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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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Theresa Wray Sisters Under the Skin

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: Signalling a Viable Alternative to Blood-Relations in Mary Lavin’s Short Stories Before presenting the case for reading Mary Lavin’s stories, with particular focus in this instance on the family and alternate networks, it is important both to introduce this writer to a new audience and to remind those more familiar with her work just how diverse and intuitive her short stories are. Whilst readers express immense fondness for those stories, the impact of that, albeit heartfelt, is somewhat muted by an idealised nostalgia by those same readers, and by a scaf fold of variant critical silence. To date, Lavin’s substantial body of work has not yet received the full critical attention that has been rightly accorded to the work of Kate O’Brien and Elizabeth Bowen, for instance. Yet publication of Mary Lavin’s writing spans fifty-six years from 1939–1995, during which time she revised many of her short stories and incorporated them into a number of collections chief ly pub- lished in England and America. Her first full collection was published in 1942, and in 1943, she was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Book Prize for best work of fiction published during the previous year. This was an extraordinary achievement for a new writer and ranked her with other winners such as D.H. Lawrence, Radclyf fe Hall, Liam O’Flaherty, Siegfried Sassoon and Kate O’Brien. She also enjoyed the support and encouragement of Lord Dunsany, a well respected writer of fantasy, sci- ence fiction, drama and poetry who wrote the...

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