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Irish Women Writers

New Critical Perspectives

Series:

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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Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin

Extract

‘The seeds beneath the snow’: Resignation and Resistance in Teresa Deevy’s Wife to James Whelan This chapter will explore female agency and recalcitrance in one of Teresa Deevy’s lesser known plays, Wife to James Whelan. Teresa Deevy submitted this three-act play to the Abbey Theatre in 1942 and it was immediately rejected by Ernest Blythe. This refusal marked the end of Deevy’s close rela- tionship with the National Theatre Society.1 Despite her status as an Abbey playwright and later as a dramatist for the national radio station, most of Deevy’s plays are out of print and despite some recent attention she is little known outside of specialist circles.2 The erasure of female dramatists from the mainstream literary canon and the marginalisation of women’s cultural production in general have been commented on and challenged in recent years (Murray 1995; Kelleher 2001; Trotter 2000). Wife to James Whelan itself was published for the first time in the Irish University Review in 1995. It is a drama that is concerned with class, gender and power relationships in a small rural community in Munster. The play follows the fortunes of a group of friends over an eight-year period. In Act I of Wife to James Whelan, Deevy introduces a group of friends aged between late teens and early thirties. The two key protagonists, James Whelan and Nan Bowers, are both wilful and independently-minded 1 During the 1930s, Deevy had six plays produced by the Abbey Theatre. 2 Apart from occasional chapters in general edited...

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