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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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Chapter 2: Cultural Change 35

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Chapter 2 Cultural Change In this chapter I look at the way in which Irish has been used as a signi- fier of authenticity by the Irish government and by conservative elements within the state. I will explore Irish socio-linguistic reality as an antidote to this monocular, essentialized view of the language and the people living in Ireland. Irish is one among many languages spoken on the island of Ireland; it no longer occupies a binary relationship with English, undercut- ting the construction of an essential, singular identity. This chapter calls for recognition of a bilingual continuum in Ireland, an awareness which encourages us to see that identity is a process rather than a stable entity. Bilingualism and by extension multilingualism can help us to negotiate dif ferences within society and within ourselves. Language concerns and gender concerns overlap; because translation and bilingualism facilitate self/other engagements, it is valuable to explore how contemporary Irish women writers are using them. An examination of the relationship between Ireland’s two central literary traditions underlines the way in which postcolonial criticism has been largely anglocentric. This chapter suggests that translation is an ideal way to celebrate and inhabit the duality of the Irish literary tradition and more importantly, of fer a way out of obsessive repetition of the past by re-energizing the original culture and language. 36 Chapter 2 Socio-linguistic history During the nineteenth century a seismic linguistic change occurred in Ireland, the aftershocks of which are still felt today. The majority of Irish...

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