Thursday, May 25 • – 8
An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) (Colm Bairead, 2022) has reopened the debate about the place of the Irish language in Irish society, and in the arts. Post-independence, the partial and contested re-establishment of the Irish language has put it at the center of highly charged debates about Irish identity and politics. The limited existing critical work on the film discusses it in the framework of the success or failure of the state’s language policy. Neither the politics of the film – an intimate family drama in 1980s Ireland – nor of the decision to shoot in Irish have been deeply examined.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of ‘minority’, and its expression in the fields of minor literature and minor cinema, explicitly rejects the reification of an oppressed identity that often comes with an explicitly political adoption of a minorized language. Yet in An Cailín Ciúin Irish exists in perpetual relationship with English. Set in both the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking communities) and in English-speaking Ireland, the characters navigate the affective, institutional, commercial, political and interpersonal factors determining their interchanging use of both languages. The use of Irish emerges within Ireland’s linguistic space as a site of open contestation of a framework of control and power both within the family and within the state.
In this paper I ask whether An Cailin Ciuin is a work of minor cinema in Deleuzian terms, and whether it can point towards an emancipatory linguistic politics of huge contemporary relevance in Ireland.
Niall Kennedy is a specialist in modern French philosophy, particularly the philosophy of literature, film and the arts. He's currently working as a lecturer in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and writing his first book, on Deleuze and the author.