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New Voices, Inherited Lines

Literary and Cultural Representations of the Irish Family

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Edited By Yvonne O'Keeffe and Claudia Reese

Irish writers have always been fascinated by the family, sometimes depicting it as a traditional space under threat from external influences, sometimes highlighting the dangers lurking within. More recently, families have been represented as a type of safe haven from a bewildering postmodern world. At the heart of these constructions are questions of power and agency, as well as issues of class, gender, ethnicities and sexualities.
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.

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Stephanie Eggermont Bad Breeding in George Egerton’s Irish Families

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As a New Woman writer, George Egerton (1859–1945) is known for her critique of the Victorian ideology of motherhood, domesticity and mar- riage. Egerton’s subversion of domestic ideology has partly been attrib- uted to her Irish background. Tina O’Toole, for example, has argued that Egerton’s outsider status as an Irish Catholic allowed her to take a dis- tance from English bourgeois values.1 Iveta Jusova has similarly observed that Egerton’s ‘early alienation from English middle-class values and her apparent lack of interest in the maintenance of the British empire enabled Egerton to develop a discourse that replaced the normative ideal of the white English upper-class autonomous woman with a feminine hybridity open to interaction with dif ferences’.2 Yet what is often overlooked is that Egerton’s short fiction not only criticises the ideology of the family, it also passes specific criticism on the Irish family. Egerton herself had first-hand knowledge of Irish families. She was the daughter of an Irish father and a Welsh mother and spent her childhood in Dublin, growing up in an Irish and Catholic environment.3 Later, she moved between Germany, New York, London and Norway.4 Ireland only plays a minor role in Egerton’s earliest short story collections Keynotes (1893) and Discords (1894), but it becomes more prominent in the later collections Symphonies (1897) and Flies in Amber (1905). Especially the story ‘Oony’, 1 Tina O’Toole, ‘Keynotes from Millstreet, Co. Cork: George Egerton’s Transgressive Fictions’, Women’s Writing 18/4 (2000), 3. 2 Iveta Jusova, ‘George Egerton and the Project...

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