Gerry Smyth, Space and the Irish Cultural Imagination (London: Palgrave 2001), 228pp.

I want to signal the existence of a paradox concerning the relationship between time and space at the heart of Irish Studies. This paradox resides in the fact that although the formal study of Irish culture [which includes, naturally, the study of literature, history and theory] has been dominated throughout the modern period by a methodology organized around issues of chronology, duration, order, frequency, disruption, inheritance—in other words, issues of history—the subject matter of that study has been invariably geographical, concerned (even when it seemed not to be the case) with the existence and influence of a ‘special relationship’ between community and environment permeating Irish life. (p.19; quoted in Robert Smart & Michael Hutcheson, ‘Suspect  Grounds: Temporal and Spatial Paradoxes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Postcolonial Reading“, in Postcolonial Text, 3, 3 (2007) - available as .pdf [online].)

Liam Harte, reviewing Space [... &c.], in The Irish Times (3 Nov. 2001), notes the effects of the so-called ‘spatial turn’ in postmodernist scholarship; calls Smyth’s book ‘the first systematic attempt to analyse the complex spatial practices and motifs that permeate Irish culture and identity in their ideological affiliations’; ‘[The] paradox lies in the fact that although the central unifying theme of Irish history has been the spatial relationship between place and identity, the methodology used to analyse this theme has been a temporal one, driven by “the talismanic properties of dates, names and events from the past”’; ‘issues of history have traditionally taken precedence over issues of geography in Irish scholarship’; the work includes an intensive ‘auto-criticism’ in the form of a detailed explication of the history and topography of his native Firhouse area in Dublin; engages in final chapters with Seamus Deane and U2; welcomed as pioneering work. (The Irish Times [Weekend], 3 Nov. 2001.)

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