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Publication Date

2011-05-04

Availability

UM campus only

Embargo Period

2011-05-04

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2011-04-14

First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy

Second Committee Member

Pamela Hammons

Third Committee Member

Tim Watson

Fourth Committee Member

Heather Ingman

Abstract

This dissertation examines how contemporary Irish women writers dismantle national conceptions linking Irish women to the hearth and home by offering an alternate version of women’s lived experience, which nationalist ideologies have simplified. I consider how these writers define “home”—the domestic, the familiar, the intimate—as complicated by sexuality, exile, and violence. Using Freud’s theory of the uncanny as a lens, I analyze how these writers question established social relations in order to uncover uneasy relationships to self, home, and homeland. In my project, postcolonial theory and transnational feminisms, coupled with trauma theory, facilitate the contextualization of the uncanny as a response to the hybrid identities, dislocations, and effects of violence on gender roles within the nation. The first two chapters examine Edna O’Brien’s later fiction, which unsettles conceptions of the nation by emphasizing the experiences of marginal figures, thereby questioning who belongs within the nation’s borders. The next two chapters on the fiction of Jennifer Johnston and Mary Beckett reveal how the crossing of the public into the private sphere exposes a paradoxical homespace that is both haven and prison for rich Anglo-Irish Dubliners and working-class Catholics in Belfast. The final chapter on Kate O’Riordan’s novels explores issues of exile, alienation, and trauma through a multi-generational lens, revealing how memories of “home” and fraught parent-child relationships at once hinder and facilitate identity formation. In the epilogue, I briefly discuss how contemporary Irish poetry could address the issues raised by the works of fiction examined in my project.

Keywords

Edna O'Brien; Jennifer Johnston; Mary Beckett; Kate O'Riordan; contemporary Irish women's fiction; gender and national identity

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