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Irish Women Writers

New Critical Perspectives


Edited By Elke D'hoker, Raphaël Ingelbien and Hedwig Schwall

After a decade in which women writers have gradually been given more recognition in the study of Irish literature, this collection proposes a reappraisal of Irish women’s writing by inviting dialogues with new or hitherto marginalised critical frameworks as well as with foreign and transnational literary traditions. Several essays explore how Irish women writers engaged with European themes and traditions through the genres of travel writing, the historical novel, the monologue and the fairy tale. Other contributions are concerned with the British context in which some texts were published and argue for the existence of Irish inflections of phenomena such as the New Woman, suffragism or vegetarianism. Further chapters emphasise the transnational character of Irish women’s writing by applying continental theory and French feminist thinking to various texts; in other chapters new developments in theory are applied to Irish texts for the first time. Casting the efforts of Irish women in a new light, the collection also includes explorations of the work of neglected or emerging authors who have remained comparatively ignored by Irish literary criticism.


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Lucy Collins


Joyful Mysteries: Language and Spirituality in Medbh McGuckian’s Recent Poetry The oblique nature of Medbh McGuckian’s poetic strategies is well doc- umented. Most challenging, perhaps, are the inexplicable shifts in sub- ject position by which the representation of experience within the poem becomes fragmented. This disintegration is immediately felt in the lin- guistic slippage that is characteristic of McGuckian. John Lucas has criti- cised her language for its self-defeating transitions, and there is a sense of wilful obscurity in much of her work that raises issues about the kinds of meaning she wishes to suggest or uncover. It is precisely these ‘tran- sitions’, however, that are among the keys to her method. Her poetry is both disturbing and striking by virtue of its ability to displace established meanings, to remove the interpretative centre, to shift between forms and positions while at the same time not explicitly denying their validity. It is a movement that ensures constant re-creation of form and meaning, as an earlier poem ‘Mazurka’ suggests: ‘A newly-understood poem will melt / And be hard again’ (1988: 22). For Danielle Sered, this process is essential to McGuckian’s achievement: ‘[she] comes to regard the breakdown of language and all its attendant breaches as a source, rather than limit, of her poetic voice’ (2002: 273). Medbh McGuckian thus puts immense strain on her words, insist- ing on layers of meaning that may be scarcely available to the reader, yet the tone never strives after the momentous: as Eamon Grennan remarks, ‘[t...

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