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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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Giovanna Tallone

Extract

‘Once Upon a Time’: Fabulists and Storytellers in Clare Boylan’s Fiction Emma Brown (2003), Clare Boylan’s last novel, is in many ways a novel about telling stories. Out of the few existing pages of a fragment by Charlotte Brontë, Boylan developed a complex story with many secondary characters and dense subplots. The plot centres around the revelation of the secrets of three major characters. ‘I have a strange story to relate’, says Mr Ellin to Mrs Chalfont (Boylan 2003: 87) and each character in turn tells a story, a fragment from his or her own past. In several of Boylan’s other works too, storytelling functions as a catalyst. It is part of the plot and of the structure of her novels and stories and it constitutes a recurring motif with multi- ple implications. Boylan’s fiction has been appreciated for its humour and sarcasm, for its attention to the world of children and ‘the pain of growing up’ (Gray 1984: 18) and for dealing with ‘abiding preoccupations’ such as ‘marriage’, ‘the relationship between mothers and daughters’, and ‘the pros- pect of old age’ (Kelly 1999: 209). Yet, as I hope to show in this chapter, an analysis of her treatment of storytelling can provide further insights into the whole corpus of her stories and novels. The recurrence of storytelling and storytellers in Boylan’s fiction is particularly striking when one considers the realistic stance of her writing. In general, her work portrays a hostile environment in which the relations between men and...

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