Wired Island: Irish Literature & Global Energy Networks

This book will investigate how the concept of electricity has emerged in Irish writing since James Joyce and how its representations have been influenced by the evolution and prevalence of global networked communications. As the first study of depth concerning the concept of energy transitions in Irish literature, paper makes an important step in literary scholarship by exploring the connections between digital-global communications and the ecological imagination in Irish writing.

Discussing the texts of Joyce, Beckett, Heaney, Carson, and Muldoon, the book will explore in each writer’s works interconnections among energy networks and communication networks, with emphasis on the construction of Irish writing from the 1940s to the 2010s in relation to these global transitions. This follows an historical trajectory from the political and social transformations of Ireland in the 1920s, a period marked by a changing national identity in relation to global connectedness, through to the current era characterised by far-reaching and ubiquitous networks of communication and globally shared resources.

Points of focus range from the conceptual convergence of national electrification and grammatical network construction in Finnegans Wake, to dissociated networks of electricity production and consumption in Heaney’s poems, to Carson’s invention, in poetry and prose, of the hypertextual urban centre emerging of complex, electrical communications circuits. The investigation is largely grounded within literary theory and criticism, but integrates related research and theory from disciplines including media, sustainability studies and complexity studies.  Its theoretical basis draws from works by Katherine Hayles, Tesse Morris-Suzuki, James Clifford and George Marcus to explore technological impacts on changing communications paradigms and cultural anthropology.

Key historical moments include the Irish government's hydro-electricity scheme on the Shannon which engendered the electrification of the country between 1925 and 1929, the electrification of Northern Ireland up to the 1960s, the Celtic Tiger phenomenon in the 1990s-2000s, and the smart energy economy of the 2010s.


N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (University of Chicago Press, 1999); Tesse Morris-Suzuki, The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History (London: Verso, 2005); James Clifford and George E. Marcus, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).