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Editor: Gautam Kundu, Georgia Southern University
Special Issue Ireland, Postcoloniality, and Contemporary Irish Literature (Spring 2001
Editors: Caitriona Moloney Bradley Uni ersity Helen Thompson !la"ama State Uni ersity Frederick Sanders Geor#ia Southern Uni ersity
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 Chakra orty Spi ak and Homi Bha"a ha e theori)ed the notion o$ cultural 'otherness(, and ha e pro"ed the interstices o$ colonial and imperial 0ritin#s to unearth the 'place o$ the other(% Ho0e er, the parameters o$ the term 'postcolonial( seem to ha e "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 uni ersalism 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 o er ie0 o$ the postcolonial mentalite!, entitled "he #mpire $rites %ac&, this criti1ue o$ Eurocentric uni ersalism 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 se eral distincti e 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
1uestions 0hich, in Ed0ard Said7s readin#, trans$orm the 'eimlich 0orld o$ (ans)ield Par& into the Unheimlich sla e estate in !nti#ua, as the En#lish pro incialism o$ Sir Thomas Bertram7s estate is seen as dependant on !nti#uan su#ar plantations run "y sla e la"our *Boehmer 89.% !lso, "y re ealin# the repressed otherness that constitutes Eurocentric sel$hood, such an approach per$orms the important theoretical act o$ "rin#in# the si#ni$ier o$ sla ery to the $ore o$ the ci ili)ed dra0in# room, 0here hitherto, 0ealth 0as thou#ht to ha e appeared 0ithout any pro2imate cause% :ne could also interro#ate !usten7s o0n ie0 o$ her 0ork as a 'little "it *t0o &nches 0ide. o$ & ory on 0hich & 0ork 0ith so $ine a "rush( */att ,. $rom such a postcolonial perspecti e, "y lookin# "eyond !usten7s Eurocentric scopic $ield to the skull, and corpse, o$ the elephant $rom 0hom the i ory 0as ori#inally ac1uired% This economic reducti ism, 0here"y a t0o;ton mammal is reduced in 0orth to the t0o i ory tusks, and in this case, to t0o inches taken $rom one o$ those tusks, is synecdochic o$ the colonial process% The alue o$ this mammal is de$ined in terms o$ its material 0orth in a European capitalist market, as opposed to that o$ its indi#enous ecolo#ical surroundin#s% !ny aspect that is not alua"le in this conte2t, is discarded to rot in its homeland% The elo1uent silence as to the mode o$ ori#in o$ this piece o$ i ory is paradi#matic o$ the colonial mentality, 0here"y the 'other( is not only assimilated into European society, "ut is deemed to ha e "ene$ited "y so doin#% !usten $urther dissem"les the iolence that is a necessary part o$ the imperial and colonial process "y her euphemistic choice o$ decoratin# tool in the metaphor% Generally, one associates i ory ornamentation 0ith car in#% <elicate desi#ns are usually chiselled out o$ the i ory, to o$$er a relie$ a#ainst the smooth 0hiteness o$ the sur$ace% By usin# the term '"rush( instead o$ a car in# or cuttin# tool, !usten is unloadin# the metaphor o$ all associations 0ith iolence and slau#hter% Her metaphor, in short, is an aesthetici)ation o$ the colonial and imperial processes o$ ac1uisition, appropriation and transportation o$ o"=ects o$ alue $rom the colonial mar#in to the imperial centre% S&ull and &ni)e are elided into ivory and *rush, as aesthetics and notions o$ ci ili)ation and culture, silence any notions o$ iolence and con1uest% Ho0e er, =ust as <errida and >acan pro"lemati)e the aetiolo#y o$ meanin#, so theoretical 0ritin# must interro#ate theoretical 0ritin# i$ it is not to $all open to a tu +uo+ue char#e o$ pre$erential readin#% The epistemolo#y o$ the postcolonial is "ased on the "inary opposition o$ 8
sel$ and other, o$ Mans$ield 5ark and !nti#ua, o$ i ory and a dead elephant% Ho0e er, i$ the postcolonial readin# practice stops at this point, is it not in dan#er o$ merely re ersin# the polarity o$ the e2istin# si#ni$yin# system 0hile at the same time, remainin# part o$ that system? &t is 0ith this 1uestion in mind, that & 0ill turn to the issue o$ &reland as a postcolonial society, 0ith particular $ocus on the treatment o$ this issue in "he #mpire $rites %ac&%8
• $he Irish Experience
Gi en the statement o$ the authors that '0e use the term @postcolonial7, ho0e er, to co er all the culture a$$ected "y the imperial process $rom the moment o$ coloni)ation to the present day( *!shcro$t et al 8., one 0ould e2pect &rish 0ritin# to $i#ure prominently in the list o$ literatures that are deemed to "e 'postcolonial(, and hence, 0orthy o$ study% Gi en that &reland achie ed independence $rom Britain in 6A88,, and $urther, #i en the e ents in Borthern &reland o er the last thirty years, one 0ould e2pect &reland to "e seen as part o$ the postcolonial paradi#m% Ho0e er, this is not the case% The literature o$ !$rican countries and that o$ !ustralia, Ban#ladesh, Canada, Cari""ean countries, &ndia, Malaysia, Malta, Be0 Cealand, 5akistan, Sin#apore, South 5aci$ic &sland countries and Sri >anka are all included, as they $ul$il the re1uirements o$ ha in# emer#ed throu#h the e2perience o$ coloni)ation, $ore#rounded the tension 0ith the coloni)in# po0er, and continually emphasi)ed their di$$erences '$rom the assumptions o$ the imperial centre% distincti ely postcolonial( *8.% &t 0ould seem that &rish literature $ul$ils all o$ these conditions, and that it merits consideration as "ein# 1uintessentially postcolonial% The 0ritin#s o$ Deats, 0here the BritainE&reland "inarism is deconstructed throu#h the in ocation o$ European and mystical a atarsF the 0ritin#s o$ +oyce, 0here the En#lish lan#ua#e, that he#emonic instrument o$ colonial domination, is disseminated into the polylo#ical )risson o$ ,innegans $a&eFG the 0ritin#s o$ Syn#e, 0here En#lish "ecomes im"ued 0ith the rhythms and nuances o$ an &rish idiom, "ut also 0ith the dramatic cosmopolitanism o$ French in$luencesF the 0ritin#s o$ Beckett, 0hich etiolate the in$luence o$ En#lish "y e entually turnin# to0ards French, and the 0ritin#s o$ Heaney, 0ho persistently de$ines &rishness in terms that are a0are o$, "ut 0hich also attempt to transcend, the on#oin# iolence in Borthern &reland o er the past thirty years H all o$ these surely $ul$il the condition o$ 'emphasi)in# their di$$erences $rom the assumptions , &t is this 0hich makes them
o$ the imperial centre(% Ho0e er, $or the authors o$ "he #mpire $rites %ac&, the literature o$ &reland is 0orthy o$ study in a di$$erent li#ht: 'ItJhe literature o$ &reland mi#ht also "e in esti#ated in terms o$ our contemporary kno0led#e o$ postcolonialism, thus sheddin# ne0 li#ht on the British literary tradition( *8G.% Here, a 1uestion;"e##in# assumption, 0hich locates &rish literature as part o$ the British literary tradition, #o erns the treatment o$ the &rish situation, a treatment 0here the centre really does 0rite "ackK The opposin# perspecti e, 0hich su##ests that &reland is part o$ the postcolonial paradi#m, is shared "y a num"er o$ postcolonial theorists, <a id >loyd7s -nomalous States. Irish $riting and the Postcolonial (oment, $or e2ample% /hile the title points out the anomalous nature o$ the &rish situation, the su";title underlines the essentially postcolonial nature o$ &reland% >loyd makes the point that he has "ecome increasin#ly a0are o$ the theoretical alue o$:
other postcolonial locations in all their dis=unctions and analo#ies 0ith one another, to $ind 0ays in 0hich to comprehend the apparent peculiarities o$ &rish cultural history% :$ particular importance here ha e "een the historical 0ork o$ &ndian 'su"altern( historians and the cultural stru##les o$ !merican minorities% *8.
For >loyd, the similarities "et0een the &rish e2perience and that o$ other colonies is clear% Gi en the historical $rame0ork adduced earlier in this discussion, it seems o" ious that, to 1uote Homi Bha"ha, the &rish 1uestion has '"een reposed as a postcolonial pro"lem( *88A.% Similarly, <eclan Ki"erd, in his Inventing Ireland, speaks o$ the colonialist crime, in an &rish conte2t, as the ' iolation o$ the traditional community( *8A8., a notion that !nia >oom"a sees as paradi#matic o$ the colonial process% !s she puts it in her comprehensi e Colonialism/Postcolonialism, the process o$ '$ormin# a community( in a ne0 land necessarily means the 'un)orming or re;$ormin# o$ the communities that e2isted there already( I italics originalJ *8.% Finally, Ed0ard Said o"ser es that Deats, 0hile almost completely assimilated into the canons o$ 'modern En#lish >iterature( and 'European hi#h modernism(, can ne ertheless "e seen as "elon#in# to the tradition o$ 'the colonial 0orld ruled "y European imperialism( *'<ecoloni)ation( LA.% Said7s essay places Deats as a postcolonial poet, and hence, throu#h synecdoche, places &reland 0ithin the postcolonial am"it% Finally, in his introduction to 0ationalism Colonialism and Literature, Seamus <eane makes the point that colonialism is a process o$ 'radical dispossession( and that a coloni)ed people is o$ten le$t G
0ithout a speci$ic history and e en 'as in &reland and other cases, 0ithout a speci$ic lan#ua#e( *6-.% Clearly, &reland pro ides an interestin# case 0ithin the paradi#m o$ postcolonial studies, in that it is deemed as "ein# "oth postcolonial and non;postcolonial at the same time% The reasons $or this are interestin#: &reland does not $it the usual typolo#y o$ a third 0orld country "ein# coloni)ed "y a $irst 0orld one, nor does it $it in to the EuropeanEnon;European "inarism 0hich is so o$ten the sine +ua non o$ coloni)ation% !t a $urther le el, there is the $act that the &rish are 0hite, and thus racially similar to their coloni)ers, althou#h there 0as a stron# mo ement in parts o$ the Mictorian British media to compare the &rish to arious non;0hite races%9 These points, ho0e er, indicate a deeper pro"lem at the le el o$ the epistemolo#ical structure o$ the postcolonial paradi#m, and this pro"lem has "een rehearsed, al"eit protreptically, in !"dul +anMohamed7s seminal article: 'The Economy o$ the Manichean !lle#ory: The Function o$ Nacial <i$$erence in Colonialist >iterature(% +anMohamed7s thesis is that colonial literature su" erts 'the traditional dialectic o$ sel$ and :ther( *64., and sets up a $etishi)ed 'nondialectical $i2ed opposition "et0een the sel$ and the nati e(F 0hat is constantly rein$orced here is the 'homo#eneity o$ his I sicJ o0n #roup( *6A.% The colonial perspecti e initiates and perpetuates this notion o$ a"solute homo#eneity o$ races, hence the title o$ +anMohamed7s article, re$errin# to the , rd century 5ersian cult representin# God and Satan as locked in con$lict, and completely separate% Macauley7s pro#rammatic (inute on Indian #ducation , $or e2ample, makes this point $rom the colonial perspecti e, in its attempt to create a 'class o$ persons, &ndian in "lood and colour, "ut En#lish in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect( *G,-., a perspecti e 0hich seems to rule out any notion o$ an &ndian ha in# either indi#enous or hy"rid 1ualities o$ taste, opinions, morals or intellect% E en as Macauley attempts a $orm o$ interaction "et0een the t0o, "oth races are strictly separated% +anMohamed7s point is 0ell takenF di$$erences o$ race, lan#ua#e, reli#ion and culture 0ere all used to rein$orce the coloniser7s sense o$ superiority to the coloni)ed% Ho0e er, one could turn this ar#ument around and make the e1ually alid point that much postcolonial 0ritin# takes this manichean alle#ory and in erts it, castin# the coloni)er as separate and other, 0hile the coloni)ed, cast in the role o$ ictim, remains e1ually homo#enous and disparate% Such an in erted manichean alle#orical perspecti e is operati e only 0hen such di$$erences are clear and simpleF 0hen areas o$ anomalous di$$erence, or o$ more comple2 9
interactions "et0een coloni)er and coloni)ed appear, then such a perspecti e is $ound 0antin#% For e2ample, this is true o$ the attitude o$ !shcro$t, Gri$$iths and Ti$$in, 0hen they speak o$ it "ein# 'di$$icult $or coloni)ed people7s outside Britain( to accept the &rish 'identity as "ein# postcolonial( #i en the 'su"se1uent complicity( o$ the &rish in the 'British imperial enterprise(? *,,.% Here, "inary oppositions "et0een sel$ and other ha e "ecome rei$ied and hypostasi)ed into homo#enous #roupin#s 0ith little room $or interaction, let alone intersection% !s >oom"a percepti ely notes, the 1uestion is no0 "ein# asked o$ postcolonial theory as to 0hether, in 'the process o$ e2posin# the ideolo#ical and historical $unctionin# o$ such "inaries, 0e are in dan#er o$ reproducin# them( *6-G.% & think, #i en the e2amples cited, that this is a real dan#er $or the postcolonial paradi#m% To allo0 oppositions to "ecome rei$ied is to attenuate the possi"ilities o$ in$luence, interaction, intersection and ultimately, trans$ormation% &t is also to predicate one7s theoretical premises on the past as opposed to the $uture% &$ the coloni)erEcoloni)ed opposition is seen as de$initi e 0ithin a culture, e en thou#h, as in &reland, the initial acts o$ coloni)ation occurred hundreds o$ years a#o, then ipso )acto, de elopments in the $ields o$ politics, society and culture are limited "y this rei$ied de$inition o$ sel$ and other% &ssues o$ identity are ultimately settled "y re$erence to this terminus a +uo $rom 0hich all such identi$icatory politics deri es% Such a perspecti e narro0s the theoretical scope o$ postcolonial discourse, and o ersimpli$ies comple2 issues o$ interaction and in$luence% &t is in this conte2t that & 0ould su##est a readin# o$ some o$ Seamus Heaney7s 0ork, 0hich deals 0ith issues o$ identity in &reland% /hile &reland may "e some0hat o$ an anomalous case $or postcolonialism, ne ertheless Heaney7s 0ork can o$$er a 0ay o$ ackno0led#in# aspects o$ the truth o$ the manichean alle#ory, 0hile at the same time, a oidin# the dan#er o$ a Freudian repetition comple2 0hich merely in erts and repeats the process% By stressin# the interpenetration o$ te2t and conte2t, an interpenetration that & see as synecdochic o$ a series o$ lar#er ones "et0een coloni)er and coloni)ed as 0ell as sel$ and other, Heaney points to0ards a postcolonial epistemolo#y 0hich is predicated on the present and $uture, as opposed to the past, and 0hich allo0s $or interpenetration o$ the di$$erent perspecti es% Such interpenetrations, 0hile sustainin# the inte#rity o$ each term, allo0s $or mutual contact and communication 0hich can "ecome trans$ormational o$ each% L
• Seamus Heaney and the %olitics of Attenuation
&n the $ore0ord to Preoccupations, Heaney makes the $ollo0in# points:
& hope it is clear that the essays selected here are held to#ether "y searches $or ans0ers to central preoccupyin# 1uestions: ho0 should a poet properly li e and 0rite? /hat is his relationship to "e to his o0n oice, his o0n place, his literary herita#e and his contemporary 0orld? *6,.
& 0ill ar#ue that the concerns o$ this passa#e ha e a lot to say in terms o$ the manichean alle#ory and the postcolonial paradi#m% /hile some 0ork has "een done on Heaney7s prose, #enerally it is seen as a use$ul e2trinsic tool in the analysis o$ his poetry% L To see 0hat Helen Mendler terms his ' i id, metaphorical and intelli#ent prose( *9. as merely a metalin#uistic commentary, is to mistakenly trans$orm #eneric considerations into epistemolo#ical ones% &n his essays, one $inds on#oin# discussion o$ some o$ the central concerns o$ postcolonial theory: the nature o$ identityF the di$$iculty o$ 0ritin# a"out place, #i en the historical and cultural "a##a#e that al0ays accrues, and the relationship o$ literature 0ith politics% Under0ritin# all o$ these concerns, or preoccupations, is the on#oin# attempt to "rin# into $ocus some $orm o$ theori)ation o$ literature% /hat emer#es in these essays is a sophisticated approach to poetry, an approach 0hich #rants the internal la0s o$ lan#ua#e and aesthetics 0hich are applica"le 0ithin the domain o$ poetry, "ut 0hich at the same time demonstrates a #ro0in# a0areness o$ the need to reconcile 0hat he terms 'lyric cele"ration( *Government 68., and its concomitants 'the phrase or cadence 0hich haunts the ear and the ea#er parts o$ the mind( *Preoccupations L6., 0ith the demands o$ an ethical imperati e 0hich 'the poet may $ind as he e2ercises his $ree #i$t in the presence o$ the un$ree and the hurt( *Government 2 iii.% His perspecti e on sel$ and other is not manichean "ut rather relational% For Heaney, the epistemolo#ical $orce o$ poetry is comple2 and multi;layered, in ol in# the #rantin# o$ oice to di$$erent perspecti es, as 0ell as settin# up co#niti e and intellectual structures 0hich allo0 $or their interaction% His care$ul readin#s o$ other te2ts al0ays #esture to0ards such constructs, 0here the dialectical oscillation "et0een the di$$erent perspecti es creates a $ield o$ $orce 0herein it is the relationship "et0een the di$$erent perspecti es that is the main $ocus o$ his 'searches $or ans0ers(% He does not allo0 "inary oppositions to "ecome $i2edF instead he $ocuses on the relationships that e2ist "et0een them% O
Gi en the pre alence o$ the Edenic trope in postcolonial discourse, 0here coloni)ers see their 'ne0 land( as a ne0 Eden, and assume, in <erek /alcott7s phrase an '!damic( relation 0ith their ne0 paradisal settin#, an essay o$ Heaney7s on pastoral poetry 0ill pro e illuminatin# in terms o$ its readin# o$ the issues o$ pastoral te2ts and their political conte2ts% &n this essay, entitled '&n the Country o$ Con ention(, a"out a collection o$ En#lish pastoral erse, Heaney is critical o$ 0hat he sees as an o ersimpli$ication o$ response on "ehal$ o$ the editors to the notion o$ 0hat they term 'the pastoral ision(% +ohn Barrell and +ohn Bull see this ision as "ein# ultimately $alse, "ecause it posits a simplistic unhistorical relation "et0een the land;o0nin# class and the 0orkers, 0hich mysti$ies and o"scures the actuality o$ 0orkin# conditions: the parallel 0ith a colonial literature that posits an e1ually simplistic connection "et0een the colonists and the land is clear% Heaney notes the in$luence o$ Naymond /illiams on this point o$ ie0,O and #oes on to critici)e this 'sociolo#ical $illetin# o$ the con ention( as "ein# #uilty o$ a 'certain attenuation o$ response( 0hich curtails the consideration o$ the poems as 'made thin#s( as 'sel$;deli#htin# "uds on the old "ou#h o$ a tradition( *Preoccupations 6OG.% Here, Heaney 0ould seem to "e o$$erin# an e2ample o$ colonial readin# practices as he pri ile#es the te2t itsel$ at the e2pense o$ conte2t: he seems to "e ad ocatin# the study o$ the inch o$ i ory and the #ardens o$ (ans)ield Par& to the e2clusion o$ the corpse o$ the elephant and the hardship o$ !nti#uan sla es% Ho0e er, his position is more comple2% &t is the simpli$ication, the attenuation, o$ response to 0hich he o"=ectsF he is more than 0illin# to #rant the "ene$it o$ sociolo#ically;dri en criticism as 'a "racin# correcti e( to 0hat could pro e an 'o er;literary sa ourin#( o$ the #enre as a matter o$ 'classical imitation and allusion( *Preoccupations 6OG.% He is o" iously not a#ainst e2trinsically dri en criticism per seF rather he is a#ainst any $orm o$ 'attenuation o$ response(, any thinnin# o$ the plurality and comple2ity o$ the $ield o$ $orce 0hich should "e set up in the process o$ readin#F in short, he re$uses any $orm o$ the manichean alle#ory% He sees the relationship "et0een the internal dynamics o$ the poems, and their re$lection, re$raction, and trans$ormation o$ e2ternal societal and cultural $actors, in other 0ords, "et0een te2t and conte2t, as $ar too comple2 to allo0 the 'Mar2ist "room( to s0eep aesthetic considerations aside in $a our o$ societal and economic considerations%
&nstead, Heaney7s notion o$ the relationship "et0een te2t and conte2t is $ar more comple2 and $luid% &t could "e seen as an e2ample o$ the rhetorical $i#ure o$ anastomosis, as cited "y +% Hillis Miller in "he #thics o) 1eading, 0hich he descri"es in terms o$ notions o$ 'penetration and permeation(% Miller is also speakin# a"out the relationship "et0een te2t and conte2t, and sees this notion o$ conte2t as ho erin# 'uneasily( "et0een 'metonymy in the sense o$ mere contin#ent ad=acency and synecdoche, part $or 0hole, 0ith an assumption that the part is some 0ay #enuinely like the 0hole( *L.% &t is here that he cites the trope o$ anastomosis, ad ertin# to +oyce7s er"al e2ample 'underdarkneath(, as 0ell as Bakhtin7s ie0 o$ lan#ua#e as a social philosophy 0hich is permeated "y a system o$ alues 'insepara"le $rom li in# practice and class stru##le( *L;O.% :ne could =ust as easily see 'con;te2t( as a similar case, 0ith one 0ord, 'te2t( penetratin# or permeatin# the other, 'conte2t(% 4 Here "oth 0ords intersect and inter$use, "ut per$orm the dialectical action o$ remainin# separate as 0ell as "lendin#% Heaney7s readin# sets up a $urther conte2tual aspect o$ this dialectical structure 0hich, $ar $rom attenuatin# our response, 0ill thicken and ena"le it% Heaney laments the decision o$ the editors not to print translations o$ Theocritus, Mir#il, Horace, Mantuan, and Marot, as these 0ere the 'in$ormin# oices that 0ere @modi$ied in the #uts o$ the li in#7 (* Preoccupations 6O9., 0hich under0rote the pastoral poetry o$ Spenser, Milton, 5ope and Thomson, as they attempted to 'adorn and classici)e( the nati e literature% He $eels that such a 'classical Here, the te2tual; penum"ra( 0as automatic cultural capital $or these 0riters, and thinks it a pity that the 'ancient hinterland, the perspecti es "ack0ard, are 0ithheld( *6O9.% conte2tual anastomosis "ecomes more intricate, as this 0ithholdin# delimits our readin# o$ the pastoral #enre, and o$ the speci$ic En#lish 0ritin# o$ this #enre% !nalo#ously, one could make the same points a"out the corpse o$ the elephant and the !nti#uan plantation sla es: rather than "ein# $orced to choose one or other side o$ the colonialEpostcolonial manichean alle#ory, Heaney o$$ers a position 0here te2t and conte2t penetrate and permeate each other and "y so doin#, shed more li#ht on each other, and allo0 $or the possi"ility o$ ne0 meanin#s, and o$ ne0 discourses o$ intersu"=ecti e truth% Throu#h this anastomosis, ne0 perspecti es can come into "ein# 0hich allo0 $or aesthetic, political and cultural de elopment% The chronotope *literally time;space., to use a Bakhtinian term, A o$ this readin# is oriented to0ards the $uture as opposed to the pastF such an anastomosis, o$ necessity, trans$orms the relationships o$ te2t A
and conte2t, and ipso )acto, alters the structure o$ each throu#h contact 0ith the other% &t is precisely this trans$ormati e aspect o$ anastomosis that is o$ concern to us in this discussion% /hat is set out as "he Penguin %oo& o) #nglish Pastoral 2erse, 0ith all the canonical, imperial, and culturally homo#enous connotations that are implied "y the proper ad=ecti e '#nglish(, "ecomes somethin# di$$erent 0hen placed in such a relationship 0ith these classical antecedents% Such e2ternal in$luences, in this case, $ar $rom attenuatin# the response to the lyrical impulse o$ the pastoral, thicken our readin# o$ these 0orks "y complicatin# and interro#atin# ho0 '#nglish( this #enre actually is% This 'perspecti e "ack0ards( is also a perspecti e out0ards, pointin# up the dependence o$ 0hat is seen as the 'En#lish( poetic canon on #eneric and con entional "orro0in#s $rom continental Europe% &t is also a Here, the perspecti e in0ards, as these e2trinsic $eatures ha e had a ma=or in$luence on stylistic and thematic considerations, as 0ell as on the aesthetic o"=ecti es o$ the #enre% anastomosis "et0een te2t and conte2t is enacted in the permeation and intersection o$ the poems in the "ook and the poems 0hich preceded themF o$ the En#lish lan#ua#e and >atin and FrenchF o$ >atin and French and the process o$ translationF o$ classical pastoral con ention and the En#lish ersion o$ it and $inally, o$ the te2ts that are present in the "ook and those ena"lin# translations $rom the classics, 0hich are a"sent% Hence, the attenuation o$ approach is in erted, and instead, there is a ne0 de$inition o$ the proper ad=ecti e 'En#lish( =ust as, "y analo#y, there is a ne0 de$inition o$ i ory as arte$act throu#h a kno0led#e o$ the conte2t o$ its production, as 0ell as a ne0 notion o$ the truth o$ Eurocentric ci ility in (ans)ield Par&, 0hen 0e see that such ci ility is "uilt on the "acks o$ sla e la"our% &n the same 0ay, the position o$ &reland as postcolonial or not can "e seen as an opportunity to in ert any manichean tendencies amon# postcolonial theorists, and instead, postulate ne0 relationships "et0een te2t and conte2t, sel$ and other% Nather than choose "et0een the t0o, or collapse all di$$erence into #enerali)ed notions o$ hy"ridity *0hich o$ten "lur all terms into a construct 0hich has no purchase on either sel$ or other., Heaney7s anastomosis o$ te2t and conte2t o$$ers a readin# o$ the postcolonial that has stron# similarities 0ith the thou#ht o$ Stuart Hall% Hall postulates a notion o$ sel$ and other 0hich keeps ali e a 'sense o$ di$$erence( 0hich at the same time is not pure 'otherness( *,A9.% So, the comple2ities o$ Heaney7s readin# could "e seen as interro#atin# $i2ed notions o$ 'otherness( 0ithin the postcolonial paradi#m, "y re$usin# to "ecome part o$ an in erted manichean 6-
alle#ory% The 'te2t( o$ &reland as postcolonial is permeated and penetrated, rendered di$$erent, "y the conte2t o$ the type o$ coloni)ation 0hich it under0ent% This comple2 interro#ation o$ the cate#ories o$ te2t and conte2t calls to mind a similar interro#ation in the 0ork o$ +ac1ues <errida 0ho, in Limited Inc%, has noted that 'nothin# e2ists outside conte2t(, and that conse1uently, the 'outside penetrates and thus determines the inside( *Limited 69,.%6- <errida has made a similar point in Positions, 0here he speaks o$ ho0 each seemin#ly simple term is marked "y the trace o$ other terms, so that the 'presumed interiority o$ meanin#( "ein# '0orked on "y its o0n e2teriority% &t is al0ays already carried outside itsel$( *Positions ,,.% &n the case o$ &reland, "oth the history o$ re"ellion a#ainst British rule, and the e1ually alid history o$ acceptance o$ that rule, ser e to create a comple2 theori)ation o$ the postcolonial 0hich a oids any $orm o$ ideolo#ical attenuation% /ar :ne, than $ou#ht a#ainst the British in the &rish /ar o$ &ndependence% &n this readin# o$ &rish history, there is an o" ious similarity 0ith a readin# "y <errida o$ Shelley7s "he "riumph o) Li)e % Here, <errida also 1uestions the "orderlines o$ a te2t, su##estin# that a te2t is no lon#er:
a $inished corpus o$ 0ritin#, some content enclosed in a "ook or its mar#ins, "ut a di$$erential net0ork, a $a"ric o$ traces re$errin# endlessly to somethin# other than itsel$, to other di$$erential traces% Thus the te2t o erruns all the limits assi#ned to it so $ar *not su"mer#in# or dro0nin# them in an undi$$erentiated homo#eneity, "ut rather makin# them more comple2, di idin# and multiplyin# strokes and lines.% *'>i in# :n( 4G.
e2ample, it is ironic to note that $ar more &rish people $ou#ht $or the British army in /orld
This is precisely the process o$ readin# undertaken "y Heaney in this essayF he takes the assumptions imposed "y the title and $ormat o$ the "ook, points to the attenuation o$ response that the selection criteria impose, an attenuation that has an analo#ous relationship to the Mar2ist "room and sociolo#ical $illetin# already mentioned, and proceeds to trrans$orm them into 'more comple2, di idin# and multiplyin# strokes and lines%( &n a s0er e that is directly related to our discussion, Heaney "rin#s into 1uestion the ery homo#eneity o$ the notion o$ 'En#lishness( that lies at the heart o$ "he Penguin %oo& o) #nglish Pastoral 2erse% Throu#h his pro"in# anastomosis o$ te2t and conte2t, he 1uestions 0hether the editors7 '"risk dismissal( o$ the $urther possi"ilities o$ pastoral are 0ell;$ounded, and #oes on to su##est alid reasons $or the inclusion o$ other 0riters P Ed0ard Thomas, Hu#h Mac<iarmid, <a id +ones, !% E% Houseman P and also 0onders a"out >ouis 66
MacBeice7s eclo#ues 0hich 'represent the $orm as an ena"lin# resource( * Preoccupations 64-.% Finally, he $urther e2tends the limits o$ his criti1ue "y multiplyin# some 'strokes and lines( 0hich $i#ure as political "orders, and asks 0hether such seminal 0orks as Syn#e7s -ran Islands *pastoral., Ka ana#h7s "he Great 'unger *anti;pastoral., and Monta#ue7s "he 1ough ,ield are 'not to "e re#arded =ust as @occasional t0itches7 ( "e$ore $inishin# the essay 0ith the ironic 1uestion: 'IoJr are these latter 0orks held at "ay in the term @$rontier pastoral7?( *64-.% Gi en that these 0orks 0ere 0ritten "y &rish authors, his anastomosis has no0 crossed a num"er o$ $rontiers: that "et0een En#lish and &rishF "et0een colonial and postcolonial, and $inally, "et0een sel$ and other% The $rontier, denotati e o$ a spatial "inary opposition "et0een one notion o$ place and another, $unctions here as "oth a "orderline o$ the antholo#y, and at the same time, as a point o$ possi"ility 0hich 0ill allo0 the 'En#lish( pastoral as #enre, to de elop% &n a $urther e2pansion o$ these limits, this de elopment 0ould necessitate an on#oin# pro"lemati)ation o$ the notion o$ En#lishness in the title, as no0, some $orm o$ '&rishness( 0ould "e included% :$ course, as Heaney has already noted, the $inal poem in the antholo#y is Deats7s -ncestral 'ouses *Preoccupations 6OO., so there has already "een a crossin# o$ the '$rontier pastoral(% &n a $urther complication, one 0hich harks "ack to Said7s earlier notion o$ Deats as "elon#in# to the tradition o$ 'the colonial 0orld ruled "y European imperialism(, the point should "e made that Deats 0as, o$ course, "orn a British citi)en, and that he accepted a pension $rom the British #o ernment% &t "ecomes clear, then, that Heaney7s readin# o$ the con entions o$ the pastoral "ecomes a paradi#m o$ a possi"le epistemolo#y o$ the postcolonial 0hich e$$ecti ely esche0s the dan#ers o$ the manichean alle#ory% !s he notes in Crediting Poetry, the hope e2ists that the $rontier 0hich partitions &reland into north and south, could "ecome 'a little "it more like the net on a tennis court, a demarcation allo0in# $or a#ile #i e; and;take( *Crediting 8,.% &nstead o$ a "inary choice o$ colonialEpostcolonial, 0e see a ariety o$ 'crossin#s, displacements, and su"stitutions, as inside "ecomes outside, outside inside, or as $eatures on either side cross o er the 0all, mem"rane or partition di idin# the sides( *Miller O., and & 0ill ar#ue that such trans#ressi e and trans#enerati e crossin#s o$ $rontiers are a central $eature o$ the postcolonial as it should "e% &n a manner that is strikin#ly similar to the thinkin# o$ Heaney, <errida has descri"ed a similar process in Positions, 0here 0hat he terms 'undecida"les( inha"it an opposition, 'resistin# and disor#ani)in# it, 3ithout ever constitutin# a third term, 0ithout e er lea in# 68
room $or a solution in the $orm o$ speculati e dialectics( * Positions G,.% The ans0ers 0hich Heaney7s ena"lin# searches $ind are o$ten similar 'undecida"les(, 0hich encoura#e us to pro"e the interstices o$ the te2t, and to pro#ress to the 'net0ork o$ te2tual re$errals to other te2ts( 0here each term is 'marked "y the trace o$ another term( * Positions, ,,.% There$ore, & 0ould see this readin# o$ the con ention o$ the En#lish pastoral as a template $or a possi"le postcolonial epistemolo#y 0here it is on the relationship "et0een di$$erent cultures that "ecomes the $ocus o$ attention, and 0here the past interaction is not allo0ed to hold manichean s0ay o er the present and $uture anastomoses o$ te2t and conte2t: the chronotope need not "e limited "y the past% &n the $inal section o$ this essay, ha in# already e2amined an implicit postcolonial conte2t in Heaney7s 0ork, & 0ould like to look at a te2t o$ his 0hich e2plicitly e2amines the issues that are pertinent to this discussion% The te2t in 1uestion is -n 4pen Letter, 0hich e2plores comple2 possi"ilities in terms o$ colonial and post colonial de$initions o$ &reland, throu#h its readin# o$ the issues in ol ed%
• An Open Letter: an open mind
&n a recent "ook on <errida, +ulian /ol$reys makes the point that '#ood readin#( may 0ell "e readin# 0hich 'ne er a oids its responsi"ility, and 0hich ne er $alls into readin# "y num"ers( *6L.% &n the discussion o$ the ontolo#ical status o$ &reland as a postcolonial country, 0e ha e rehearsed the manichean alle#orical positions 0hich ha e "een taken% :n the one hand, 0e ha e seen the ie0 o$ "he #mpire $rites %ac&, 0here &reland 0as seen as part o$ the colonial enterprise, a ie0 in sharp contrast to that o$ Said, Bha"ha and >loyd, 0ho see &reland as a postcolonial society% & 0ould ar#ue that "oth ie0s are attenuations, o ersimpli$ications, o$ a situation that is inherently hetero#eneous and di erse% !shcro$t, Gri$$iths and Ti$$in see &reland as part o$ the imperial apparatus o$ coloni)ation% This notion o$ complicity in British &mperialism possi"ly re$ers to the lar#e num"ers o$ &rish 0ho ser ed in the British army durin# its in ol ement in 0ars o$ coloni)ation all o er the 0orld% Ho0e er, this $act is not enou#h to a"ro#ate the identity o$ &reland as a coloni)ed society, 0hich desired independenceF the same accusation could "e le elled at the thousands o$ &ndian soldiers 0ho $ou#ht in the British army durin# the period o$ the Na=, and &ndian literature $i#ures prominently in the "ook, the title o$ the te2t comin# $rom a phrase "y Salman Nushdie *!shcro$t et al ,,.% Su"se1uent e ents up to, and 6,
includin#, the on#oin# iolence in Borthern &reland, $urther undermine the notion o$ complicity in the 'British( imperial enterprise% /hereas the #eneral intellectual mo ement o$ the "ook is centri$u#al, in the case o$ &reland, there is a de$inite centripetal $ield o$ $orce at 0ork 0hich denies the reality o$ historical e2perience in $a our o$ an imperial encompassin# perspecti e% &n short, the concentration is on the !n#locentric inch o$ i ory, and the ci ilities o$ (ans)ield Par&, and there is a colonial silencin# o$ the dead elephant, the !nti#uan sla es, and &rish history% The perspecti e o$ the "ook is similar to that o$ (ans)ield Par&, as outlined "y Said, in terms o$ !nti#ua, or the Cari""ean: 'they stand $or a si#ni$icance @out there7 that $rames the #enuinely important action here, "ut not $or a #reat si#ni$icance( *'<ecoloni)ation( 666.% Similarly, in "he #mpire $rites %ac&, the only alue o$ &rish history is in terms o$ its pro idin# a ne0 aspect o$ study on 'British literary history( *,,.% :n the other hand, any ie0 0hich sees &rish history as a litany o$ re"ellions and re olts a#ainst Britain is e1ually o ersimpli$ied% !s a colony, &reland 0as the only country represented at /estminster% The hu#e num"er o$ olunteers 0ho $ou#ht in the British !rmy in /orld /ar :ne *conscription 0as ne er introduced in &reland., the #eneral unpopularity o$ the 6A6L Nisin# at the time, and popularity o$ numerous &rish artists in the British cultural milieu, 0ould seem to indicate that &reland as an oppressed country is also an attenuation o$ historyF indeed, many o$ the troops 0ho $ou#ht a#ainst the arious re"ellions 0ere, themsel es, &rish militias% So, instead o$ any simplistic narrati e o$ assimilation or resistance, 0hat is to "e $ound in the case o$ &reland is that anastomosis o$ te2t and conte2t, sel$ and other, 0hich has "een the su"=ect o$ this discussion% !s a locus classicus o$ such a process, Heaney7s o0n pamphlet, 0ill demonstrate that such seemin# simplicities o$ response are in aria"ly shot throu#h 0ith comple2ities% -n 4pen Letter, pu"lished "y Field <ay, 0as 0ritten in response to the poet7s inclusion in Blake Morrison and !ndre0 Motion7s "he Penguin %oo& o) Contemporary %ritish Poetry, and "e#ins as $ollo0s:
To Blake and !ndre0, Editors Contemporary British Merse, 5en#uin Books, Middlese2% <ear Sirs, My an2ious muse Noused on her "ed amon# the $ur)e, Has to re$use
The ad=ecti e% &t makes her "lush% *O.
Here, it 0ould seem, 0e ha e the ictimi)ed postcolonial strikin# $or $reedom $rom lin#uistic centripetal oppression and co;option% &nterestin#ly, Seamus <eane has made the point that Field <ay7s raison d56tre has "een an in ol ement 0ith 'a particular e2perience o$ 0hat 0e may call translation(% Ho0e er, & 0ould disa#ree 0ith <eane7s notion o$ translation as de$ined "y a 'traumatic political and cultural crisis( 0hich causes 'indi iduals and #roups( to '$or#e $or themsel es a ne0 speech( *6G.% This ie0 seems to see translation as con$ined to tri"al or communal speechF it is the ne0 dialect o$ the tri"e talkin# to the tri"e% &t operates in a 0orld ie0 0hich sees sel$ and other in terms o$ a 'a clash o$ loyalties 0hich is analy)a"le "ut irresol a"le( *6G.: in other 0ords, an analo#ue o$ the manichean alle#ory% &t is a 0orld ie0 0hich sees the communities in Borthern &reland as condemned to 'rehearse positions $rom 0hich there is no e2it( *69.% &nstead, & 0ould see Heaney7s aim as rather a restructuration o$ lan#ua#e so that the tri"e can talk to the other throu#h an ackno0led#ement o$ the essential hy"ridity o$ discourse and lan#ua#e itsel$% & 0ould $urther su##est that this te2t is a classic e2ample o$ the type o$ postcolonial epistemolo#y 0hich & sa0 as implicit in Heaney7s earlier im"rication o$ te2t and conte2t% Here, ha in# set out his stall, he seems to $ollo0 a "inary oppositional course "y "e#inin#:
Caesar7s Britain, its partes tres, United En#land, Scotland, /ales, %ritannia in the old tales, &s common #round% 'i*ernia is 0here the Gaels Made a last stand !nd lon# a#o 0ere stood upon P End o$ simple history lesson% *O.
The $inal line si#nals more than the end o$ the 'simple history lesson(: it also si#nals the end o$ the politics and poetics o$ attenuation in this te2t% Ha in# seemed to delineate an in erted manichean alle#ory, "y e2posin# and reproducin#, in >oom"a7s terms the 'ideolo#ical and historical $unctionin#( o$ the colonial "inarisms, he #oes on to situate his seemin#ly 'simple history lesson( 0ithin a conte2tual $rame0ork 0hich complicates and trans$orms these simplicities, his o0n su"=ecti ity, and his trou"led relation to 'the ad=ecti e(, and, throu#h synecdoche, complicates and trans$orms notions o$ &rishness in a manner similar to his 69
plurali)in# o$ notions o$ En#lishness in his re ie0 o$ "he Penguin %oo& o) #nglish Pastoral 2erse% He "e#ins "y tellin# ho0 'ItJhis @British7 0ord E Sticks deep in nati e and colon( Iitalics originalJ *4pen O., 0ith the $inal term si#ni$yin# a French colonist, settler or planter% &mmediately, the attenuations o$ the 'simple( history lesson are "roadened and thickened throu#h the anastomosis o$ te2t and conte2t, and o$ sel$ and other% &reland does not ha e a monopoly on $eelin#s o$ ictimi)ation, and, in much modern theoretical discussion, the Francophone in$luence is stron#, so his use o$ this term is a 0ay o$ re$ractin# his o0n, and "y e2tension &reland7s, su"=ecti e e2perience o$ coloni)ation, throu#h a "roader European spatial conte2t% The conte2tual chronotope is also "roadened temporally in the earlier lines, as 'Caesar7s Britain( 0as itsel$ coloni)ed "y the Nomans, "e$ore it set o$$ on the coloni)in# and imperial trail% These complications set up a su"=ecti e oscillation in terms o$ the su"=ecti ity 0hich is speakin# in the poem% He does not see himsel$ as an heroic $i#ure here, his comparisons to the co0ardly Shauneen Keo#h, o$ "he Play*oy o) the $estern $orld, and to the indecisi e +% !l$red 5ru$rock and Hamlet ser e to render his te2t less o$ a return o$ the postcolonial repressed, and more o$ a sel$;1uestionin# o$ notions o$ su"=ecti ity and identity% He is more than a0are that his o0n credentials on the issue o$ nomenclature are $ar $rom pure% He reminds us that his 'an2ious muse( had "een called British "e$ore and had 'ac1uiesced( * 4pen O.% He is also a0are that his o0n 0riterly and pu"lishin# conte2t, as some"ody 0ho pu"lishes te2ts in '>NB and T>S E "he Listener(, in other 0ords, 0hose audience is 'Mia Fa"er, E ! British one(, 0ould seem to place him in the position o$ "ein# 'characteri)ed E !s British( * 4pen A.% &t is here that the te2tualEconte2tual anastomosis o$$ers a readin# o$ postcolonial su"=ecti ity that is truly trans$ormati e% Ha in# spelled out the British conte2t to his 0riterly su"=ecti ity, a conte2t 0hich is positi e in terms o$ its in$luence on his 0ork, and 0hich has clearly "ene$ited his production o$ te2ts, Heaney #oes on to enunciate another conte2t 0ithin 0hich he e2ists, and 0hich also permeates and penetrates his su"=ecti ity and his te2ts:
But don7t "e surprised &$ & demur, $or "e ad ised My passport7s #reen% Bo #lass o$ ours 0as e er raised To toast "he 7ueen% *A.
Here, a#ain, 0e see the interaction o$ te2t and conte2t, and 0e see the $urther trans$ormation o$ the 'simple history lesson( into a $ar more comple2 0ea e o$ in$luence and intersection% His sense o$ &rishness does not preclude any connection 0ith, or in$luence "y, the British tradition: it does, ho0e er, preclude any su"sumption "y that tradition 0hich does not allo0 it to enunciate its o0n alues and traditions% &t is the relationship o$ the t0o conte2ts, the conte2tual anastomosis, that 0ill e entually trans$orm "oth te2ts and su"=ecti ities into a ne0 openness o$ identity, an openness 0hich is presa#ed in the title o$ the pamphlet% &$ poetry is to "e o$ alue, Heaney has noted, it must a oid the 'consensus and settlement o$ a meanin# 0hich the audience $astens on like a security "lanket( * Government 688.% !s & ha e pointed out else0here, the pro"lems 0ith such 'consensus and settlement( are that the ery comple2ity and am"i#uity that are part o$ the $orce o$ poetry is denied and etiolated% &$ the security "lanket o$ a consensual meanin# is seen as somethin# to "e a oided, perhaps the "est 0ay to proceed is 'not "y thro0in# o$$ the "lanket alto#ether, "ut instead, to e2amine more closely the 0e$t and 0ea e o$ the te2tile o$ the "lanket so as to "rin# out the intersections, =oins and inter$usions that create the "lanket in 1uestion( *Prose 96.% This 0ea e 0ill disclose an on#oin# anastomosis 0hich counteracts the attenuations o$ the manichean alle#ory, and its postcolonial in erse, and instead enacts Miller7s notion o$ 'crossin#s, displacements, and su"stitutions, as inside "ecomes outside, outside inside, or as $eatures on either side cross o er the 0all, mem"rane or partition di idin# the sides( *Miller O.% Hence, the conte2t o$ -n 4pen Letter is more literary than political: the re$erences are "road in the e2treme 0ith o ert or co ert #estures to0ards the 0ritin# o$: Shakespeare, Eliot, Syn#e, Deats, /ilde, >arkin, <a ie, >a0rence, Hou#hton, +ordan, +oyce, Milton, Holu", Foucault, Horace, >i y, and Middle En#lish lyrics *this is "y no means an e2hausti e list.% The crossin#s and penetrations o$ such a "road ran#e o$ 0riters, lan#ua#es and conte2ts, are 0hat lead to the de$initions o$ sel$hood that constitute the te2t o$ this poem, and "y e2tension, o$ Heaney7s postcolonial readin# o$ the relationship o$ Britishness and &rishness% 5erhaps the most important point o$ the poem is the stress on the sin#ularity o$ the su"=ecti ity that is enunciatin# its opinion% This letter is $ocused on an indi idual: there is no #roup or proto;nationalist a#enda here: '&7ll stick to I% For#et the 3e( *4pen A.% He #oes on to cite the e2ample o$ Horace, the 6O
Noman poet 0ho $ou#ht at the Battle o$ 5hilippi in Bo em"er, G8 BC 0hich ended 0ith the rout o$ Brutus7s army and the suicides o$ "oth Brutus and Cassius%66 Heaney7s re$erence to Horace 0ho 'thre0 a0ay his shield to "e E ! naked I( *A. as 'e2emplary(, speaks olumes $or his notion o$ the role o$ the poet in such a political situation% To see Heaney as oicin# the ictimhood o$ &reland in this poem is to remain totally locked 0ithin a manichean notion o$ a simpli$ied colonialEpostcolonial epistemolo#y% His "roadness o$ conte2tual allusion, his purpose$ul inclusion o$ >i y7s cry o$ each man $or himsel$, and his citin# o$ Horace7s e2emplary act o$ thro0in# a0ay his shield so as to "ecome a 'naked &(, should con ince us that this poem is meant to end the 'simple history lesson( and instead, "e#in one 0herein the su"=ect, located 0ithin a "road conte2tual $rame o$ re$erence is, almost "y de$inition, plural, open and de$initely comple2, as opposed to sin#ular and sin#le;minded% The 'naked I( is crossed and tra ersed "y numerous conte2ts, and these are "rou#ht to#ether in an aesthetic as opposed to political anastomosis in his notion o$ 'a ne0 common0ealth o$ art( *A.% This ne0ness $ocuses the chronotope o$ -n 4pen Letter $irmly on the $uture% This poem, 0hile demurrin# at the possessi eness o$ the ad=ecti e 'British(, is ne ertheless 0illin# to #rant that aspects o$ Britishness are part o$ the conte2t that has created him as a te2t, as a su"=ect% /hat he o"=ects to are the ri#idities o$ a manichean "inarism 0hich says that one must "e either British or &rish, coloni)er or coloni)ed, sel$ or other, con1ueror or con1uered% Here, Heaney is tracin# out an ar#ument that is analo#ous to that o$ <errida, 0ho, speakin# a"out his early neolo#ism, di))!rance, notes that it is 'neither this nor thatF "ut rather this and that *e%#% the act o$ di$$erin# and o$ de$errin#. 0ithout "ein# reduci"le to a dialectical lo#ic either( *4ther 6L6.% & 0ould ar#ue that, "y e2tension, this is the "est epistemolo#ical option $or the postcolonial paradi#m, an option instantiated "y the case o$ &reland 0hich, pace the critical de"ate traced in the second section o$ this paper, is "oth colonial and postcolonial, ictimiser and ictim, similar to and di$$erent $rom, Britain% To cite the ethical theory o$ Emmanuel >e inas, 0hat Heaney is doin# in this poem is oicin# his sense o$ responsi"ility to the conte2ts 0hich ha e tra ersed and in$luenced him, and, importantly, 0hich he is no0 in a position, throu#h anastomosis, to tra erse and in$luence in his turn% Here one thinks o$ >e inas7s statement that 'IlJan#ua#e is "orn in responsi"ility( *1eader 48., implyin# that the responsi"ility in ol ed is to the other, to other traditions, other ideas, "ut most essentially other people% &$ postcolonialism is to ha e any ethical import, it 64
must a oid the attenuations and static "inary oppositions o$ the colonial manichean alle#ory, and its postcolonial in erse, and instead, attempt to "rin# sel$ and other into some $orm o$ intersu"=ecti e association 0herein a $orm o$ dialo#ue may "ecome possi"le% To "e a0are o$ the pro enance o$ the i ory in !usten7s metaphor is to understand that ci ili)ed e$$ects o$ten ha e $ar $rom ci ili)ed causesF to "e a0are o$ the source o$ the 0ealth o$ (ans)ield Par& is to come to a deeper understandin# o$ many o$ the characters o$ that no el, and o$ their social class, an understandin# that points to0ards the truth o$ the interaction o$ sel$ and other, and 0hich can only "e created "y a 'less "inary and alto#ether less "indin# oca"ulary( * Crediting 8,.% Such truth must, "y its ery nature, "e intersu"=ecti e, and it is search o$ such intersu"=ecti ely that Heaney locates his ie0s in -n 4pen Letter in such a "road spatial and temporal common0ealth o$ art% His 'naked I(, harks "ack to 'E2posure( in 0orth, 0here he pictured himsel$ as open to all in$luences:
!n inner Qmi#rQ, #ro0n lon#;haired !nd thou#ht$ulF a 0ood;kerne Escaped $rom the massacre, Takin# protecti e colourin# From "ole and "ark, $eelin# E ery 0ind that "lo0s% *O,.
&n his Channel Four inter ie0 0ith +on Sno0, on <ecem"er 8 nd 6AAA, the occasion o$ the da0nin# o$ de ol ed #o ernment in Borthern &reland, Heaney 0as asked 0hat he thou#ht he had to say to the unionist community, #i en his placement as a nationalist% Heaney7s reply demonstrates the political import o$ '$eelin# e ery 0ind that "lo0s(, o$ settin# up permeations and penetrations in the relationships "et0een te2t and conte2t, and sel$ and other% He said: & ha e al0ays thou#ht o$ the Unionist community as my P as part o$ me% & ne er said anythin# & think that 0asn7t true $or them too% & #re0 up in a small $armin# community, eye;to;eye 0ith 5rotestant nei#h"ours% & #re0 up 0ith 5rotestant nei#h"ours 0ho had a sense o$ humour, a sense o$ proportion% Bo0 it 0as rural and it 0as ritualised, the di ision% & 0ould say to the Unionist community that they ha e actually included the nationalist minority in their ima#inin# no0 and that is somethin# that is a radical chan#e% /hen & 0as #ro0in# up, &rishness as a alue 0as 0ritten out o$ the o$$icial culture, it 0as not present in the o$$icial media% The Unionist community to some e2tent 0ere in denial a"out the presence o$ other alues% &t 0as o$$icially =ust occluded% That 0as an enra#in# situation and part o$ 0hat has happened in the last ,- years or so, 6A
not only throu#h politics "ut throu#h culture and other areas, is the makin# o$ space $or that alue% Bo"ody7s in denial anymore% *&nter ie0. This, in essence, is the core o$ my ar#ument% To remain silent a"out the elephants 0ho die to produce the inch o$ i ory is 0ron#F =ust as to remain silent a"out the undou"ted su$$erin# and e2ploitation o$ the !nti#uan sla es 0ho contri"uted to Sir Thomas Bertram7s $ortune is also 0ron#% The return o$ such repressions into the discourse o$ culture is one o$ the a"idin# "ene$its o$ the postcolonial paradi#m% Ho0e er, i$ that paradi#m is not to $all prey to the in erted manichean alle#ory o$ 0hich 0e ha e "een speakin#, then postcolonial epistemolo#y must esche0 the mere in ersion o$ "inary oppositionsF the oicin# o$ repression should not in ol e the creation o$ an in erse repressionF instead, conte2t and te2t, sel$ and other, colonial and postcolonial must "e included in a dialo#ue 0ith each other 0hich has, as a teleolo#ical #oal, some $orm o$ intersu"=ecti e truth% &n terms o$ the epistemolo#y o$ the postcolonial, Heaney7s anastomosis o$ te2t and conte2t allo0s "oth perspecti es to "e enunciated, and o$$ers a '"othEand( as opposed to 'eitherEor( possi"ility 0hich allo0s each side o$ the "inary opposition 0hich is ultimately si#ni$ied "y sel$hood and otherness to interact, permeate each other and ultimately trans$orm each other in a manner 0hich can only "e o$ alue to $uture culture and society, and to notions o$ intersu"=ecti e truth% &n the search $or such truth, says >e inas, it is important that terms are clear, and that lan#ua#e in ol es a 'saying( that is an 'ethical openness to the other( * #thics 6AG., and it is in this conte2t that Heaney7s te2t is an 'open letter( at another le el: he is open to chan#e, "ut it is a chan#e that must respect "oth the te2t and conte2t o$ the indi idual su"=ecti ities% !s he puts it in the closin# lines:
Beed & #o on? & hate to "ite Hands that led me to the limeli#ht &n the 5en#uin "ook% & re#ret The a0k0ardness% But British, no, the name7s not ri#ht% Dours truly, Seamus% *6,.
Gettin# the names ri#ht is, at another le el, 0hat the anastomosis o$ te2t and conte2t in ol es: #rantin# a sense o$ respect to traditions, histories and conte2ts e en as 0e use them, or silence them, in di$$erent cultural te2ts% His notion o$ 'proper namin#( * 4pen 68. in ol es acceptin# responsi"ility $or the interactions o$ the past as 0e attempt to shape the chronotope o$ the 8-
$uture% Heaney7s readin# o$ the case o$ &reland is an e2ample 0hich postcolonial theory could 0ell $ollo0: throu#h anastomosis, te2t and conte2t, sel$ and other, are "rou#ht into mutually transactional discourse, and it is this discourse 0hich may yet lead to the #oal o$ comple2, di$$icult, intersu"=ecti e truth, a truth presa#ed "y +ames +oyce in ,innegans $a&e, as he addressed '$ullstoppers and semicolonials, hy"redsEand lu""erdsK( *698, 6L;6O.% &t is in such trans$ormations o$ sel$hood and otherness, ones 0hich ackno0led#e the past as a prelude to creatin# the $uture, that the postcolonial paradi#m can "est ser e &reland and all other e2amples o$ the colonial and postcolonial e2perience% Finally, as a mimetic instantiation o$ this type o$ postcolonial epistemolo#y, 0e can do no "etter than look at the openin# o$ Heaney7s recent translation o$ the !n#lo;Sa2on epic poem, %eo3ul)% This 0ork, pro"a"ly the $irst canonical te2t o$ the En#lish literary tradition, the tradition 0hich #a e rise to +ane !usten, "e#ins 0ith the e2clamation 'H0Rt(% Traditionally, this has "een translated as 'lo0(, 'hark(, '"ehold(, 'attend( or 'listen(% Heaney, ho0e er, "rou#ht his o0n sense o$ a trans$ormin# o$ "oth &rishness and En#lishness to this 0ord "y translatin# it as 'so( * %eo3ul) 22 ii.% His e2planation $or so doin# is as potent an e2ample o$ the political and cultural alue o$ the anastomosis o$ 0hich 0e ha e "een speakin# as can "e ima#ined, as sel$ and other, &rish and En#lish, coloni)ed and coloni)er inter$use and trans$orm each other7s discourse% He speaks o$ relations o$ his $ather7s called Scullions, on 0hose name he had punned, callin# them '"i#; oiced scullions(, as 0hen they spoke, 'the 0ords they uttered came across 0ith a 0ei#hty distinctness(, as 'phonetic units( 0hich 0ere '0ei#hty and de$ined( *22 i.% /hen he "e#an to translate %eo3ul), and to ask himsel$ ho0 he 0anted the 0ords to 'sound in IhisJ ersion(, he $ramed the lines in 'cadences that 0ould ha e suited their oices, "ut that still echoed 0ith the sound and sense o$ the !n#lo;Sa2on( *22 ii.% Here, the anastomosis o$ En#lish literature and &rish e2perience #a e rise to a ne0 "e#innin#, a conte2tually "ased trans$ormation o$ a te2t that o$$ers, "y e2tension, a paradi#m $or the interaction o$ colonial and postcolonial:
&n Hi"erno;En#lish Scullion;speak, the particle 'so( came naturally to the rescue, "ecause in that idiom 'so( operates as an e2pression that o"literates all pre ious discourse and narrati e, and at the same time $unctions as an e2clamation callin# $or immediate attention% So, 'so( it 0as% *2 ii.
So, the openin# si#ni$ier o$ this $oundational En#lish te2t has "een trans$ormed "y the complicated conte2tual anastomosis o$ its translator, 0ho, himsel$, is a comple2 product o$ di$$erent conte2ts% But, most importantly, his searches $or ans0ers ha e "een conducted 0ith an open mind, open to the possi"ilities that can accrue $rom a discourse 0hich is $ocused on the $uture% So, postcolonial epistemolo#y 0hich adopts this perspecti e 0ill a oid the attenuations o$ the manichean alle#ory, and its in erse, and instead, 0ill take the le#acy o$ the past and trans$orm it% !s Heaney has put it in 'The Settle Bed( a poem $rom his olume Seeing "hings: 'an inheritance( is $rom 'the lon# a#o(, and yet it can "e made '0illa"le $or0ard E !#ain and a#ain and a#ain( *84., "ecause: '0hate er is #i en E can al0ays "e reima#ined( *8A., and this is the postcolonial paradi#m that & 0ould see as "ein# o$ alue in the case o$ &reland, and "eyond%
• (O)*S &I$E+:
!ndre0s, Elmer *ed%. *6AA4. "he Poetry o) Seamus 'eaney% &con Critical Guides Series% Cam"rid#e: &con Books% !shcro$t, Bill, Gareth Gri$$iths and Helen Ti$$in *6A4A. "he #mpire $rites %ac&% >ondon: Noutled#e% !shcro$t, BillF Gri$$iths, GarethF Ti$$in, Helen *eds. *6AA9 "he Postcolonial Studies 1eader % >ondon: Noutled#e% !usten, +ane *6A46. (ans)ield Par&% First edition, 646G% >ondon: Harmonds0orth% Bakhtin, Mikhail *6A46. "he 8ialogic Imagination. ,our #ssays% Translated "y Caryl Emerson and Michael Hol1uist% !ustin: Uni ersity o$ Te2as 5ress% Barrell, +ohn and +ohn Bull *eds. *6AO9. "he Penguin %oo& o) #nglish Pastoral 2erse% >ondon: Harmonds0orth% Bha"ha, Homi *6AAG. the location o) culture% >ondon: Noutled#e% Boehmer, Elleke *6AA9. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature% :2$ord: :2$ord Uni ersity 5ress% Corcoran, Beil *6AA4. Seamus 'eaney9 First pu"lished in 6A4L >ondon: Fa"er% Curtis, >% 5% +r *6AL4. -nglo:Sa;ons and Celts. - Study o) -nti:Irish Pre<udice in 2ictorian #ngland % Brid#eport, CT: Uni ersity o$ Brid#eport% Curtis, >% 5% +r *6AO6. -pes and -ngels. "he Irishman in 2ictorian Caricature% /ashin#ton: Smithsonian &nstitution 5ress% <eane, Seamus *6AA-. &ntroduction to 0ationalism, Colonialism, and Literature9 Minneapolis: Uni ersity o$ Minnesota 5ress% <errida, +ac1ues *6AOL. 4) Grammatology% Translated "y Gayatri Chakra orty Spi ak% >ondon: +ohns Hopkins 5ress% <errida, +ac1ues *6A46. Positions% Translated "y !lan Bass% >ondon: !thlone% <errida, +ac1ues *6A46. 8econstruction and the 4ther, in Nichard Kearney *ed%. *6AA9. States o) (ind: 8ialogues 3ith Contemporary Continental "hin&ers% Manchester: Manchester Uni ersity 5ress% <errida, +ac1ues *6A44. Limited Inc% Translated "y Samuel /e"er and +e$$rey Mehlman% E anston, &llinois: Borth0estern Uni ersity 5ress% <errida, +ac1ues *6AA8. '>i in# :n • Border >ines( in 8econstruction and Criticism *6AA8. Bloom et al, pa#es O9;6OL% Hall, Stuart *6AAG. 'Cultural identity and <iaspora( in 5atrick /illiams and >aura Chrisman *eds. Colonial 8iscourtse and Postcolonial "heory. - 1eader % Be0 Dork: Colum"ia Uni ersity 5ress, 6AAG, ,A8;G-,% Heaney, Seamus *6AO9. 0orth% >ondon: Fa"er% Heaney, Seamus *6A4-. Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1=>?:1=@?% >ondon: Fa"er% Heaney, Seamus *6A4,. -n 4pen Letter% <erry: Field <ay 5u"lications% Heaney, Seamus *6A44. "he Government o) the "ongue. "he 1=?> "9S9 #liot (emorial Lectures and 4ther Critical $ritings % >ondon: Fa"er% Heaney, Seamus *6AA6. Seeing "hings% >ondon: Fa"er% Heaney, Seamus *6AA9. Crediting Poetry9 :ldcastle, County Meath, &reland: Gallery 5ress% Heaney, Seamus *6AAA. &nter ie0 0ith +on Sno0 Broadcast <ecem"er 8, 6AAA, Channel G Be0s: special report: ho0 0e li e no0% /e" address: http:EE000%cGn%co%ukEsrEsr%pa#esEsr6O%no0Esr6O%menu%htm% Heaney, Seamus *6AAA. %eo3ul)9 >ondon: Fa"er% +aco"y, Nussell *6AA9. 'Mar#inal Neturns: The Trou"le 0ith 5ostcolonial Theory(, Lingua ,ranca, Septem"erE:cto"er, ,-;,O% +anMohamed, !"dul *6AA9. 'The Economy o$ the Manichean !lle#ory(, "he Postcolonial Studies 1eader *6AA9. edited "y Bill !shcro$t, Gareth Gri$$iths and Helen Ti$$in% >ondon: Noutled#e, pa#es 64;8,% :ri#inally pu"lished as 'The Economy o$ the Manichean !lle#ory: The Function o$ Nacial <i$$erence in Colonialist >iterature(, Critical In+uiry, 68, 6: pa#es 9A;4O%
+oyce, +ames *6AO9. ,innegans $a&e% First pu"lished 6A,A% >ondon: Fa"er and Fa"er% Kearney, Nichard *ed%. *6AA9. States o) (ind: 8ialogues 3ith Contemporary Continental "hin&ers% First pu"lished in 6A4G% Manchester: Manchester Uni ersity 5ress% Ki"erd, <eclan *6AA9. Inventing Ireland. "he Literature o) the (odern 0ation % >ondon: +onathan Cape% >e inas, Emmanuel *6A46. #thics and the In)inite in Nichard Kearney *ed%. *6AA9. States o) (ind: 8ialogues 3ith Contemporary Continental "hin&ers% Manchester: Manchester Uni ersity 5ress% >e inas, Emmanuel *6A4A. "he Levinas 1eader% Edited "y S% Hand% :2$ord: Basil Black0ell% >oom"a, !nia *6AA4. Colonialism/Postcoloniaslism% 0e3 Critical idiom Series% Editor +ohn <rakakis% >ondon: Noutled#e% >loyd, <a id *6AA,. -nomalous States. Irish $riting and the Postcolonial (oment % <u"lin: >illiput% Macauley, Thomas *6AA9. (inute on Indian #ducation, "he Postcolonial Studies 1eader *6AA9. edited "y Bill !shcro$t, Gareth Gri$$iths and Helen Ti$$in% >ondon: Noutled#e, pa#es G84;G,-% First pu"lished in Speeches o) Lord (acauley 3ith his (inute on Indian #ducation , selected 0ith an introduction and notes "y G% M% Doun#% :2$ord: :2$ord Uni ersity 5ress% Miller, +% Hillis *6A4O. "he #thics o) 1eading. Aant, de (an, #liot, "rollope, Bames, and %en<amin % The /elleck >i"rary >ectures% Be0 Dork: Colum"ia Uni ersity 5ress% Morrison, Blake and !ndre0 Motion *eds. *6A48. "he Penguin %oo& o) Contemporary %ritish Poetry% >ondon: Harmonds0orth% Murphy, !ndre0 *6AAL. Seamus 'eaney% /riters and Their /ork Series% 5lymouth: Borthcote House in association 0ith the British Council% :7Brien, Eu#ene *6AA4. "he 7uestion o) Irish Identity in the $ritings o) $illiam %utler Ceats and Bames Boyce% >ampeter, /ales: Ed0in Mellen 5ress% :7Brien, Eu#ene *6AAA. 'Seamus Heaney7s 5rose: Preoccupying 7uestions( $riting Ulster. 0orthern 0arratives, edited "y Bill >a)en"att, Bum"er L, GA;LO% Said, Ed0ard *6AA-. 'Deats and <ecoloni)ation( 0ationalism, Colonialism, and Literature9 Minneapolis: Uni ersity o$ Minnesota 5ress, LA;A9% Said, Ed0ard *6AA,. Culture and Imperialism% >ondon: Chatto and /indus% Mendler, Helen *6AA4. Seamus 'eaney% >ondon: Harper Collins% Molosino , M% B% *6AO,. (ar;ism and the Philosophy o) Language% Translated "y >adisla Mate=ka and &% N% Titunik% Be0 Dork: Seminar 5ress% /alcott, <erek *6AOG. 'The muse o$ history( in :rde Coom"s *ed%. Is (assa 8ay 8eadD %alc& (oods in the Cari**ean% Be0 Dork: <oul"eday% /att, &an *ed%. *6AL,. Bane -usten. - Collection o) Critical #ssays9 "3entieth Century 2ie3s % En#le0ood Cli$$s: 5rentice;Hall% /illiams, 5atrick and >aura Chrisman *eds. *6AAG. Colonial 8iscourse and Postcolonial "heory. 1eader% Be0 Dork: Colum"ia Uni ersity 5ress% /ol$reys, +ulian *6AA4. 8econstruction E 8errida% Transitions Series% >ondon: Macmillan%
& 0ould like to thank Sine McElhinney $or proo$readin# this paper, and $or her on#oin# support o$ my 0ork% &nterestin#ly, in their second colla"oration, "he Post:Colonial Studies 1eader, pu"lished in 6AA9, the su"=ect o$ &reland is entirely a"sent $rom the inde2, "ut $i#ures as the topic on one article, 0hich is three pa#es lon#, and deals 0ith Shakespeare7s 'enry 2 and the ne#ati e de$inition o$ &rishness contained therein% &n percenta#e terms, &reland as topic $i#ures in -%L6T o$ the "ook% &n 6A88, a$ter a prolon#ed #uerrilla 0ar, t0enty si2 counties o$ &reland "ecame the &rish Free State, 0hile the remainin# si2 counties separated $rom the $ormer, and "ecame 0hat is no0 kno0n as northern &reland% For a detailed discussion o$ pluralist aspects o$ identity in the 0ork o$ Deats and +oyce, see my "he 7uestion o) Irish Identity in the $ritings o) $illiam %utler Ceats and Bames Boyce % This issue has "een studied "y Curtis, >% 5% +r in his -nglo:Sa;ons and Celts. - Study o) -nti: Irish Pre<udice in 2ictorian #ngland, and -pes and -ngels. "he Irishman in 2ictorian Caricature% Elmer !ndre0s, in his Icon Critical Guide to Heaney7s 0ork, makes $re1uent use o$ his prose in order to e2plain the "ackdrop o$ many o$ the poems% The same is true o$ Beil Corcoran7s study 0here he sees Heaney7s second collection o$ essays, "he Government o) the "ongue, as a companion to some o$ the poems in "he 'a3 Lantern, 0ith @the essays sometimes $leshin# out in discursi e terms 0hat the poems encode more o"li1uely7 *6AA4, 6,4.% !ndre0 Murphy, in his recent "ook, uses passa#es $rom Preoccupations as a #loss in his readin#s o$ 1e+uiem )or the Croppies *6AAL, ,6;8.% Naymond /illiams 0rote o$ pastoral poetry and con entions in "roadly similar terms in his "he Country and the City, and Heaney sees this "ook as in many respects a @companion olume7, incorporatin# @most o$ the te2ts he re$ers to and underlinin# or e2tendin# his discussion o$ them7 *Heaney 6A4-, 6OG.% Strictly speakin# @conte2t7 is a co#nate o$ @te2t7, "ut & contend that the e2ample is still a alid one, 0orkin# as it does "oth syntactically, semantically and etymolo#ically 0ith @te2t7 deri in# $rom the >atin $or $a"ric or structure 0hile @conte2t7 deri es $rom the >atin $or @to 0ea e to#ether7 or @compose7% Bakhtin used this term to si#ni$y @the intrinsic connectedness o$ temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically e2pressed in literature7% He sa0 it as a @$ormally constituti e cate#ory o$ literature7 *Bakhtin 6A46, 4G.% This point, made in the @!$ter0ard7 o$ Limited Inc%, is part o$ 0hat can "e seen as a rede$inition o$ one o$ deconstruction7s central a2ioms @&l n7y a pas de hors;te2te7 *<errida 6AOL, 694. as @&l n7y a pas de hors conte2te7 *<errida 6A44, 6,L.% Simon Critchley has an in$ormati e discussion o$ this point in his "he #thics o) 8econstruction, ,6;G,% For the in$ormation on Horace, and on the classical conte2t 0hich his name si#ni$ies 0ithin this poem, & am inde"ted to <r !nthony G% Cor"ett o$ Uni ersity Colle#e Cork $or sharin# some o$ his e2pertise on such matters *and on many others. 0ith me%
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