Women and Exile – 24 April
24th April 2014 @ 7:30 am - 8:30 pm
This talk will look at the place of the Irish woman migrant in contemporary Irish fiction and examine how Irish writers have demonstrated a sustained interest in recovering the story of the Irish woman emigrant, a story that until relatively recently was absent or under-represented in both historical accounts and literary representations of Irish emigration. In spite of the fact that the theme of ‘exile’ has near cult status in Irish literature, it seems to be a cultural preoccupation that overlooked the experience of the woman emigrant; it too often appointed her to roles that served only to define the losses suffered by her male counterpart and, in particular, the male artist in his journey into the world.
Edna O’Brien and Colm Tóibín offer two different models for recovering this history. Toibin’s work, particularly his novel Brooklyn (2009), shows an historically sensitive concern with the vanishing Irish woman emigrant in Ireland of the 1950s, while O’Brien’s more recent writing, especially her 2006 novel, The Light of Evening, remodels the familiar paradigm of the Irish artist in exile in ways most meaningful to the Irish woman writer. Drawing on archival material from the Tóibín Papers at the National Library of Ireland and the O’Brien Papers at the James Joyce Library at University College Dublin, McWilliams makes a case study of how these authors contribute to the larger recovery of the history of the woman migrant in contemporary Irish fiction.
Ellen’s teaching and research interests are in the fields of women’s writing, Irish, American, and Canadian literature, and writing and diasporic identity. She has written two monographs, Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman (2009) and Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction (2013), and is working on a new book, Irishness in North American Women’s Writing: Transatlantic Affinities. She has a special interest in New York magazine culture and has recently completed a series of articles on Maeve Brennan’s writing for The New Yorker, including an essay for Women: A Cultural Review: ‘”A Sort of Rathmines Version of a Dior Design”: Maeve Brennan, Self-Fashioning, and the Uses of Style’. Ellen has received a number of awards for research, including an AHRC Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholar Award, and a British Library-Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship in North American Studies.
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