in 1990 and, yes, in over 4000 pages there was little space given to women either in the historical or contemporary contexts. There was quite a lot of criticism at the time from feminist scholars (which is actually quite unusual, but I put it down to the Irish rather than Northern Irish feminist scholarship – the south was more developed on that front). Field Day then commissioned an extra volume of women’s writing… which became two… and was published in 2002. It raised loads of issues about marginality, canonicity, etc.

    For me, intertextuality for its own sake is dull – but sometimes a bit of self-consciousness is a good thing. Also, they don’t just repeat each other – there is an interesting book on the influence of Robert Frost on northern poets.

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