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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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Claudia Reese The Secrets That You Inherit


: Family and Identity Construction in Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckled People In Irish autobiographical writing, there has been a longstanding tendency to assume a close relationship between the self and the nation. Writing one’s story has traditionally been equated with telling the nation’s story. However, contemporary writers from a variety of backgrounds have chal- lenged this necessity to talk about the self in the context of the nation. The cultural, economic, and social changes of the last decades have given these Irish autobiographers more space to explore and express dif ference, individuality and uniqueness as legitimate elements of their identity, inde- pendent from nationhood. Family in this constellation of self versus nation is the link that more often than not proves to be an obstacle on the indi- vidual’s way towards a sense of the self. For the writer Hugo Hamilton, the inf luence of family on the process of finding a voice for himself is particularly problematic, as his parents are from two dif ferent national backgrounds. A German mother and an Irish father, they both have their own political and ideological stance towards nationalism, and their respec- tive past and memory inf luences family life on many levels. This essay analyses how the complexity of growing up in an Irish-German family is ref lected in the narrative strategy employed by Hamilton in his memoir The Speckled People, and how it ultimately enables a progressive understand- ing of a multidimensional identity. Telling the story through the eyes of a child-narrator,...

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