Second Time Round: Fugal Memory in Ciaran Carson’s For All We Know

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The influence of musical traditions on Ciaran Carson’s work has long been noted. Carson’s use of fugue forms, especially in For All We Know (2008), however, suggests a different, and perhaps more political, relation to form than can be found in his earlier collections. As can be seen with comparison to the work of Paul Celan, Carson uses fugue to navigate through what Pierre Nora calls the ‘fundamental opposition’ between memory and history. The doubling and repetition inherent to fugal forms provide a way to reconceptualise the past, highlighting the interrelation of multiple corresponding voices. Carson, like Celan, uses fugue to approach historical moments that resist language, and in so doing reconceptualises the demands the past makes on the present, and the ability of language to reflect those demands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalReview of Irish Studies in Europe
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Ciaran Carson
  • Paul Celan
  • Poetry
  • Northern Irish poetry
  • music
  • fugue
  • memory


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