The last decades of the twentieth century witnessed the emergence of what we might call the ‘spatial imagination and the growing realization of its absolute centrality to human experience. This development is not only connected with the growth of widespread scepticism towards history in general and institutionalised historiography in particular, but also with a number of factors which have combined to put pressure on the historicism which has dominated western critical/cultural institutions since the nineteenth century. Besides reinvigorating fields (such as geography and built environment) traditionally concerned with the social, cultural and political organisation of spatial practices, the spatial imagination also began to make itself felt in less obvious disciplines.
While a number of recent books have addressed the historical and political framework of the Atlantic archipelago, the focus of this volume is on cultural practices within that context - an area in which there is less work done. Although both the Scots-Irish Research Network and the Research Institute in Irish and Scottish Studies have produced excellent multidisciplinary research, it would appear that scholars are still most confident when working with identifiable cross-border connections - such as neglected political networks in Scottish and Irish history, for example, or in shared cultural frameworks - than tracing intersections in contemporary culture and literature. We hope therefore that this book contributes to critical analysis which, whilst acknowledging the hard-won specificity of concerns in writing from different geographical locations, also moves beyond the diachronic formation of national literatures and cultures.