BEGINNING A TRADITION: IRISH WOMEN'S WRITING, 1800-1984 (EDGEWORTH, JOHNSTONE, KEANE, IRELAND).
AuthorWeekes, Ann Owens
KeywordsWomen authors, Irish -- History and criticism.
Irish fiction -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
AdvisorAiken, Susan Hardy
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn search of an Irish women's literary tradition, this dissertation examines the fiction of Irish women writers from Maria Edgeworth in 1800 to Jennifer Johnston in 1984. Contemporary anthropological, psychoanalytical, and literary theory suggests that women, even those of different cultures, excluded from public life and limited to the domestic sphere, would develop similar interests. When these interests ran counter to those of the dominant group, the women would have had to develop a technique to simultaneously express and encode these interests and concerns. This technique in literature, and specifically in the writers considered, often results in a muted plot. On the overt level the plot reifies the values and tenets of the establishment, but, at the muted level, the plot often expresses contradictory and subversive values. In 1800, Maria Edgeworth employs a "naive" narrator who both expresses male disinterest in the awful situations of the women he depicts and also distances the author from any implied criticism of this male perspective. Edgeworth combines her subtle expose with a critique of the desires encoded as "human," but actually merely "male," in canonical literature. At the end of the nineteenth century, E. OE. Somerville and Martin Ross again use an arguably deceptive narratorial device, as does Molly Keane in 1981. Elizabeth Bowen employs a more subtle narratorial device in The Last September, but one which still distances the author from her text. The re-vision of texts, literary and historical, indeed the re-visioning of history, recurs in Bowen, Keane, Kate O'Brien, Julia O'Faolain and Jennifer Johnston. Finally, one can trace similarities of both theme and technique over the whole period, despite the modifications of time and social change. We can also point to the major thematic and structural change which occurs when, in the past ten to fifteen years, writers have reversed the placement of muted and overt plot.