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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 9: Translation as Textual Pregnant Embodiment 179


Chapter 9 Translation as Textual Pregnant Embodiment In Chapter 8 I concentrated on the ways in which Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Medbh McGuckian strike at the foundations of language. Their col- laborative relationship is an all important element in that destabilizing process. In this chapter I examine McGuckian’s translation of two of Ní Dhomhnaill’s pregnancy poems from a longer sequence which appears in Ní Dhomhnaill’s 1991 collection Feis. Reading the Irish poems together with their English translations intensifies the various connections identified in the last chapter and extends their meaning. While the subject matter of the original sequence of poems encourages us to think dif ferently about subjecthood in general and female subjecthood in particular, translation magnifies this re-conceptualization. Just as the pregnant woman figured at the centre of both the Irish poem and its English version redefines subject- hood as transitional, translation also ‘births’ a transitional identity, capable of retaining a sense of self, while impregnated with the other. The entre- deux of translation opens the way for a re-conceptualization of patriarchal notions of subjecthood because the intermediary process of translation, like the pregnant woman herself, provides a way of theorizing transitional subjectivity. Such a re-conceptualization dismantles the mechanisms which place pregnant embodiment outside the frame of representation. This has vital implications for those who are culturally ‘othered’ within Irish soci- ety. Seeing identity as a matter of becoming as well as being demolishes debilitating stereotypes and restricting binaries. The body of this chapter focuses on the parallel between...

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