Deviations from the known route: Writing and walking in Ciaran Carson's Belfast

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Considered as a whole the work of Ciaran Carson is perhaps distinguished above all by its sheer miscellaneity, but within this catholic remit of interests the city of Belfast continues to occupy a central place, manifesting itself in complex and various forms. Disclosing a dialectic of recollection and revision at its centre, Carson's work balances a desire to record everything about the city, and thereby to know Belfast in its totality, against the necessity of knowing it in terms of its provisional details and contingent multiplicity. This fundamental tension can be explored through his variations upon the theme of walking in the city, a mode of perceiving and navigating urban space that precludes any privileged position of detached objectivity in favour of active engagement in the writing and re-writing of the city-text. Moreover, I argue that whilst Carson's writing contains unusally sophisticated representations of Belfast as both labyrinth and panopticon, walking in the city also implies for him an utopian spatial politics through which resistance to state surveillance and paramilitary terror might be both imagined and effected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages14
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2008


  • Ciaran Carson
  • Northern Irish poetry
  • urban writing
  • spatial politics
  • Belfast


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