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Title:Embodying the nation: Post-colonial Irish women's fiction
Author(s):Onkey, Lauren Elizabeth
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hurt, James R.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:Irish literary criticism has long been interested in the politics of literature and its role in decolonizing Irish culture, but it has assumed such a strict separation between public and private that "women's issues" have not been considered political topics in Irish literary history and therefore women's writing has been profoundly neglected. The inclusion of women writers demands that we rewrite Irish literary history under a broader definition of "politics," attending to how women writers blur the oppositions--Protestant/Catholic, public/private, colonizer/colonized--that have underwritten their neglect to date.
My introductory chapter maps the intersections of nationalism, colonialism and gender in post-colonial Ireland. After the 1922 partition of Ireland, southern nationalist discourse defined "Irishness" according to conservative Catholic doctrine. I argue that nationalists developed a vigorously masculinized discourse in response to the English construction of the colonized Irish as weak, romantic, and hence feminized. Barring women from power by literally controlling their bodies through legislation became part of the post-colonial assertion of Irish identity.
Successive chapters study how women novelists registered and subverted such repression; I first examine Anglo-Irish novelist Molly Keane and her rewriting of the Big House novel, the predominant woman's genre of pre-independent Ireland. I read Keane's novels as an extended critique of how Anglo-Irish women were expected to exemplify the culture's superiority by following the rules of "good behaviour," which demand excessive control of the female body. From the 1930s to the 1960s, a period devoid of feminist political activity in Ireland, the novels of Kate O'Brien and Edna O'Brien provide a crucial examination of Catholic nationalist attitudes towards women's bodies. Both writers depict Catholic Ireland as hostile towards young women who assert--or even acknowledge--their sexuality; indeed, the Irish Censorship Board banned several of their novels for their depictions of female sexuality.
Prompted by U.S. feminism and the Northern Irish civil rights struggles, women's movements emerged in the north and south in 1970. The political movements inspired a large number of women writers. My remaining chapters examine the impact of feminism on the work of novelists who write within an explicitly feminist community. They redefine Ireland as a place where women's traditional roles can be challenged and reshaped.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Onkey, Lauren Elizabeth
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512503
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512503

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