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The Leaving of Ireland

Migration and Belonging in Irish Literature and Film

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Edited By John Lynch and Katherina Dodou

The Leaving of Ireland brings together an international group of scholars to reflect critically on the unfolding nature of the experience of Irish cultural identity at a time when Ireland is struggling to adjust to the shattering impacts of globalization and religious scandals of recent decades. Looking back over the last two centuries, the volume considers a range of literary and filmic works that have sought to articulate something of this experience and its multiple locations. The essays revisit crucial constituents of Irish history and self-perception at the micro-level, exploring the representation of individual experiences of migration and identification and the definition of a sense of belonging. They also examine these issues at the macro-level, looking at larger politico-historical transformations, national affiliations and changed social and geographical landscapes. The book is organized around key themes including history, mobility, memory and place and addresses the works of a wide range of authors, including Emily Lawless, Frank McCourt, Sinéad Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Joseph O’Connor, J.M. Synge and W.B. Yeats.
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Philomena and Ireland’s Mother-and-Baby Homes

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ABSTRACT This chapter examines the portrayal of Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes in the generally well-received film Philomena and the account on which the film is based, the British journalist Martin Sixsmith’s portrayal of Philomena Lee’s life and search for her son, who had been given up to an American couple for adoption under coercive circumstances. Enforced adoptions have long been a part of Irish life that was silenced within official discourse, just as the women themselves were silenced under a blanket of shame and denial within a form of patriarchal nationalism. Cultural representations such as film and trauma biography will of course tend towards certain structures of storytelling that reveal in dramatic form the deep emotional wounds inflicted on the survivors, yet are often challenged by an official discourse as shallow and untrustworthy. This controversy draws attention to other conflicts and paradoxes that can operate when there are attempts to give a voice to the silenced or marginalized, yet such efforts have begun a process of forcing a re-evaluation of Ireland’s narratives of nationhood through the twentieth century.

In her inaugural address on December 3, 1990, Ireland’s first female president, Mary Robinson, called for an open and pluralistic definition of national identity:

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