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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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Sylvie Mikowski


Deirdre Madden’s Novels: Searching for Authentic Woman Feminist studies have unearthed huge metaphysical questions as to what exactly we mean when we use the word ‘woman’. Are we referring to a stable, universal, eternal entity, endowed with definable, precise characteristics that can be listed and checked? Or are we rather talking of a number of norms and stereotypes that society invented and imposed, and then sought to pass of f as natural? If one is at a loss to define what a woman is, we swim in even murkier waters when we try to assert or deny the existence of a specific language or literary form of expression that would without doubt distinguish women from men. Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous have both attempted to define and exemplify of what they call écriture féminine. Even though Julia Kristeva has rejected the idea of such a feminine writing, she has nevertheless developed the opposition between the semiotic and the symbolic, so as to emphasise how the symbolic order may be subverted by re-introducing the repressed semiotic in language. Judith Butler has added further complexity by establishing a clear-cut distinction between sex and gender. For Butler and other poststructuralist writers, gender is the oppressive result of a social process; it is ideological, in the sense that it tries to pass social arrangements of f as natural; Butler’s exact word is that gender is ‘performative’: it is an act, not a thing, something we do rather than something we are....

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