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New Voices, Inherited Lines

Literary and Cultural Representations of the Irish Family


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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Jack Fennell Siege Cultures


: The Early Twentieth-Century Rhetoric of External Threats to the Irish Catholic Family Introduction Taking Fredric Jameson’s argument that the emergence of a new historical epoch necessitates a repudiation of the one that came before it, cultural critic Joe Cleary notes that: [Historical-revisionist, Marxist and feminist] critiques of Ireland [in the period between 1920 and 1960] seem to meet up somewhere in the liberal centre of the intellectual-cultural field … to create an iconic version of what is now commonly called ‘de Valera’s Ireland’. In that iconic version, the whole epoch before the Lemassian turn has become practically a byword for a soul-killing Catholic nationalist traditionalism and … now serves as a ref lex shorthand for everything from economic austerity to sexual Puritanism, from cultural philistinism to the abuse of women and children … the now-conventional negative image of ‘de Valera’s Ireland’ may be understood not just as a creation of post-1960s ‘Lemass’s Ireland’, but also a necessary condition for the latter’s self-constitution. For ‘contemporary Ireland’ to emerge, in other words, it had first to create the ‘de Valera’s Ireland’ that would be its repudiated antithesis.1 I would argue that to characterise ‘de Valera’s Ireland’ as a cultural con- struction rather than a concrete historical reality, and to attribute that cultural construction to a Jamesonian ‘act of dissociation’, is a postmod- ernist bridge too far. Though I want to stress that Cleary does not deny the existence of the social schema described, there is a point at which such 1 Joe Cleary, Outrageous Fortune:...

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