I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Rude Mechanicals?

Rude Mechanicals?

David Blake Knox
The Sound of the Shuttle: Essays on Cultural Belonging & Protestantism in Northern Ireland, by Gerald Dawe, Irish Academic Press, 200 pp, €18.95, ISBN: 978-1788551069 The Sound of the Shuttle is a collection of a dozen essays written by the poet and academic Gerald Dawe between 1983 and 2019. The essays have been arranged in a rough chronological order, but there are some exceptions to that rule. The opening essay, for example, is dated 1985-93, but there is no further indication of how it might have been worked upon or developed over the course of those eight years. The sixth essay is dated 1983, and comes immediately after one that is dated 1992-96. This arrangement might be more understandable if it represented the uneven or hesitant evolution of a critical analysis. While there are some points of reference to the dates when the individual essays were written ‑ often, relating to the review of a book ‑ there is relatively little internal development of Dawe’s central themes. Indeed I think the essays might be published in a different sequence without any significant loss of meaning or effect. Dawe’s objectives in writing this book are identified in its sub-title: “Essays on Cultural Belonging & Protestantism in Northern Ireland”. The value and pertinence of that description might also be questioned: the whole notion of “cultural belonging” is clearly a pretty loose and highly subjective concept. It is also applied by Dawe to issues that are not confined to Ulster. Similar questions could be raised by the book’s claim to be addressing “Protestantism in Northern Ireland”. In fact there is almost nothing that is written by Dawe about the current or historical nature of the various Protestant faiths that can be found in Ulster. Those reformed churches can evince displays of ecstatic emotion as well as featuring the close study of biblical texts. Their cultural impact has been great and comparable to that of Catholicism in other parts of Ireland, but that history does not inform any of these essays. Instead Dawe treats “Protestantism” as a form of shorthand for cultural rather than religious identity. There are obvious reasons for doing so, but also some limitations in the approach, and the term may need some basic definition if it is to prove an effective means of analysis. Dawe’s essays sometimes refer to Southern Protestants, but, insofar as there is an all-Ireland Protestant community, it…

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