Act of union

Irish literature has had a tendency towards representing Ireland as raped woman. This feminisation of Ireland has a history in the Aisling tradition of Irish poetry. Seamus Heaney’s “Act of Union”, from his 1975 book of poetry, North, challenges this dominant nationalist idea through his manipulation of the sonnet form to complicate Northern Irish nationalists’ views of their history. A study of this poem reveals the close interconnectedness of form and content in coming to understanding of its meaning. The sonnet form is conventionally associated with love poetry, yet Heaney has adopted it to construct a sexual union that is violent with possible rape connotations. The use of the sonnet form contradicts the common notion of England’s conquer of Ireland being a rape, instead it gives the appearance that it was consented by Ireland The uses of a sonnet causes (much like many of Heaneys’ work) an ambivalence to the meaning of the poem. Heaney does not let the reader settle on a particular view in which the poem supports. Heaney presents ideas and question to his audience. Was it in fact a rape? At some points during the poem he appearance to support the rape view “Beat at your boarders and I know they’re cocked at me across the water. No treaty,” then at other parts he seems to deny this view “conquest is a lie.” The sonnet form adds greater strength to it not being a rape, because at some point they were in love. The form causes the reader to believe that it was not a rape; this is also supported by the use of the persona Heaney’s use of persona is particularly interesting in it is a personification of England, and it is through this persona that Heaney complicates the nationalist view of colonisation as a rape. By presenting this idea through the perspective of England Heaney offers a new dimension to the argument. Through England’s perspective it was not rape, which presents the audience with the question is it still rape even if England was under the impression that it was not. The use of person is very interesting because Heaney is seen as a nationalist but by using England as the person once again he has been able to offer an ambivalent view. The use of England as the persona also offers the audience an unusual insight into how England viewed themselves as innocent “beyond your gradual hills. I caress the heaving province where our past has grown.” Through this passage we see how England thought that both parties were involved in their “relationship.” The use of metre goes against the persona displaying how England did conquer and rape Ireland. Heaney’s occasional departures from the conventional meter of the sonnet form serve to draw attention to the conception of a feminised Ireland at the mercy of male violence. By placing stresses on the word “male” or words that show the dominance of England Heaney is trying to present how England held great power over Ireland. This lack of power by Ireland also gives them the appearance that they were innocent and had to deal with what ever hardships were thrown upon them by their male partner England. In the second stanza as the relationship begins to shatter, the reader is able to identify England’s male cruelty coming through “and I am still imperially male, leaving you with pain.” Here the audience is able to identify how the stress is placed on the word male and England begins to assert its dominance. This supports this notion of rape; even if it was consented in reality Ireland had no power to stop it even if they wanted to. Ireland was forced to agree because of their lack of power. Seamus Heaney’s “Act of Union”, from his 1975 book of poetry, North, challenges this dominant nationalist idea through the use of persona, metre and the manipulation of the conventional sonnet. Seamus Heaney does not settle on wether Ireland was raped or not, he presents both ideas in his poem to allow the reader to decide for themselves. He uses the Aisling tradition of Irish poetry to do this effectively.

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Explain how the opening of Remembering Babylon orients the reader towards its main ideas and conflicts

The opening chapter of Remembering Babylon orients the reader towards the main ideas and conflicts by the construction of Gemmy and through the relationship of the blacks and whites. Gemmy is in fact a white man, but has the appearance and savage look of a black man, thus he does not belong to any culture. This lack of belonging will set up the conflict later in the story. Through the characterisation of Gemmy the author is able to portray the hostility between the blacks and whites. The language used in the opening chapter also plays a large role in portraying the hostile nature between the separate cultures. “We’re being raided by the blacks. After so many false alarms it had come” this demonstrates that even the children in the white society from a very young age were taught to be fearful of the blacks. These views that are being displayed represent the values and attitudes that were present in society at the time when this novel was set.


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Colonialism: Is the ideology or set beliefs that promote the system.

Post-Colonialism:  Is a post modern discourse that refers to the set of literary and cultural theories that emerged after colonisation.

As Australians our context has a large influence on the way we interpret text, because of how we were colonised. The Europeans have been the cause of our cultural colonisation. Australians colonial history was influences by relationships between the British and Irish Eg. Ned Kelly.

WARNING: Although there is a lot of theory that can be taken from this topic, make sure not to get lost in it (theory should amplify your ideas not direct them).

Reading Practises:

–         Reading in terms of genre

–         We read literature in terms of aesthetic

–         We read in terms of character

–         We relate in terms of character

–         We relate to text through our own experiences

–         We use what we need to develop theories about human behaviour


Power: Is the inequality in relationships. Michel Foucault believed that power is the distributed by three factors Truth, Knowledge and Authority.

Post-colonialism interrogates the power relationship is established by the colonialism.


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The true history of ned kelly

The novel The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey was published in the year 2000. The novel re-tells the life of the Australian icon Ned Kelly, through a letter to which he is writing to his daughter. This novel offers a view of Australian society that many readers may not be familiar with. The injustice towards foreigners is a view that we can see is being constructed through the novel with such themes as lawlessness, violence and corruption. These themes are constructed by the narrative conventions of point of view, plot, language and characterisation. The language used in the novel has great effect upon how the reader interprets the story.

The language used in the novel allows the reader to sympathise with the Kelly family and portray the themes of corruption in the Australian society. The reader sympathises with the Kelly family because of their oppression by the English who are the cause for the corruption in the society. In this novel the English are given great amounts of power but by the language used the reader can determine that this power is misused “the most powerful man I ever saw and he might destroy my mother if he so desire.” Here the reader is able to establish that justice played no role in conviction, if one desires to imprison another for no reason they were able to do so. “What did we ever do to them that they should torture us like this?” The English tortured the Irish for no other reason then racism; this corruption allowed them to cause people to be “ripped” from their homes. Phrases such as “Red jowled creature the Englishmen” and “Their tortures” position the reader to respond negatively to the English, as though they are some sort of vulgar creature. Other phrases used in this extract cause us to sympathise with the Kelly family come from the fact that they are poverty stricken  “flour sack pillow.” The lack of correct punctuation in the extract is used to display how Ned Kelly was uneducated and illiterate. The language and characterisation of the story also encourages the reader to look at what it means to be a man.

The novel uses language and conflict in order to question what it means to be a man in society. The use of Ned’s mother in conflict with his fathers helps the author question what is masculinity. In this extract we see ideas of Macbeth being used as Lady Macbeth questions Macbeths Masculinity for he will not disobey the law; here is a similar idea that is being raised by Ned’s mother and father “you are a coward she cried”…. “but she would not give up and neither would my father turn against the law.” Through this quote we are able to see the similarities present in both text, where the women questions the man’s masculinity because they have to do the ‘dirty work.’ This idea of masculinity is questioned numerous times throughout the extract as we see Ned’s mother perform a man’s job because his father was not there “to deliver it because her husband were absent.” Through this extract we the see the author develop the meaning of Australianism.

The story is about Ned Kelly and his life; but Ned Kelly is an Australian icon who represents what is means to be an Australian. Through this extract we see the author develop the idea of what it means to be Australian through the characters and plot. Ned Kelly and his family endured great hardships and although he was a criminal he continued to strive for justice and to stand up for what he believed in. Many Australians believe this to be a quality in which most Australians have, viewing themselves as a just nation. Although the English in this extract are indeed Australians too, the reader has a tendency not to agree with this because they do not display the Australian attitude that many like to believe our society is based upon.

The True History of the Kelly by the author Peter Carey was published in 2000. To properly understand the underlying meaning of the story the reader must look closely at the narrative conventions of characterisation, language and conflict. The ideas of what it means to be Australian and a male are present in the extract and supported by the narrative conventions used.

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