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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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Inés Praga – Home Revisited: Family (Re)Constructions in Contemporary Irish Autobiographical Writing

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← 84 | 85 →INÉS PRAGA

‘This is what literature is for, after all, to map the invisible route home’

–GERRY SMYTH

ABSTRACT: The last decades have seen a proliferation of life writing – both fiction and non-fiction – very much concerned about the healing power of (re)constructing and restoring family memories. The works examined here recall the experience of growing up in mid-century Ireland evoking a Catholic childhood and home; hence the great importance of the family. The first group is made up by four semi-autobiographical novels: Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992), Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckled People (2003) and two novels by John Banville, The Sea (2005) and Ancient Light (2013). Memoirs are represented by Memoir (2006) by John McGahern, Country Girl (2012) by Edna O’Brien, and Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody? The Life and Times of Nuala O’Faolain (1996) and Almost There (2003). Finally, we deal with Every Single Minute (2014) by Hugo Hamilton, which continues and merges the memories of the author with those of Nuala O’Faolain. In addition, the (un)reliability of memory is largely discussed, as well as the plurality of discourses it generates, highlighting the recurrent family pattern ‘absent father – unhappy/invisible mother’ both in fictional and non-fictional autobiographical writing.

Revisiting home through memory has been a recurrent practice in Irish literature and an excellent strategy for x-raying the Irish family, nowadays flowering in different forms: autobiographies, memoirs, essays, letters, ← 85 | 86 →diaries and a long etc. In...

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