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Over the following nine months we met regularly in workshops and meetings to research information, exchange views, and create photographs. We created photographs in a black and white darkroom, used digital cameras, and experimented with ways to create images about the issues we feel strongly about. Over time, each participant delved deeper and deeper into exploring a specific theme providing the basis for the creation of their Collaborative Self-Portrait.

Examining Lesbian and Gay Experiences of Homophobia in Northern Ireland

To be queer in Northern Ireland is to live in one of the most homophobic places in Western Europe. Let Us Eat Cake speaks out about the fact that although changes for the better have taken place, much more needs to be done. Instead I propose we seek out moments of pleasure and let them stand beside moments of pain, to do justice to the myriad of affective states expressed by Northern Irish writers. The focus will be on the depiction of pleasure, particularly sexual, to see whether these texts offer new ways of being an erotic subject in the changed political climate, or whether the sexual charge still lies in the fissures of unresolved conflict.

However, there could be the suggestion that this is merely replacing one set of ossifying representations for another, and expecting the erotic to be a political agent. Instead, we can think of the experiments of pleasure as moments which do not have to stand for anything else but themselves. Pleasure is an easy metonym when it is written in purely orgasmic terms, that is as an end in itself.

The space between desire and the traditional ideas of satiation through climax can be written as an experimental place of connection and collaboration.

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These moments cannot be forced into dominant reading paradigms but can, instead, be aberrations in texts which have been read as straightforwardly political. Literature and culture are sites where we consume for pleasure but also see pleasure represented. That is, to follow Roland Barthes, both the pleasures in the text and the pleasure of the text. To write about bliss can be radical, but to examine everyday intimate life in culture might also reveal a great deal.

One encounter can waver between these modes and as we slip in and out of our heads and bodies. The challenge for this criticism is how to attend to the present moment and also gesture towards futurity. Culture can respond to this imperative: it can move beyond this paradigm, be haunted by it or develop new forms of writing about intimate life.

It is, of course, complex to foreground pleasure while still acknowledging and respecting the years of suffering in Northern Ireland.

Queering Conflict

Ireland, North and South, has a complex judicial and cultural relationship to pleasure in addition to the mainstream biopolitics by which populations are managed. The Good Friday Agreement inaugurated a consociationalist political economy that relies on the tacit agreement that neither community has their political wishes fully satisfied.

More so than most political settlements, the terms of Power Sharing in Northern Ireland have relied upon leaders from both communities claiming victory when, in truth, it was impossible to fulfill both national desires concomitantly. The status quo is maintained as long as both parties are satisfied with being dissatisfied.

The political power of sexuality in the Northern Irish experience has been detailed by Clair Wills, in Improprieties When the denial of sexual autonomy and bodily rights is one of the few things Northern Irish political parties have in common, small worlds of sustenance, small intimacies, can be radical.

As critics, we must embrace these improprieties as moments of pleasure that can refute totalising narratives of power and rethink the power of cultural depictions of intimate life. While that is in keeping with the highly stylised noir aesthetic of his crime fiction, the representational optics are clear: in these fictions, it is often the historical context that is imbued with an erotic charge.

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When it has occurred, Northern Irish textual pleasure has had a distinct focus on the male orgasm. This responds to the legacy of moral conservatism and silence around sexual violence in Northern Ireland But, to draw attention to representation of politically-charged sexuality is a certain kind of exceptionalism which ignores kinship with the exploration of this topic by both British and Irish authors. Compared to Northern Ireland, then, authors from Britain and Ireland are equally engaged in placing pleasure alongside political and social concerns.


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We have swinger nights down at The Oul Cross. In this play, Cowan clearly sets out to excavate the secret pleasure seekers from suburban Northern Ireland and to expose the hypocrisy of the way in which the repression of sexuality is used for political gain. The bombings. The Riots. The unemployment. Great stuff Finally, the rational, restrained Tommy breaks down his reserve and shares a tactile erotic memory:.

I remember the reflection of the fire in your pupils and thinking how fucking beautiful you were However, the taboo over homosexual relationships is strong in both communities. In a society riven by male-dominated violence and religious conflict, LGBT people at the very least would be wary about exploring their sexuality, and certainly emotions of guilt shaped and directed their lives, freedom of action and sense of agency In many ways, the structure of the play is fairly conventional: Cowan employs realism in his short scenes over experimental techniques.

However, this initial violence is transformed into something approaching real intimacy or, at least, as much as the stage allows. The violence of the Troubles keeps intruding after intimate interludes, as public political life steps on private intimacies. However, these moments of pleasure and queer potential with the narrative do not signal queer futurity.

His novels are almost exclusively set in Northern Ireland and deal with various periods of history, whether the decades long sweep on Number 5 , the birth of the Civil Rights movement in The International , 19th-century shipbuilding in The Mill for Grinding Old People Young and the DeLorean factory in Gull Yet, despite these ambitious engagements with history, all of these novels have been replete with intimate moments. All of these novels, even when they deal with the violence of the Troubles, feature characters who experience pleasurable moments.


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Patterson also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Good Vibrations , one of the most notable expressions of Northern Irish joy on screen. This, however, is to miss the texture and the complexity of his writing, which treats pleasure with the same narrative power as political violence. The Rest Just Follows deals with a broad swathe of history from the s to the present day and offers a variety of pleasurable encounters.

The novel spans the adolescence to middle age of Maxine, St John and Craig and is filled with nostalgic detail, from cigarette brands to fashion and film. While diverse sexual encounters are woven throughout the narrative, other connections are also foregrounded.