The Amergin Step: explorations in the imagination of Iveragh

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Bushe, Patrick Joseph
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University College Cork
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This work is a creative act of pietas, of homage and of gratitude towards the place where I have lived for almost half a century. It is an engagement with aspects of the literature of the southwestern end of the Iveragh peninsula. All of the places I explore lie within a twenty-kilometre radius of where I live, in Waterville, on the shores of Ballinskelligs Bay/ Bá na Scealg. I use the term literature in the broadest possible sense. Essentially, I include anything that gives verbal – and occasionally non-verbal – expression to an imaginative engagement with place. I include, for example, mythology, folklore, toponymy, archaeology, hagiography, travel writing, historical writing, topographical description and other categories. The work, however, is neither scholarly nor comprehensive. This is not only because I am not a scholar in any of these areas, but because I wanted to allow myself speculative and imaginative freedom of which scholars would rightly be wary. I do however have a respect bordering on awe for scholarly work, and I draw freely, in more than one sense, on the work of scholars, some of whom I am privileged to call friends. The work is not comprehensive because I wanted to concentrate on those aspects of the imagination of place which have engaged my own imagination, and my poetic work, for many years. At the same time, although this was not my intention when I embarked on the work, it is a contextual exploration and presentation of aspects of my own poetic output, in both Irish and English, over the last thirty-five years. A further dimension that underlies the work is my belief that our engagement with and nurture of what I think of as the imagination and memory of place is an essential element in how we protect and nurture the place where we live, in both the global and local sense. An ecologically committed philosophy cannot be concerned only with the physical environment. Our very survival, it appears, depends on an urgent recalibrating of our relationship with our environment, a move from that relationship being exploitative to being sympathetic, in the fullest sense of that word. We are unlikely to effect this move unless we have an imaginative relationship with our surroundings. Hence my title, The Amergin Step. Just before Amergin uttered his incantatory statement of identification with his surroundings, he stepped onto the shoreline. A step into a renewed imaginative identification with our environment is, I hope, part of what happens in this work. The work in its entirety consists of four main chapters, as well as a prologue and coda. For the purposes of this thesis in Creative Writing – which is limited to 80,000 words – the prologue, the first two of the main chapters and the critical commentary should be regarded as the thesis proper, with the remaining two chapters, the coda and my translation of Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire then to be read as appendices.
Place , Literature in the broadest sense , Ecological philosophy , Contextual exploration of author' own poetry , Bilingualism (Irish and English)
Bushe, P. J. 2021. The Amergin Step: explorations in the imagination of Iveragh. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.