Writing DeTermiNation: Reading Death in(to) Irish National Identity



Leopold Bloom in Ulysses tells us that ‘a nation is the same people living in the same place’ (Joyce 1969, 329). Nation is in this formulation dependent on a homogeneity of both space and people, an identity which is constituted against difference, against those who are not the same, who are other. When Ned tests Bloom’s definition, Bloom revises the insistence on place, saying now that a nation is the same people living in different places. The physical or topographical identity of a nation is now insignificant. It is the mental space of the nation, the sameness of people, an imagined community, since they are no longer gathered physically in the same place, that is important. Not only is the nation the same people, but it is the same people living. Bloom conceives of the nation as an identity that can only be living, which cannot therefore include death. Death is the other of ‘people living’. Death exists outside the borders of the nation. As the end of ‘people living’, death marks the end of the nation, and therefore constitutes the space of the nation in its very otherness to that space. Bloom’s nation is. It lives. And yet only becomes apparent at the border, when the difference against which the nation is constituted is waiting ‘on the other side’.


National Identity Golden Eagle Double Step Funeral Rite Irish People 
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  1. 2.
    Raymond Gillespie, ‘Funerals and Society in Early Seventeenth Century Ireland’, JRSAI, Vol. 115 (1985): 86–91.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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