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Demons, Hamlets and Femmes Fatales

Representations of Irish Republicanism in Popular Fiction

Jayne Steel

The book provides a lively discussion of the ways in which popular fiction appropriates the figure of the Provisional IRA activist and the political conflict within the north of Ireland. It looks at how authors’ recreations, or transformations, of Irish republicanism might reveal self-referentional images that are, ultimately, a product of national identity and/or gender identity. An important focus of the book interrogates British fascination and fixation with the Provisional IRA and its ‘terrors’.
The many novels discussed in this study include Gerald Seymour Harry’s Game; Campbell Armstrong Jig; Bernard MacLaverty Cal; Mary Costello Titanic Town; Jennifer Johnston Shadows on our Skin; Deidre Madden One by One through the Darkness.


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Chapter 4 ‘It’s the Valium talking’?: Fempira and Women Writing Back


1 4.1: Politicizing the Private It’s got a lot to do with the Troubles – a woman with 13 kids, the bother with sons at an age to join the IRA, the police and the army patrolling and searching […] it’s no wonder the women are living on their nerves […] the doctors I worked for were well worried, but what could they do? Women really need the tablets.2 This last chapter of this study concerns ‘women writing the Troubles’ and compares female-authored fiction to male-authored thriller nar- ratives about the conflict in the north of Ireland. As Christine St. Peter notes: What we discover in the North is how difficult it has been for Northern women to insert their ‘voices’ into the extravagantly militarized ‘masculine’ discourses that still predominate.3 Bearing St. Peter’s comments in mind, I debate whether or not it is possible for female authors to avoid repeating fictions and stereotypes that privilege male national identity: an identity that encodes the male public and political sphere of the Troubles and subordinates gender issues. I ask the reader to consider whether or not such female authors can successfully appropriate the thriller and literary realism from the public domain of men, war and nation to then ‘rewrite’ the IRA and 1 Mary Costello, Titanic Town (London: Methuen, 1992), p.1. 2 Eileen Fairweather, Roisin McDonough, Melanie McFadyean, Only The Rivers Run Free – Northern Ireland: The Women’s War (London: Pluto, 1984), p.36. 3 Christine St. Peter, Changing Ireland: Strategies in Contemporary Women’s Fiction (London: Macmillan,...

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