Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction

Lead Research Organisation: Bath Spa University
Department Name: Sch of Humanities and Cultural Industrie

Abstract

This research will examine the representation of women and exile in Irish literature and explore how recent Irish novelists, such as Julia O'Faolain, John McGahern, Edna O'Brien, William Trevor, Anne Enright, and Colm Tóibín, have effectively reclaimed the missing history of the Irish woman emigrant. The authors to be examined in the book coming out of this research, Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction, under contract with Palgrave Macmillan, present complex representations of women in relation to the Irish emigrant experience and respond to a range of different meanings of exile, emigration, and diaspora. The readings developed in the work will explore the texts under discussion in relation to a number of dominant discourses in Irish literary criticism, most importantly: the revisionist impulses of the contemporary Irish novel; key developments in Irish literary feminism and the recovery of Irish women's history; and current debates about literature and the Irish diaspora. In doing so, it will build on work on women and the Irish diaspora from a range of disciplines including Literary Studies, History, Geography, and the Social Sciences. Another facet of the project will bring together academics from across these different disciplines for a conference to address the larger theme of 'Women and the Irish Diaspora', proceedings of which are under contract to be published in a special issue of the Routledge journal Irish Studies Review. Linked to this research is a lifelong learning seminar series on the theme of 'Women and Exile in Irish Literature' that will run at the London Irish Women's Centre in 2012. This has been agreed with the Centre's Director and will be offered to women who use the resources and support services provided by the Centre.

Planned Impact

The impact of this research will be twofold: on the academic community and on the community of Irish women in England. The academic impact will be to raise the profile of a recently neglected, but very important, area of study through the publication of Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction with Palgrave Macmillan. The proposed conference and resulting publication of a second output linked to the book project, a special issue of the interdisciplinary journal Irish Studies Review on the theme of 'Women and the Irish Diaspora', will ensure that further debate will be generated in this field. A lifelong learning seminar series based on this research, to be taught at the London Irish Women's Centre, will guarantee that the research has a clear public-facing dimension and affords the students in attendance (who are also users of the resources and support services available at the Centre) an opportunity to engage with this topic in ways most meaningful to their own lives.

Publications

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McWilliams E (2013) New perspectives on women and the Irish diaspora in Irish Studies Review

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McWilliams E (2013) London Irish fictions: narrative, diaspora and identity in Irish Studies Review

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McWilliams E (2013) Irish women writers: new critical perspectives in Irish Studies Review

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McWilliams, E (2012) 'The Vanishing Irish in John McGahern's Amongst Women' in The Irish Review

 
Description In addition to funding research towards the monograph Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013, this AHRC award supported a conference on 'New Perspectives on Women and the Irish Diaspora' at Bath Spa University (March 2012), which included a roundtable discussion with charity-based organisations that work closely with the Irish community in Britain. Proceedings of the conference were published as a special issue of Irish Studies Review in spring 2013 (co-edited with Professor Bronwen Walter, Anglia Ruskin University).Full details can be found at the conference website: http://womenandtheirishdiaspora.wordpress.com/

The AHRC also provided funding for a public engagement seminar series on 'Women and Exile in Irish Literature and Culture' developed in collaboration with the London Irish Women's Centre in autumn-winter 2011. The seminar series led to the Rian Art Project coordinated by artist Sarah Strong in 2012. For further details, please see the project website: http://womenandexileseminarseries.wordpress.com/
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy

 
Description 'Ideas of Exile in the Writing of Maeve Brennan' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited Seminar Paper
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description 'John McGahern and Edna O'Brien's Irish Women Migrants' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited Seminar Paper

The Irish in Britain Seminar Series
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description 'The "Creative Migrant" in Colm Tóibín's The South' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited Seminar Paper
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description 'Women and Migration in the Contemporary Irish Novel' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited Lecture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Women and Exile in Irish Literature and Culture Seminar Series - London Irish Women's Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In autumn-winter 2011, the 'Women and Exile in Irish Literature and Culture' lifelong learning reading group met for three hours a week over ten weeks at the London Irish Women's Centre to explore how the experience of Irish women emigrants is represented in the work of a range of twentieth-century Irish writers. It involved discussion of novels, short stories, and poems by writers such as Edna O'Brien, Eavan Boland, Emma Donoghue, Moy McCrory, Anna May Mangan, James Joyce, George Moore, Liam O'Flaherty, William Trevor, and Colm Tóibín. The series was led by Ellen McWilliams and featured guest visits from authors and academics, who have written about the Irish community in England, and the experience of growing up Irish in England. The series led directly to the Rian Art Project led by Sarah Strong.

Full details can be found at the project website:

http://womenandexileseminarseries.wordpress.com/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014