We’ll be in the Trinity Long Room Hub again on Tuesday 13th at 5pm for another two postgraduate papers. Hope to see you there!
Minecraft and Statecraft
On the 28th of July past, Stormont Minister for Enterprise Arlene Foster announced the launch of a map of the north of Ireland in an unusual setting: namely a playable, editable ‘level’ for the sandbox video game Minecraft. Players of the game could ‘now build a virtual world… after a map of the region was incorporated’ as a downloadable terrain (Irish News, 28/07/15). As Foster herself said, it was ‘important to recognise that this is about more than just playing a game’. The map was released as part of an initiative to distribute an educational version of the game to every Secondary school in the six counties. This exemplifies K.E. Boulding’s contention that the image of the nation is ‘constantly drilled into the minds of both young and old, both through formal teaching in schools and through constant repetition in newspapers, advertisements, cartoons and so on’.
This episode also bears more than a passing resemblance to the proliferation of images of the statelet in the 1920s, when the Orange State was explicitly concerned with reinforcing its territorial claim amidst the ongoing threat of the Boundary Commission. Its seemingly innocuous latter-day appearance in Minecraft might be seen as a logical consequence of this strategy, since the map appeared in settings as diverse as Empire Exhibitions, British school-textbooks, tourist guides, cigarette packaging and indeed novels written in and about ‘the province’ during this era. The propagation of an imagined state topography therefore forms a crucial context for the spatial narratives of the northern novel in the post-partition era. If geography, as Franco Moretti describes it, is ‘an active force, that pervades the literary field and shapes it in depth’, then this paper seeks to explain its active service within literary and cultural representations of the state in the 1920s
Caitlín Nic Íomhair
‘Unwept, unsepulchred’: the ‘cillín’ or unconsecrated burial ground in modern Gaelic writing
The concept of Limbo, a marginal place where the unbaptised dead are sent to spend eternity in neither pleasure nor pain, has haunted Irish language literature. The consequent ban on burying stillborn children on consecrated ground meant that funerary rites, from wakes to headstones, were routinely withheld from them, while mothers were instructed not to pray for their dead children. Instead, the unbaptised were often buried in unmarked graves in designated marginal spaces called ‘cillíní’.
After briefly arguing for the importance of traditional Gaelic burial rites, and especially the keen (oral elegy) as a female vernacular art, this paper will examine the ambivalent and sometimes subversive Gaelic literary response to this particular area of church teaching. Drawing on elegiac poems and short stories by Irish language writers Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Derry O’Sullivan, Dairena Ní Chinnéide and Biddy Jenkinson, I will argue that this edict against a rich tradition of funerary rites, Christian and other, constituted a ‘bridge too far’ for a generally religiously observant community. I will highlight how each text reflects, in its own way, an incomplete grief and an intense pressure on mourners to choose, like Antigone before them, between opposing moral duties to authority and their dead.