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Heroes, victims or villains? Irish Presentations and Representations in Latin America and the Caribbean

Morelia, Mexico, 15-18 July 2009

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'Still splitting heirs, dividing a Shem from a Shaun': Transcultural Joyce and the Postcolonial Hybrid

Tynan, Maeve (University of Limerick, Ireland)

The above quotation, taken from Caribbean writer Derek Walcott's Omeros presents a view of Ireland as a bifurcated postcolony 'split by a glottal scream'. This paper seeks to chart the movement from monolithic either/ or readings of Ireland, (such as catholic/ protestant, nationalist/ loyalist, postcolonial/ non-postcolonial), to a greater appreciation of the correspondences between, (consider for example, Kiberd's 'protholics and cathestants' and Howes and Attridge's 'Semicolonial' Joyce). Examining the afterlife of Joyce's writings in a postcolonial context reveals the precedent provided by the Irish writer for other colonial writers who likewise sought to 'fly past the nets' of their own national debates; as Walcott writes 'Mr Joyce led us all'. A colonial writer and European high-modernist Joyce occupied a simultaneous position of canonicity and counter-canonicity, engaging with the language of the colonizer whilst reshaping it. In introducing seeming oppo! Sitions only to highlight their connection Joyce provided a blueprint for the hybrid intellectual. In turn Walcott's creolization of Joyce and of the English language, with the increased focus on racial diversity, provides a model for a newly multicultural Ireland. This shift towards the cultural hybridity that characterises Caribbean society posits the Caribbean experience as paradigmatic rather than peripheral, suggesting a plurality that inspires James Clifford to declare, '[w]e are all Caribbeans now in our urban archipelagos'. Walcott's poetic response to Joyce leads Pollard to identify him as Shem the Penman to Joyce's Shawn the Postman with Omeros being the Letter from the New World eagerly awaited in Finnegan's Wake. Distanced in time, race and geography by a sea that both connects and separates one to/from the other, Walcott reunites the split heirs to the language and culture of the colonizing power.


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