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No Man’s Land

Irish Women and the Cultural Present

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Sarah O'Connor

This book explores bilingualism and translation in contemporary women’s writing. The author argues that the ‘in-between’ or interstitial linguistic areas of bilingualism, translation and regionalism provide a language and imagery suitable for the expression of a specifically female consciousness. Throughout the book, she draws on the work of writers and critics in both Irish and English to construct a new method of reading Irish women’s writing in the latter half of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first. These bold new readings demonstrate that the concept of interstitiality or the ‘in-between’ can enrich our understanding not only of Irish women’s literature in itself but also of the culture that produces this literature.

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Introduction 1

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Introduction In 1971, American feminist writer and critic Adrienne Rich called for a new psychic geography for women writers. For writers, and at this moment for women writers in particular, there is the challenge and promise of a whole new psychic geography to be explored. But there is also a dif ficult and dangerous walking on the ice, as we try to find language and images for a consciousness we are just coming into, and with little in the past to sustain us.1 In this study, No Man’s Land: Irish Women and the Cultural Present, I will argue that the in-between linguistic areas of bilingualism and translation provide a language and imagery suitable for the expression of Rich’s new consciousness. My title emphasizes the spatial elements in my research while also gesturing towards my concern with contemporary Irish women’s literature. Throughout this book, I draw on the work of writers and crit- ics in both Irish and English to construct a new method of reading Irish women’s writing in the latter half of the twentieth and early years of the twenty-first centuries. Interstitiality refers to the many in-between spaces in Irish women’s literature that I have identified whether, linguistic, formal or textual. This method suggests that the concept of interstitiality or the in-between can enrich our understanding of the writings themselves and of the culture that produces them. The in-between can become a theatre, a symbolic space that women physically delimit and from which they challenge society. Using reader- response...

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