Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border

Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border

Characters and Community
Ray Cashman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/23/2011
Format: Paperback 21 b&w photos, 3 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22374-6
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Winner, Chicago Folklore PrizeWinner, Donald Murphy Award, American Conference for Irish Studies

More than quaint local color, folklore is a crucial part of life in Aghyaran, a mixed Catholic-Protestant border community in Northern Ireland. Neighbors socialize during wakes and ceilis—informal nighttime gatherings—without regard to religious, ethnic, or political affiliation. The witty, sometimes raucous stories swapped on these occasions offer a window into Aghyaran residents’ views of self and other in the wake of decades of violent conflict. Through anecdotes about local characters, participants explore the nature of community and identity in ways that transcend Catholic or Protestant sectarian histories. Ray Cashman analyzes local character anecdotes in detail and argues that while politicians may take credit for the peace process in Northern Ireland, no political progress would be possible without ordinary people using shared resources of storytelling and socializing to imagine and maintain community.

Author Bio

Ray Cashman is Associate Professor in the Department of English and the Center for Folklore Studies at Ohio State University.


“In a mixed Catholic-Protestant border community in Northern Ireland, where folklore is crucial to life, local character anecdotes offer a window into community and identity in the wake of decades of violent conflict and change. "It is rare to read a book so clearly and intelligently expressed. . . . [A]n important contribution to both the study of Irish folk culture, and to the study of artistic speech." —Jack Santino, Bowling Green State University”

“Winner, Chicago Folklore Prize Winner, Donald Murphy Award for Distinguished First Book, American Conference for Irish Studies”

“It is rare to read a book so clearly and intelligently expressed. . . . [A]n important contribution to both the study of Irish folk culture, and to the study of artistic speech.”
 — Jack Santino, Bowling Green State University

“[S]tudents will find it immensely useful in providing them with concepts and terminology which will broaden their vision and sharpen their research and analytical skills. A beautifully written, shapely book, it is a pleasure to read. And it is packed with brilliant new ideas and observations about storytelling, people, community, and life.”
 — Béaloideas: The Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society

“Intelligent, eminently readable, highly personal without being self-indulgent . . . a model for responsible, highly skilled, humanistic field research.Autumn 2009”
 — New Hibernia Review

“[P]rovides a powerful demonstration of the social role and function of folklore . . . [and] deserves a much wider readership among those involved in the study of conflict resolution or of Irish history more generally.December 2010”
 — Folklore

“An intriguing read for those interested in folklore, ethnography, and the role of stories in shaping a community. . . . Recommended.July 2009”
 — Choice

“Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border has broad, multi-disciplinary appeal and is a worthy contribution to any folkloristic, anthropological, or celtic Studies library. Although the book assumes a significant level of folkloristic knowledge, it is accessible and does not exclude a non-academic audience.”
 — Journal of American Folklore

“[A] compelling book.November 2013”

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Table of Contents

Preface: The Road to Ballymongan
1. Goals and Orientations
2. Aghyaran: A Sense of Place and History
3. Ceilis as Storytelling Contexts
4. Wakes as Storytelling Contexts
5. Local Character Anecdotes
6. The Wider Range of Storytelling Genres
7. Anecdotes and the Literary Character
8. Anecdotes and the Local Character
9. Anecdote Cycles and Personality Traits
10. Patterns and Implications
11. Storytelling, Commemoration, and Identity