The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Review of the Field Day Review 1: Debut Issue, 2005


Seagh�n � Murch� for The Blanket • 23 May 2006

This massive, handsomely designed, and solidly researched annual looks like no other academic journal. The debut issue of Field Day Review (1.2005) combines the graphic layout of an art magazine, the scholarship of academic contributors, and the format of a coffee-table presentation of text matched to photos and reproductions of historical documents. Nearly 300 pages, the few advertisements on its final pages blend with the previous attention to a cohesive style of sidebars, blocks of text soberly set off in muted tones, and contemporary but not too bold a typeface. Such consistent control by the editors Seamus Deane and Breand�n MacSuibhne, Red Dog Design Consultants, and the Field Day staff, has resulted in a bold combination of exactitude and appeal.

When I saw the issue at a reception at the 2005 Irish Studies literary conference in Prague, I wasn�t surprised that I could not obtain a copy then�they were all snapped up. A few months later, now that I have one, I will provide an annotated expansion of its table of contents, for on the website [] in-depth information about what can be found in the issue is not provided. It�s nearly 300 pages, and my only objection-- although I know it otherwise would have been priced beyond the budget of all but well-endowed libraries-- is that its paperbound format makes it impossible to open without risking damage to the spine. The weight of the volume necessitates that you treat it carefully, propped in your lap, unless you want the spine to crack and the pages to separate from their backing. At 35 euro, it can be purchased from the website for shipment to not only Ireland but the U.S. and Britain. (Shipping costs overseas not included.) The FDR site lists no reviews of the first issue, so perhaps this summation below, lengthy although it is even in my necessarily cursory evaluation of its abundant contents, will meet a need so far unmet.

Sylv�re Lotringer, in January 1961, accompanied by the poet Derek Mahon, in Dublin interviewed Brendan Behan. �The Thin Man� explains that while she had meant to gather details for a review she was preparing on the Paris staging of The Borstal Boy, Behan kept skirting around the play. �These digressions became the main story�. (3) One telling anecdote from the interview: Behan finds that Mahon has never heard of Merriman�s �The Midnight Court�: �You should be ashamed of yourself as an Irishman.� (15) Behan then recites a bit in Irish before translating, which he had claimed to have written a rendering of and later lost, although in Borstal Boy� a section was published. This example sums up mercurial Behan: the oral and the written, the vaguely recalled and the precisely rendered, and the often overlooked conversation between the Irish he learned in prison and the English for which he-- too precipitously by the 1960s-- courted notoriety as well as acclaim. Lotringer offers in an extensive and annotated article much more of Behan�s reflections on Communism, the French left, the then-eroded state of those few claiming to be the IRA, and how the French and the Irish mingled in his life and in his oeuvre. When so many played into Behan�s self-aggrandisation, Lotringer�s intelligent conducting of this interview reveals what the later years of Behan�s more publicised pronouncements too often overwhelmed: the sensitivity and the political as well as literary instincts informing what remains the enduring legacy behind the stereotype of his later years spent in the public spotlight that he craved and that did him in.

Earlier republican sentiments, Philip Pettit explores in �The Tree of Liberty�, often have been treated in their articulation by Wolfe Tone by relying on their French influences. This neglects� Tone�s American antecedents. Adapting a lecture at the University of Notre Dame, Pettit restores both progenitors of 1798's uprising. Hobbes, Rousseau, the Whigs, Grattan�s Parliament, and colonial American theorists receive an accessible and stimulating overview that in its generous citations reminds us of its Roman, Renaissance, and English traditions�a more ancient lineage than is often traced by those reviving Tone in Irish contexts. What the Irish republicans added, Pettit concludes, is its �more ecumenical attitude� towards religion. (40) Open to Dissenters and even to Catholicism as well, Tone�s message invited those who might have otherwise been excluded by those in America hostile to Catholics and those in France hating any churchgoers.

I admit in my past efforts to read the post-colonial theorist David Lloyd that I have been frustrated by his convoluted prose. �Republics of Difference: Yeats, MacGreevy, Beckett� with its necessary examples from Jack Yeats� paintings, does ground Lloyd�s academic theory in a more accessible examination of why Beckett praised Jack. Thomas MacGreevy, unlike Lloyd�s other two titular subjects, may be less familiar today. A mutual friend of these two subjects, MacGreevy�s essay gave Yeats the first extended attention as in his work conveying �the consummate expression of the spirit of his own nation�. (qtd. 45) Beckett, in turn, quoted MacGreevy. Lloyd, delving into this artist�s aesthetic representation of the new Republic, reminds us of how Jack Yeats opened �a door between the damaged life of a heretofore hidden Ireland and the secret realm of its spirit�. (45) Nods to Connolly and Ernie O�Malley, Lloyd shows, further complicate the radical republican strains that Jack Yeats threaded into his art, according to MacGreevy�s nationalistic interpretation: an analysis that provoked Beckett�s disdain. Civil War, partition, lawlessness,� the attempted subordination of the human to the landscape: these are further elements Lloyd mixes into his reading of Yeats� paintings and drawings. As with Behan and Tone, so with Yeats and MacGreevy-- we are reminded how the �anticipatory trace of a republic emerges as that thing that defies representation�. (67) ����

�Spaces of time through times of space: Joyce, Ireland and Colonial Modernity� continues the trajectory of the previous three directions: all encounter how the aesthetic energises the actual republican project. Luke Gibbons argues how �disjunctive or �allochronic� time� in Ulysses contrasts with spatial conceptions then emerging �within modernity within the metropolitan centre�. (71) Joyce�s employment of narrative simultaneity, Gibbons explains, has been previously explored. What such studies have neglected is whether Joyce�s Dublin�or the Ireland of his formative years�should be defined �in terms of space as conceived by high modernism� (72). Any reader of Gibbons on cultural theory, the cinema, and the connections between cultural and literary production will find here another re-orientation. The parallax view, how film and narrative flashbacks in the �Wandering Rocks� chapter chart the breakdown of simultaneity, and Joyce�s conversion of such techniques into �unannounced flashbacks, or rather �flash-cuts� in which the pressure of the past forces its way into the present� support Gibbons� conclusion that historicised space, �the nightmare of history� encountered by Stephen Dedalus, comprises the true space within which Ulysses exists. (85; emphasis in the original.) One study that may have appeared too late for Gibbons� consideration, Joyce and Reality: the empirical strikes back by John Gordon (Syracuse UP, 2004) also confronts Joycean transgressions within and beyond the naturalism and historicism asserted by the novel�s previous scholars.

That same novel�s Leopold Bloom endures as Dublin�s most famous if most conflicted (half-) Jewish resident. Cormac � Grada situates his �Settling In: Dublin�s Jewish Immigrants of a Century Ago� within historicised contexts rather than literary departures. Fleeing pogroms, most of the Jews in Ireland came post-1870, to urbanised areas. Litvaks (refugees from Lithuania) generated much of the rise in Jewish Irish numbers; their predecessors, �English� Jews, resented the newcomers. North of the Grand Canal, �Little Jerusalem� thrived for decades as the heart of the community. � Grada studies the records of this generation between the 1890s and the 1920s. The Litvak followed the tendency of Jews back in the Pale of Settlement in the Russian regions to ghettoise, and � Grada explains how this led more often not to clusters in the same streets contiguously, but in small enclaves dispersed throughout Little Jerusalem. While rarely having a �whole street to itself� the Litvak descendants nonetheless left their mark on Dublin that, even a century after Bloomsday, leaves its faint traces around Lower Clanbrassil Street today.

As the Jews had suffered persecution, so had the Fenians: both suspected as subversives within a Catholic Ireland whose authorities preached fidelity to the Church and Crown. Breand�n MacSuibhne and Amy Martin investigate �Fenians in the Frame: Photographic Irish Political Prisoners, 1865-68'. The authors report from the Irish National Archive the files with photos preserve nearly 250 prisoners; earlier than the rest of the British realm, working-class men found their likenesses captured-- the better to secure their capture. �The state had developed the mugshot�. (104) Even in 1857, Irish officials began some use of photographing prisoners. Mountjoy and Kilmainham�s internees�especially among many arrested after the end of the American Civil War sparked a revival of Fenian veterans determined to put their acquired military skills to further militancy-- found themselves some of the first prisoners to have the process of their state scrutiny preserved permanently, not only in writing but in image. Resistance in the documentation of their religion, of their tattoos, their grins: the human side that may have been only imagined among those incarcerated in 1798 or 1848 now might assume the faces and the expressions that we recognise from Republicans in the next 130-odd years�if often in more widely disseminated media: the poster, the snapshot in the news, the booking photo on t.v., or the surveillance camera�s grainy figures. MacSuibhne and Martin compare how Fenian imagery linked to fears of insurgency links to post 9/11 fears of terrorism, and how the panopticon�s gaze may change its resolution, but not its persecution of those summoned before the imperious lens. They conclude that the �Irish Fenian is the racial and cultural converse of the ethical citizen subject�. (117) Any who threaten the stability of the state must be manacled and made submissive. The Irish workingman found his distorted representation in the face of the Fenian. In wars on terror, the authors remind us, �photography was a foundational element� in its inception over a century ago. (119) Throughout this collection of essays, while the chronology shifts about, the relevance of republican and cultural nationalism lies embedded within each entry.

The clash between a national identity based on political boundaries and that of cultural cohesion arrives with Mary Burgess� �Mapping the Narrow Ground: Geography, History and Partition.� Welsh geographer E. Estyn Evans from 1928 on lectured at QUB; he promoted a regionalism that gave the North a concentrated rural agrarian-based mentality rather than the contested and recently partitioned political polity. �Regionalism added cultural density to the idea of partition.� (122) That is, Evans� popularised a separation for Ulster rooted in its inhabitants� relationship to the land that strengthened the decisions recently made to keep the Six Counties under the dictates of Unionism. Evans� �humane geography� ironically preferred to distinguish Ulster�s material culture as �folklife� from the Free State�s Gaelicised, Peig Sayers� paradigmatic, �folklore.� Burgess also analyses T.W. Moody and A.T.Q. Stewart�s own revisionist histories that followed.. I might add, extending Burgess� own argument, that the reader could mull over the name given the �Ulster-American�-- rather than the Irish or even a Northern Irish-- open air park near Omagh today. Ties via the Mellon family between its ancestral homestead and its nascent power in the New World bind the family land to the family lord; these, however, stretch thousands of miles to the transplanted former native demesnes rather than a few miles south to the more Catholic counties.� As Burgess sums it up: �Evans�s �Ulster� was ultimately conceived as a sectarian landscape in which the land itself had somehow shaped the politics of division.� (125)

A feature of the layout of the Field Day Review, due to its large-format design spreads, wider page space, and marginal notes, is that it can juxtapose image with print provocatively. Alongside Burgess� text, photos taken December 1956 by Charles Hewitt record a Unionist revenge on attacks by the breakaway Saor Uladh, followed by an IRA-RUC skirmish at the Lisnaskea barracks in Fermanagh. Without captions at the end of this array of stark compositions, one would never know who the police were, who shot the bullets, and who was pursuing whom.

�Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s: The Photographs of Bert Hardy� continues the FDR�s display of iconography of resistance to the State. Sarah Smith introduces Hardy�s shots for Picture Post. 1948's general election of the 12th D�il that brought Clann na Poblachta into the governing coalition, the Guinness brewery in 1953, and unemployment in the North in 1955, in Smith�s opinion, sparked Hardy�s �compelling visual narrative��one that in its depiction of poverty and constraints may seem predictable but not perhaps to some of its viewers the �flashes of energy and self-confidence� that Smith locates and Hardy depicts in a variety of by now unexpected locations. (133) Michael Scott�s design for Dublin�s Bus�ras terminal, in my opinion, is dwarfed in its exuberance by other shots of a grim array of Derry�s dwellers--on the dole or picking among heaps in scenes that look more like those of wartime deprivation far beyond the Channel ten years earlier.

Silvio Berlusconi�s continuing saga of ineptitude and corruption, then, may be a fitting transition away from pinched Irish scenes to expansive Italian vistas. Their beleaguered prime minister, Conor Deane warns, should be regarded by us not as a failure but �perhaps as our future� within an EU where Berlusconi and Putin herald anarcho-capitalism, where Silvio has �made the nexus between business and government explicit.� (174) Deane�s �Letter from Rome: A State of Embarrassment� reports on the latest of many Italian scandals; what catches my eye are the strikingly dignified selections from 20c Italian art-- and one by Robert Ballagh about an Italian!--that slyly stalk along the pages of this article. Another graphic contrasts notably with the rest. The first photo alongside Deane�s first page is a strikingly pedestrian snap of Berlusconi in some turban-like headgear alongside Cherie Blair, caught mid-denture in a rictus, and Tony looking down so his eyes cannot be seen, only their downcast lids. This 2001 shot from Sardinia, red-eye glare in the cheap camera and all, says as many words as Deane�s few thousand, suffice to say.

These predictors of restless capital logically prepare for Benedict Anderson�s �Globalization and its Discontents.� You are reading this review via the Net. Anderson shows how �long-distance nationalism� and e-mail loosen tribal loyalties; this is no surprise. Tom Friedman of the New York Times, I add, promotes in bestsellers such as The Earth is Flat a �new system� run by �super-empowered individuals� alongside the multinationals and nation-states, a third entity whose manifestoes may aspire to annihilation, jihad, or the Second Coming or--he hopes but does not guarantee-- free-trade, capitalism, and relentless competition. So, how does Anderson differ? His books may sell fewer copies, but the author of Imagined Communities can boast of his own influence if on a more specialised shortlist. Anderson explains that in a diasporic world, citizenship divorces from nationality. One may live in the adopted country, but need never separate from the politics and the identity of the land one left behind physically. The Net only expands these �self-enclosed niches.� (185) Audiences such as that for The Blanket would do well to compare the necessity for free speech and openness to all opinions with the dangers of sectarian fanaticism and chauvinism that have darkened so many purportedly nationalist visions.

Seamus Deane�s �Edward Said (1935-2003): A Late Style of Humanism� confronts Said�s difficult determination to remain faithful to �his vexed, yet loyal adherence to the humanist tradition in which he had been educated and by the limitations of he so often was dismayed.� (189) This nimble formulation expands into Deane�s survey of how Said expounded postcolonialism and the Palestinian cause into a cohesive intellectual and politicised blend of influences ranging from the predictable Derrida, Foucault, Bhabha, and Luk�cs to the unexpected: Cardinal Newman, Erich Auerbach,� E.R. Curtius to name a few. Deane reminds us of Said�s interrogation of Joseph Conrad, and how this was not as one-sided a conversation as we might assume. Beethoven attracted not only Adorno but Said. Deane locates Said more akin to Nostromo than Marx. Deane tracks the later career of Said alongside his reading of Adorno, and Deane after a long and winding intellectual path alongside Said winds up at Freud�s Moses and Monotheism, bringing it all back home to Palestine again. It�s a challenging journey for both his subject and himself, and readers should be impressed by Deane�s own determination to better Said himself in expressing complicated ideas succinctly. Deane follows Said�s itinerary directly. He reminds us of Said�s own awareness that prose expounded far above the reach of all but the most educated of us unable to attend or afford Oxbridge or the Ivies only diminished the intellectuals who crept behind such tangled jargon. Deane models clarity for his readers.

Such control of the word brings Clare Carroll through �Early Modern Ireland,� a review article reappraising scholarship following D.B. Quinn�s pioneering 1966 study, The Elizabethans and the Irish. She singles out Breand�n � Buachalla�s Aisling Gh�ar: Na St�obhartaigh agus an tAos L�inn and Marc Caball�s Poets and Politics: Reaction and Continuity in Irish Poetry, 1558-1625. These �two most important books of the last decade on early modern Ireland� examine respectively the aisling (vision poem) as articulating political thought and encouraging political action and how traditional codes of bardic verse transformed under the pressure of the �New English� incursion. (205) Three new biographies deepen understanding of poetry�s political dimensions in the 16th and 17th centuries. Colm Lennon�s Archbishop Richard Creagh of Armagh, 1523-86 triangulates Creagh where not only the Gaelic tradition and the Tudor English meet, but where papal diplomacy also sharpens the encounter. Vincent P. Carey�s Surviving the Tudors: The �Wizard� Lord of Kildare and English Rule in Ireland, 1537-1586 takes this tumultuous shift in power as the Church of England fought against the Church of Rome-- and places the �Wizard� in its vortex, surviving amidst the dangers of both the bardic and the royal courts. The World of Geoffrey Keating by Bernadette Cunningham focuses upon a representative figure: the historian of the Gaelic past with a Norman-English first name-- to show how his humanism informed his history. With John McCavitt�s The Flight of the Earls, Nicholas Canny�s Making Ireland British, 1580-1650, and David Edwards� The Ormond Lordship in County Kilkenny, 1515-1642 the aftermath of the Crown�s victory is investigated in its micro and macro-cosmic domains. The 17th century emerges in monographs by P�draig Lenihan�s Confederate Catholics at War, 1641-49 �and Tadhg � hAnnrach�in�s Catholic Reformation in Ireland: the Mission of Rinuccini, 1645-49 as well as a festschrift for Donal Cregan, Kingdoms in Crisis, ed. Mich�el � Siochr�. This editor in his earlier work and Cregan in his both inspired these later studies: while such titles may seem arcane to the uninitiated, in listing them here perhaps their appeal may be broadened. Too often academics find their efforts languishing while a curious �general reader� eager to know more about this period may have no idea about new scholarship in early modern Irish history.

Is Ireland part of Britain or the Northern Atlantic archipelago? Jane H. Ohlmeyer edits a collection that argues the latter in Political Thought in Seventeenth-Century Ireland: Kingdom or Colony. How the Irish framed their own sovereignty within not only British and Irish but continental theory is one of many topics that new scholarship in the wake of postcolonialism addresses in Hiram Morgan, ed. Political Ideology in Ireland: 1541-1641. Negotiating between Irish and English languages itself provides much still contended: see Patricia Palmer�s Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Literature and Elizabethan Imperial Expansion. Too often only glanced towards rather than faced, the connection of power and rhetoric goes much deeper than a cursory citation from Spenser. David J. Baker and Willy Maley edit British Identities and English Renaissance Literature; historiography, Shakespeare, and the �brave new world� he envisioned all enrich and expand new English and Irish literary criticism. The Irish emigrated beyond that New World, and not only Earls and wild geese. Thomas O�Connor�s The Irish in Europe, 1580-1815 and a collection co-edited with Mary Ann Lyons, Irish Migrants in Europe after Kinsale, 1602-1820 compile studies on an topic deserving investigation.

A very specific study on the Irish College at Rome 1628-78 covers the Ludovisian College there; this edits a ms. by James Reilly, S.J.,� from 1678 that was an early version of an alumni souvenir or an �official history� of an alma mater for many clerics trained abroad. Carroll confesses herself let down by Clodagh Tait�s dismissal of Irish-language poetry as �conventional�-- presumably in its elegiac mode, given Tait�s Death, Burial and Commemoration in Ireland, 1550-1650. I share Carroll�s disappointment, but given my own research into earlier literature on purgatory in Middle English along with its Irish backgrounds, even an uneven expansion of this period�s customs and records regarding Irish departed and departure would be welcome. Socioeconomic and cultural history also provides two decades� worth of essays by Toby Bernard, in another erratic volume, Irish Protestant Ascents and Descents, 1641-1770. Finally, to end a long list, �amonn � Ciardha�s Ireland and the Jacobite Cause, 1685-1766 takes us closer to the end of not the seventeenth but the eighteenth century. Even if modern Ireland still awaits, its early stages have ended, and these twenty-two books gather up the most recent explorations of that older era.

Reviews end the volume, and I while I would like to list all the books considered by title, these would stretch an already packed load to breaking point, at least for most readers� patience. With apologies to the sixteen reviewers and the thirty-three reviewed, I will skip ahead and skim their contents to note recent books on: the tradition of the cailleach (wise-woman healer); folklore of Tory Island and of Oriel-- the Armagh-Monaghan-Louth ancient region; cutting and necessary pamphlets by An Aimsir �g in Irish on its culture and its identity now; biographies of mid 20c writers Elizabeth Bowen and Maeve Brennan; John McGarry and Brendan O�Leary�s collected articles and Richard Bourke�s political-philosophical work-- both on the North; eight recent books on Irish drama; Charles Trevelyan on the Famine; TB in 19th and 20th c. Ireland; four books on semi-colonial and postcolonial literary theory in Irish contexts; Joseph Lennon�s ambitious study, �Irish Orientalism; Francis Higgins� 1795-1801 letters to Dublin Castle; Irish political prisoners 1848-1922 �by Se�n McConville; Tudor and Stuart verse from Ireland by the expert on the subject, Andrew Carpenter; books on Irish portraiture and Irish televised drama; Philip O�Leary�s long-awaited follow-up to his poetry study, as Gaelic Prose in the Irish Free State, 1922-1939.

Brendan O�Leary�s 1995 study Explaining Northern Ireland, co-authored with John McGarry, sits on the shelf behind me as I type. Not only its subject but its detailed, even acerbic, judgments must be familiar to some readers of The Blanket. Like the latter publication, the former arouses controversy more than contentment. O�Leary, who the credits in FDR note as a recent advisor to the parliament of Kurdistan, circles back to Ireland for another contentious subject. The volume before the book reviews ends with its longest article, thirty pages. Fittingly, it opens with a photo of a Long Kesh cell, titled �H-Block 5, B-Wing, 9/25, 2003� with its bed neatly made, walls daubed pale green and frosted windows intact.� �Mission Accomplished? Looking Back at the IRA� filters the long campaign through the mirror image of its campaigners. �Group-honour�, O� Leary proposes, �often provokes more violence than considerations of material self-interest, or material group-interest.� (217) Pledges of its volunteers having been fulfilled, its constitutional mission completed, the IRA �may, should, and likely will disband.�� He supports this contention by reviewing its history, objectives, constitutional rationales, and its structure. He devotes careful review to its finances, its recruits, its goals, and its killings. Space prevents me from detailing his findings. Suffice it to say that this study extends exhaustively and intelligently this often-raised objection: if the IRA recognises the Dublin government, why does the IRA still insist in its own laws that it remains the legitimate government-in-internal-exile of the Irish Republic? For instance, he-- perhaps wryly-- notes that the current Irish p.m. �has declared himself a socialist,� so the IRA�s goal of a socialist 32-county republic could thereby be seen to be capable of�if not already having been�being fulfilled. The arcane logic that granted the IRA the continuity with the Second Dail�s 1921 mandate from the last all-Ireland election has, O�Leary explains, shifts now back to the First Dail, which assumed that when it took power it would then bring about �an autonomous Ireland that would exercise its rights to self-determination.� (244) I conclude with this citation to show one of many examples of how closely O�Leary takes on the IRA on its own terms, and unlike many commentators he actually cites the Green Book when taking the Movement to task for holding itself accountable by-- to borrow Liam Lynch's phrase-- 'no other law'.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

28 May 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Humpty Dumpty
Anthony McIntyre

Eamon Sweeney

Political Status
Geoffrey Cooling

Enough, Enough of Stormont
David Adams

Joined at the Hip
John Kennedy

Loyal to What
Fred A Wilcox

No Rest In Peace
John Kennedy

'Penetrated' Has Become the Sinn Fein Brand Mark
Anthony McIntyre

Code Red
Dr John Coulter

Review of the Field Day Review 1: Debut Issue, 2005
Seagh�n � Murch�

Profile: Salman Rushdie
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

16 May 2006

'The Blanket' meets 'Blanketmen'
Anthony McIntyre speaks with Richard O'Rawe

Former Blanketman Speaks Out Against ‘Vitriolic Attack’
Richard O'Rawe

"What Future for Republicans?"
Public Meeting Announcement

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams and the IRA's Chief of Staff of the Army Council
Dr John Coulter

Paper Over the Cracks
John Kennedy

The Famine Season
Russell Streur

DUP Pressure Cooker: About to Blow?
Dr John Coulter

Oil Prices
John Kennedy

Profile: Ibn Warraq
Anthony McIntyre

The Muslims America Loves
M. Shahid Alam

Freedom of Speech index



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