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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

The Defacement of Irish Modernism

16th November 2016, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr Barry Shiels

An Inventions of the Text seminar.

All welcome. After the seminar, we will head to the Victoria Inn (next to Hallgarth House) for further conversation and drinks with the speaker. You are also welcome to join the speaker for dinner afterwards, but please reply to by Nov 12 to let the organiser know.


In this paper I offer my take on the question of what a red face means in literature; specifically, given the odd position of Irish-ness within the history of English sentiment, I want to think about what an Irish red face means. To do this I shall consider the discursive history of the blush as it has made itself felt on the different faces of Irish modernism.

Today, when we consider the face at all, we tend to think not so much about traditional portraiture, and more about technology -Facebook, Face-time, face recognition- as well as reiterations of older debates regarding the status of the veil and the gender politics of facial exposure. Such contemporary concerns, however, remain inexorably tied to questions of reading, where the face communicates itself as plot device and character function, signifying age, race, class, and the lines of desire that create the temporality of a narrative. Through exploring the figure of the blush, I shall argue that there is a progressive defacement at work in the canonical texts of Irish modernism, that there are cultural reasons for this, but also aesthetic and narrative consequences which continue to be of relevance to how we read.

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