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Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)
English (Arts and Sciences)
Date of Defense
First Committee Member
Patrick A. McCarthy
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
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.
Edna O'Brien; Jennifer Johnston; Mary Beckett; Kate O'Riordan; contemporary Irish women's fiction; gender and national identity
Slivka, Jennifer A., "Strangers at Home: Threshold Identities in Contemporary Irish Women’s Writing" (2011). Open Access Dissertations. 534.