Testimonial ‘Sideshadowing’: The Narrative Hospitality of Medbh McGuckian’s Blaris Moor

Main Article Content

Jessica Bundschuh


In her recent volume, Blaris Moor (2016), Medbh McGuckian becomes ‘facilitator’ of cultural memory in three poems about the Northern Irish Conflict and Bloody Sunday, ‘The Statement of My Right Honourable Friend’, ‘The Questioning of Soldier L’ and ‘Telltale’. Herein, readers encounter a patchwork of eyewitness accounts and interlocking histories with multiple points of agency and dynamic causation. Significantly, these poems refrain from embracing any single history as inevitable; instead, they employ the literary trope of ‘sideshadowing’ to dialogically displace a predictable, closed-off universe. As a result, McGuckian may welcome contingencies and unplottable possibilities, in contrast to a determinism implicit in foreshadowing or backshadowing. This technique is especially useful in artistic responses to the Troubles, since it avoids a teleological historical model that regards tragic events simultaneously as inevitable – the culmination of a long history of suppression – and, contradictorily, as predictable and, therefore, easily avoidable. Lastly, McGuckian’s decision to bring opposing orthodoxies into an unruly dialogue aligns the poet with the museum curator: both construct diverse narratives built out of contested testimonies and historical artifacts and both, thereby, honour the ethics of ‘narrative hospitality’, a cornerstone of ethical remembering in Northern Ireland.

Keywords: narrative hospitality, sideshadowing, trauma theory, communal witnessing, Bloody Sunday

Article Details

How to Cite
Bundschuh, Jessica. 2021. “Testimonial ‘Sideshadowing’: The Narrative Hospitality of Medbh McGuckian’s Blaris Moor”. Review of Irish Studies in Europe 4 (2):101-20. https://doi.org/10.32803/rise.v4i2.2818.
Author Biography

Jessica Bundschuh, University of Stuttgart

Jessica Bundschuh is a Lecturer in English Literatures and Cultures at the University of Stuttgart. She has a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. She has published on Irish performance poetics and transnational ekphrastic poetry. Her publications have appeared in Poetics Today, The Paris Review, Columbia Review, The Los Angeles Review, Poem Unlimited: New Perspectives on Poetry and Genre, Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment and Literary Imagination. Her current research project is on the Irish prose poem.