restricted access Ireland: Space, Text, Time (review)
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IRELAND: SPACE, TEXT, TIME, edited by Liam Harte, Yvonne Whelan, and Patrick Crotty. Dublin: Liffey Press, 2005. xvii + 247 pp. $33.95.

Joyce’s Dubliners might serve as a frame for this collection of essays, which, as we read through them, resemble the depth and inter-connectedness of a set of Chinese boxes placed one within another. Ireland: Space, Text, Time is an articulate and well-informed collection of interdisciplinary scholarship concerned with Irish national identity on the island and abroad. Each of the inclusions was part of an inter-disciplinary conference “Ireland: Space, Text, Time,” which took place over three days in March 2004 at the University of Ulster’s Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages. Liam Harte, in his brief yet informative introduction, identifies the motivation for this conference: “At a time when old allegiances of territory, community and class are being transformed by the effects of far-reaching political, social and economic changes, the Academy felt this to be an appropriate moment at which to assess the cultural and material manifestations of such transformation, both within and without the island of Ireland” (xiii–xiv). The conference’s receptiveness to diverse empirical and theoretical approaches is reflected in the distinct background of the presenters, a group that includes historians, cultural theorists, writers, geographers, and archaeologists. This collection of essays reflects the brevity, [End Page 829] accessibility, and innovation of the original presentations.

The book consists of nineteen essays temporally, as well as thematically, arranged into three categories: “Landscape, Heritage, Memory”; “Geographies of Belonging”; and “Negotiating Migrant and Diaspora Spaces.” These studies highlight changing interpretive issues in Irish studies from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries. The editors focused on the multifarious nature of scholarship on Irish identity. Elizabeth Malcolm, Gerry Higgins Chair of Irish Studies in the History Department at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and conference keynote speaker, writes an article illustrative of the central issues of the collection. In “Teaching Irish Spaces in Different Times and Places: Reflections of a Peripatetic Historian,” Malcolm presents her past experiences teaching Irish studies in four different locations and periods: Norway in late 1970, Belfast in the 1980s, Liverpool in the 1990s, and Melbourne in the early 2000s. This essay is particularly useful as a means of tracing the Irish identity, and perceptions of that identity, through space and time. It acts as a microcosm for what the entire collection argues about Irish studies and Irish identity: scholars’ perceptions of Irish identity change depending on particular times and places. The opening essays situate themselves in nineteenth-century representations and developments of Irish identity. These background pieces give way to a focus on urban landscapes and memorialization in the works of Joyce and Thomas Kinsella and the representation of death in the poetry of Medbh McGuckian and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. Subsequent essays map the delicate but important ways in which location changes interpretation of a work. Two articles on Samuel Beckett reinforce the influence of place in altering his perspective of identity by looking at the work of his formative years in Ireland, mainly in the novel Murphy and in his later work written in self-exile. Time’s influence on perspective is examined through differences of opinion concerning revolution and war in the work of W. B. Yeats and Louis MacNeice. The final section explores the effects of emigration on those who retain their native Irish citizenship and those who have left the island. Developments of diasporic Irish identity are considered in the concluding essays that reflect the eighteenth-century entanglement of Irish/English genealogies, the nineteenth-century formation of Irish-Canadian identity, and twentieth-century representations of Irish culture in film.

Together, these nineteen essays ask us to consider contemporary questions about space, text, and time in relation to Irish identity. The conclusion of Malcolm’s essay reinforces the use of interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches in the study of Irish culture and society: “Ireland is an unstable entity and what it is depends very much on who you are, where you are and when you are” (92). The editors present a cohesive and cogent stream throughout the collection that focuses [End Page 830...