• Rural Waterscape and Emotional Sectarianism in Accounts of Lough Derg, County Donegal

    James L. Smith (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Environmental Humanities, History, Place Studies, Religious Studies
    Pilgrims and pilgrimages, Ireland, History, Rural conditions, Emotions, Water
    Item Type:
    Lough Derg, Rural Landscape, Cultural biography of places, Environmental humanities, Pilgrimage, Irish history, Rural history, History of Emotions
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    The story of Lough Derg in Ireland’s County Donegal is arranged around clusters of sectarian narratives in juxtaposition, synthesis and conflict. The Sanctuary of Saint Patrick sits on Station Island, a small rocky islet set within the waters of the lake. The site became well known in the early Middle Ages as the place of Saint Patrick’s delving of a cave that led to purgatory, allowing the sinner to experience a glimpse of the torments of hell while still in this life. The island then attracted pilgrims from all over Europe and became embedded into the Catholic literary and spiritual imagination. After the Protestant Ascendency and the Plantation of Ulster began in the seventeenth century, the place became a site of tension and narrative clashes between differing visions of rural place, each with its own spectrum of affect, emotions and ideals. This essay unpacks the resonances of Lough Derg as a site of sectarian narrative by 1) situating the discussion within a distinctly rural context; 2) adding the unique properties of spiritual waterscape to the discussion; and 3) discussing the Irish sectarian narratives and identities arising from the lake and its purgatorial isle. It focuses on a case study of Protestant and establishment accounts of the lake during the nineteenth century, depicting them as internally diverse as well as part of a larger ecology of sectarian contestations. It explores waterscape and its role in influencing community responses to and shaping of place, the manner in which sectarian responses to space are internally diverse, and the manner in which Catholic and Protestant narratives of place have intertwined to shape the lake in the twenty-first century.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago


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