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Affecting Irishness

Negotiating Cultural Identity Within and Beyond the Nation

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Edited By James P. Byrne, Padraig Kirwan and Michael O'Sullivan

This collection of new essays addresses a key debate in Irish studies. While it is important that new research endeavours to accommodate the new and powerful manifestations of Irishness that are evident today in our globalised economy, these considerations are often overlooked. The writers in this book seek to reconcile the established critical perspectives of Irish studies with a forward-looking critical momentum that incorporates the realities of globalisation and economic migration.
The book initiates this vital discussion by bringing together a series of provocative and thoughtful essays, from both renowned and rising international scholars, on the vicissitudes of cultural identity in a post-modern, post-colonial and post-national Ireland. By including work by leading scholars in the fields of film studies, migration and Diaspora studies, travel literature and gender studies, this collection offers a thorough twenty-first-century interrogation of Irishness and provides a timely fusion of international perspectives on Irish cultural identity.

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Subversive Identities: Femininity, Sexuality and ‘Irishness’ in Novels by Edna O’Brien Iris Lindahl-Raittila 179

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Subversive Identities: Femininity, Sexuality and ‘Irishness’ in Novels by Edna O’Brien Iris Lindahl-Raittila Although since the early 1960s novelist and playwright Edna O’Brien has frequently been in the media spotlight, having drawn the attention of crit- ics, journalists, film-makers and TV producers, for decades her reputation remained that of a popular writer of autobiographical novels and short sto- ries, often bordering on the unsuitable, and even belonging at the margins of respectable literature. After a positive reception of her first two novels, The Country Girls (1960) and The Lonely Girl (1962), which allowed critics such as Sean McMahon to enjoy O’Brien’s ‘fresh, unselfconscious charm’ her ‘acute observation of life’ and her ‘ribald sense of humour’ (1967, 79) in her narrative of the young Irish girls Caithleen Brady and Baba Bren- nan, a number of her books – starting with the third part of the trilogy, Girls in their Married Bliss (1964), which focused on the same two female protagonists – were harshly criticised and dealt with either in formalistic terms or in terms of ‘sex’.1 For decades, critics tended to focus on what Peggy O’Brien has termed ‘the promiscuity which has become a hall-mark of O’Brien’s writing’ (1987, 486), at times even referring to her texts as ‘gift- wrapped porn’ or ‘literary masturbation’ (quoted in Pelan, 71).2 Since both the Irish Censorship Board, which banned a number of Edna O’Brien’s novels in the 1960s on grounds of obscenity, and many critics seemed for a long time to be blinded by the...

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