Troubled Boundaries: Corporeal and Territorial Transgression in Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008) and ’71 (Yann Demange, 2015)

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Abstract

The legacy of the Troubles is still patently visible in Ireland, whether in the ubiquitous graffiti of the ‘IRA’ in Dublin, the still-standing peace walls which divide many Catholic and Protestant areas in the North, or the success of the Belfast hip-hop trio KNEECAP, whose anti-British songs have amassed hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify. This period has never been absent from contemporary national discourse and, in fact, exists in living memory for the majority of the Irish. Brexit and the passing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate John Hume in August 2020 have only reinvigorated discussions on the Troubles, the IRA and the Northern Irish peace processes, in which Hume was a central figure.
This paper presents a critical approach to the Troubles within a Gothic framework. This mode has long articulated anxieties engendered by the irresolvability of contested histories, territories and memories. I argue that the films Hunger and ’71 use Gothic narrative structures and motifs to negotiate the emotionally and ideologically loaded Northern Irish conflict. Gothic themes in these films include racialised sectarianism, territorial ownership, compromised boundaries (national, architectural and corporeal), suffering and entrapment within literal and figurative ‘mazes’ (whether ’71’s narrow Belfast streets or the Maze Prison/Long Kesh in Hunger). Formally, the Gothic comes to the fore in each film’s preoccupation with the unspoken and the visually untrustworthy. Both films rely on fractured chronologies and flashbacks to re-present lingering Northern Irish personal and collective traumas. I position Hunger and ’71 as essential components of an ongoing process of trauma negotiation in regards to the deep-set cultural wounds of the Troubles. The Gothic is deployed as a lens through which to interrogate an unresolved regional history of socio-political conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
Number of pages16
JournalGothic Studies
Volume25
Issue number1
Early online date1 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Colonial occupation
  • Gothic
  • Northern Ireland
  • cultural trauma
  • regional cinema
  • the Troubles

Research Centres

  • International Centre on Racism

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