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No Man’s Land

Irish Women and the Cultural Present


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 5: The Dancers Dancing: ‘in between, the in between, the in between,that is the truth and that is the story’ 89


Chapter 5 The Dancers Dancing: ‘in between, the in between, the in between, that is the truth and that is the story’ The Dancers Dancing (1999) and Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth (2003) describe the experience of female maturation. Cailíní Beaga describes an earlier stage in that maturation process, while The Dancers Dancing deals with the passage from teens to womanhood. The next two chap- ters explore these novels in the order in which they were published. Set in 1972, The Dancers Dancing tells the story of Orla Crilly as she moves between Dublin and the Gaeltacht of Donegal, gaining both physical and mental awareness as she does so. In this novel, friendships are tested and sexuality explored against the political backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Two girls from Derry, Jaqueline and Pauline, represent the reality of this crisis. Orla and her friends must absorb these facts as they negotiate their way through the unfamiliar terrain of Irish summer school. Similarly, Máire in Cailíní Beaga navigates her way through the strange and sometimes complex surroundings of Irish college. Though younger than Orla, Máire also learns to negotiate dif ferent discourses and registers, to mediate between her life in the city and her life in the Gaeltacht. This later novel is primarily concerned with the healing power of memory as Máire remembers and recounts a traumatic incident in her life. However, both novels are concerned with repression. Orla tries des- perately not...

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