With the publication of The Wild Irish Girl in 1806 Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) inaugurated the national tale, a worldly and impure genre that operates out of a performative notion of representation. Building out of romance tropes and protoethnographic discourse, the national tale relocates the scene of cultural encounter, confounding the distinction between "over here" and "over there" in order to move the modern metropolitan subject/reader into a potentially transformative relation of proximity. Familiar categories come under pressure as the English protagonist/reader is transported to Irish ground, unhinger from familiar space, and subjected to disconcerting encounters that bring about a certain self-estrangement. Through its tactics of displacement, the national tale (practiced by Maria Edgeworth and Charles Robert Maturin as well as by the pioneering Morgan) brings about a troubling of the imperial narrative. Modern critics too often have ignored the destabilizing energies present in this neglected genre.
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