Literary and Cultural Representations of the Irish Family
Edited By Yvonne O'Keeffe and Claudia Reese
This collection of essays explores literary and cultural representations of the Irish family, questioning the validity of traditional familial structures as well as exploring newer versions of the Irish family emerging in more recent cultural representations. In addition to redefinitions of the nuclear family, the book also considers aspects of family constructions in Irish nationalist discourse, such as the symbolic use of the family and the interaction and conflict between private and public roles. The works and authors discussed range from Famine fiction, Samuel Beckett, Mary Lavin and John McGahern to Anne Enright, Colm Tóibín and Hugo Hamilton.
A predominant theme in Irish literature, and indeed in cultural discourse more generally, is the role of the family in Irish society. From the Quirks in Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent via the Mulqueens in Kate O’Brien’s The Ante-Room to the Hegarty family in Anne Enright’s The Gathering, families and family structures have sustained the interest of most of our literary writers right up to the contemporary period across all genres. Essays in this collection explore literary and cultural representations of the Irish family, and have considered the ways in which Irish families have shaped and been constructed by Irish literature and culture in the modern period. Just as Irish society as a whole has undergone sweeping changes, in the recent past in particular, so have there been significant reconfigura- tions in Irish families. Irish writers have always been fascinated by the family, sometimes depicting it as a traditional space under threat from famine and mass emigration, sometimes highlighting the dangers of the family ‘cell’, and perhaps more recently constructing families as a safe haven from a bewildering postmodern world. At the heart of many of these con- structions of the Irish family are questions of power and agency, as well as issues of class, gender, ethnicities and sexualities. This collection provides a forum for questioning whether traditional familial structures are in fact now outdated, and asking whether a new Irish family can be discerned in recent cultural representations, which is perhaps more ref lective of con- temporary Ireland. In addition...
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