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Family and Dysfunction in Contemporary Irish Narrative and Film

Edited By Marisol Morales-Ladrón

Institutionalized through religious, moral and political discourses, the family has become an icon of Irish culture. Historically, the influence of the Church and the State fostered the ideal of a nuclear family based on principles of Catholic morality, patriarchal authority, heterosexuality and hierarchy, which acted as the cornerstone of Irish society. However, in recent decades the introduction of liberal policies, the progressive recognition of women’s rights, the secularization of society and the effects of immigration and globalization have all contributed to challenging the validity of this ideal, revealing the dysfunction that may lie at the heart of the rigidly constructed family cell. This volume surveys the representation of the concepts of home and family in contemporary Irish narrative and film, approaching the issue from a broad range of perspectives. The earlier chapters look at specific aspects of familial dysfunction, while the final section includes interviews with the writer Emer Martin and filmmakers Jim Sheridan and Kirsten Sheridan.
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Marisol Morales-Ladrón, Inés Praga, Asier Altuna-García De Salazar, Juan F. Elices And Rosa González-Casademont – Introduction: Home, Family and Dysfunction in the Narrative and Filmic Discourses of Ireland



The family in its wider significance means an assemblage of individuals, dwelling in the same house under a common superior or head, and united by ties founded on the natural law. In this sense, the family is a composite society, which may be composed, at least potentially, in all or any of three ways – the union, namely, of husband and wife, of parents and children and of master and servants.


Institutionalized through nationalist, religious, moral and political discourses, the family has functioned as an icon of Irish culture. The engagement of Church and State to foster an idea(l) of the nuclear family, based on principles of Catholic morality, partriarchal authority, heterosexuality and hierarchy has historically contritbuted to construct an image of the Catholic family that would officially become a cornerstone of the Irish society and a metaphor of national, political and religious unity.2 With the legal support of the Irish Constitution of 1937, women’s roles within the household were reduced to the fulfillment of domestic standards of motherhood and subservience. It was not until the last quarter of the ← 1 | 2 →twentieth century, with the introduction of liberal policies, the advance in the recognition of women’s rights, the secularization of society, and the effects of immigration, transnational forces and globalization, when such an understanding of the family cell3 – as it...

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