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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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Bridget English Laying Out the Bones

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: Death, Trauma and the Irish Family in Colm Tóibín’s The Blackwater Lightship and Anne Enright’s The Gathering The death of a loved one is perhaps the most profoundly traumatic event that a human can endure in his or her lifetime. Not only is the death of a close relation an irrevocable loss, but it also serves to remind the bereaved of his or her own mortality. As the breakdown of body and mind, the end of existence, death is an event that can never truly be known or accurately represented. In narrative, death often serves to bind and regulate the novel form, driving the plot forward by the desire to know or understand death.1 The impulse to narrate then stems, in part, from a desire to understand unprocessed memories. According to trauma theorists such as Cathy Caruth and Dominick LaCapra, trauma is characterised by a gap in memory or break in narrative that can create a compulsion within the trauma victim to repeat the trauma.2 While there have been some recent publications on the relationship between memory, trauma studies and Irish literature, few have dealt with death as a primary source of trauma nor directly related the ways in which the shifting values of modern society – from religious to 1 Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), xi, 22. 2 Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative History (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press 1996). Caruth notes: ‘It is because...

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