Anastomosis, Attenuations and Manichean Allegories:Seamus Heaney and the complexities of Ireland
Eugene O’Brien,ni!ersity of "imeric#,Ireland
$he %ostcolonial &ontext
The area o$ the postcolonial has "ecome one o$ the most popular $acets o$ contemporary theory% &ndeed, the ery term 'postcolonial( has "ecome the latest 'catchall term( to 'da))le the academic mind( *+aco"y -.% /riters such as Ed0ard Said, Gayatri Chakraorty Spiak and Homi Bha"a hae theori)ed the notion o$ cultural 'otherness(, and hae pro"ed the interstices o$ colonial and imperial 0ritin#s to unearth the 'place o$ the other(% Ho0eer, the parameters o$ the term 'postcolonial( seem to hae "een dra0n "y a process o$ accretion, rather than "y any $orm o$ ri#orous epistemolo#ical en1uiry, and it is to0ards an interro#ation o$ this process, 0ith particular re$erence to the case o$ &reland, that this paper is directed% The undercuttin# o$ /estern uniersalism is an important tool in the arsenal o$ the postcolonial critic, an undercuttin# $or#ed on the "inary opposition o$ sel$ and other% &n an early oerie0 o$ the postcolonial
"he #mpire $rites %ac&
, this criti1ue o$ Eurocentric uniersalism is lin#uistically $ormulated in the dissipation o$ the initial capital in the si#ni$ier 'En#lish( *denotin# standard En#lish ortho#raphy and pronunciation., into di$$erent 'en#lishes(, 0hich #rant alidity to the di$$erent 'en#lishes( spoken throu#hout the 0orld:
&n order to $ocus on the comple2 0ays in 0hich the En#lish lan#ua#e has "een used in these societies, and to indicate their o0n sense o$ di$$erence, 0e distin#uish in this account "et0een the 'standard( British En#lish inherited $rom the empire and the en#lish 0hich the lan#ua#e has "ecome in postcolonial countries%3/e need to distin#uish "et0een 0hat is proposed as a standard code, En#lish *the lan#ua#e o$ the erst0hile imperial centre., and the lin#uistic code, en#lish, 0hich has "een trans$ormed and su"erted into seeral distinctie arieties throu#hout the 0orld% *4.
This approach to lan#ua#e is admira"le, $ocusin# as it does on the $act that no lin#uistic usa#e, or reception, is politically innocent% 5ostcolonial theory poses these uncom$orta"le 6