Accent in Contemporary Irish Film
University College Cork
(at time of presentation)
Nicholas O'Riordan is a PhD Film Studies candidate under the supervision of Dr. Barry Monahan at University College Cork, where he is also an undergraduate tutor in the School of English and a board member of the Alphaville Journal of Film Studies. Prior to this he completed a BA in English and Geography, and an MA in Film Studies, both in UCC, where his MA thesis was titled 'Dublin's Fair City?: Representations of Dublin City in Contemporary Irish Film'. His research interests include Irish cinema, urban space in cinema, sound and the voice in cinema, and representations of national identity in cinema. He also works as a filmmaker.
Accent is one of the most intimate and powerful markers of group identity and solidarity as well as of individual difference –Hamid Nacify
My paper examines the position of accent in contemporary Irish film, with a particular focus on cinematic Dublin. Looking at several key texts from the new wave of Irish film, I will analyse these categories to explore the representation and ideological application of accents as semiotic categories in recent cinema.
Over the past 25 years there has been a notable shift in accent in the country, with South Dublin widely recognised as the nexus of a ‘new accent’. Robert Moore claims that the new Dublin accent is one which “nobody in the country would claim as their own”, having “no community of ‘native speakers,’ only people who are pretending to be something they aren’t”, an accent which has been created to dissociate the speaker from local Dublin. When one considers that “many features of ‘local Dublin English’ go back further than the 17th century” there is an implication that as this accent is far more historically, socially and geographically rooted, that it, and its speaker are therefore more ‘authentic’. As Geoff Nunberg writes, “our idea of an authentic accent reflects our idea of an authentic self”, I therefore intend to examine the use of accent as an ideological device in the respective films, by challenging the methods, modes and motivations behind the ways in which “authenticity” becomes an ideologically-empowered semiotic and textually-performative device, and by analysing the ways in which the formation of recorded cinematic accents have been unproblematically yoked to notions of “authenticity”.