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Chapter 14 - ‘English, Irished’: Union and Violence in the Fiction of John and Michael Banim

from Part III - Reputations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Claire Connolly
Affiliation:
University College Cork
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Summary

Throughout the Banims’ fiction, violence is presented as forcing a strange unity, a troubled merging of identities. If the Act of Union is a rough stitching together of nations, it is precisely with this uneven stitchwork that the Banims concern themselves, giving voice to a fragile post-Union Irish identity. Those elements of the Banims’ work that have confounded critics or irritated readers – the multiple voices, the shifting discourses, the bewildering degree of detail – might be understood as what Slavoj Žižek calls the truthfulness of their rendering of violence, truthful in their ability to induct readers into alternative ways of seeing or knowing. Violence is present not simply at the level of content but in the narrative form, pocked and scored by the collision of English and Irish languages, and the clash between written and oral cultures. Characters lacking any stable sense of self inhabit tales without clear purpose or form, but that weakness is also their strength. The problem of violence is translated into possibility, as these texts break with conventional ideas about self and word, identity and language.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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