By Glenda Norquay, Gerry Smyth
Around the Margins bargains a comparative, theoretically knowledgeable research of the cultural formation of the Atlantic Archipelago. In its total perception and in particular contributions, this assortment demonstrates the advantages of operating around the disciplines of historical past, geography, literature, and cultural reports. It additionally provides new configurations of cultural varieties hitherto linked to particularly nationwide and sub-national literatures.
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Extra resources for Across The Margins: Cultural Identity and Change in the Atlantic Archipelago
It is in Gaelic, and although it is called ‘Donegal’, its subject is the Gaelic language(s). The translation (in English, not Scots) closes with these lines: all it asks is to clamber, like the goats, on sharp rocky pinnacles, above the blue sea. Until the ragged children carry it away with them on the steamer to England, or to Glasgow, where it dies in its sister’s arms – the royal language of Scotland and of Ireland become a sacrifice of atonement on the altar of riches. (Dunn 1992: 219) A double sore heart – betrayal and sacrifice – but atonement too, as two countries marginalised by England express themselves in three languages, with one eye on England, the other on America – two countries that have been rooted out of Europe by the British state, that have avoided making eye-contact with one another, yet compatible and comparable in so many ways.
In one way this is the purest of structuralist challenges; Barthes’ Michelet is engaged in writing a history of France through a self-consciously doubled order of signs, in which historical events as signifiers act as a sign system in themselves, revealing history as other historians write and read it, but also point to a mythological second order of signs which delineates the words of an embedded and ‘impossible language’. Michelet, as quoted by Barthes, writes: I was born of the people, I have the people in my heart.
The people’ as Michelet always fails to find them are thus fetishised to some extent, and would be fully, if only he could find ‘it’, and so make ‘it’ into ‘them’. ‘The people’ as ‘it’ plays hide and seek with Michelet so that he can never say for certain whether ‘it’ is now or will be soon a ‘they’. All he has is the unrecapturable certainty of the past tense (‘I was born of the people’) and so he senses and remembers the ‘warmth’ of the people, but he never regains ‘its’ heat in his writing.