College Literature 30.4 (2003) 167-173
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Irish Studies After the Renaissance
Graham, Colin. 2001. Deconstructing Ireland: Identity, Theory, Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. $67.00 hc. $26.00 sc. xiii + 189 pp.
Valente, Joseph. 2002. Dracula's Crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the Question of Blood. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. $29.95 hc. xi + 173 pp.
In recent years, Irish Studies has developed significantly as a field in which literary theory has offered helpful new readings of canonical texts as well as foregrounded the works of writers who might not previously have been widely studied. Feminist theory and postcolonial theory in particular have been applied usefully to the study of Irish culture and literature, and some of these texts have become definitive sources in the field: Elizabeth Butler Cullingford's Gender and History in Yeats's Love Poetry (1996), Declan Kiberd's Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (1995) and David Lloyd's [End Page 167] Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Post-Colonial Moment (1993), to name a few, have shaped contemporary readings of Irish literature and influenced the scholarship of several generations of Irish Studies academics. The revitalization of the field that can be attributed to these and other contemporary texts seemed to lose momentum at the end of the decade and, although the field has remained vibrant, Irish Studies scholars continue to unpack the work of these critics. Rather than indicting current scholarship, however, this trend demonstrates the vast applicability of the work of that generation of scholars, particularly those who argued that postcolonial theory is a useful and relevant means of approaching the study of Irish culture and literature.
As feminist and postcolonial readings offered new lenses through which to read Irish texts, the study of canonical works, especially those of Joyce and Yeats, became more challenging as new ways to reread seemed to have been nearly exhausted. Consequently, Joseph Valente has a very difficult task in presenting a new reading of Dracula in his Dracula's Crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the Question of Blood. To reread a text that has been deconstructed and read as feminist, anti-feminist, colonial, postcolonial, nationalist, anti-nationalist and Marxist, Valente must grind a new lens. Using as a foundational concept the fact that, as a result of the 1800 Act of Union, Ireland "ceased to be a distinct if colonized geopolitical entity and assumed the unique and contradictory position of a domestic or 'metropolitan' colony"(2002, 3), Valente reads Dracula as a text shaped by its "metrocolonial" means of production, arguing that, rather than being read as Irish, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or subaltern, "the Irishness of Dracula should be read and understood in light of what I call its metrocolonial conditions of production, which function at both the collective level, shaping the cultural and political identity of the Irish people, and at the individual level, giving a peculiar slant to the psychic terrain of Stoker himself"(3). This notion of the metrocolonial is defined not only in relation to Ireland's unique status as a "domestic" and "metropolitan" colony but also to the role of Ireland as "participant-victim" in the imperial enterprise (3). Working with the concept of Ireland's unique colonial status, Valente examines the intricacies of Stoker's "interethnic" Anglo-Celtic identity and how it affects the text. Though readings of Stoker's hybrid cultural identity have abounded in studies of the novel, Valente coins a term that offers a semantically fresh concept.
The "question of blood" is one familiar approach to Dracula, and Valente's slant is that the question of blood represents not merely the Victorian fear of racial mixing but a critique of "racialist paranoia"(2002, 5). To clarify this subtle distinction, he argues that the traditional "Irish" reading of the text has focused on the pollution of the race, whereas a more "nuanced explication" of the text identifies the villain of the novel "as racialized anxiety itself"(5). [End Page 168] He reminds readers of important facets of the novel's construction, arguing, for example, that its point of...