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Family and Dysfunction in Contemporary Irish Narrative and Film

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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Rosa González-Casademont – Representation of Family Tropes and Discourses in Contemporary Irish-Themed Cinema



ABSTRACT: The present chapter will discuss family tropes in Irish-themed cinema made over the last thirty plus years. The appraisal of a wide range of feature films reveals that despite replicating on the screen many of the social and legislative changes undergone by the nuclear heterosexual family, both as a social institution and as a discursive construction inseparably bound up with the construction of national identity, mainstream films rarely engage critically with disruptive forces that have persistently debilitated the family unit – emigration, abortion, domestic violence or incest. The in-depth analysis of a score of titles suggests that the most notable and original films are those which are less concerned with documenting or commenting on the current state of the institution of the Irish family than in creating engaging stories.

The present chapter tackles the cinematic strand of the volume and considers representations of the family in Irish-themed films of the period under scrutiny (1980s-2010s) by gauging to what extent social and economic change and the corresponding devaluation of dominant ideologies are articulated through the breakdown of the nuclear heterosexual family unit on the screen.1 For reasons of space and of approach the study does nor ← 232 | 233 →purport to offer an all-inclusive view of cinema’s engagement with the subject but will be confined to a wide range of films that either originate from or are set in the Republic. The exclusion of films from and about Northern Ireland is determined, as...

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