In the name of the mother : a post-colonial reading of portrayals of gender in Irish fiction
Viser, Rebecca Lee.
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references. Many feminist theorists, including Maryann Valiulis and Heather Ingman, argue that the ideal Irish woman during much of the twentieth century was a woman who stayed home, stayed pure, and, most importantly, raised the children who were the future of Ireland. Yet many current Irish novels portray problematic relationships between mothers and children. These problematic relationships raise questions about the role of mothers in Ireland and what mothers might represent within the texts. This thesis examines Irish motherhood through the lenses of post-colonial and feminist theories. Post-colonial theorists have examined the ways in which a female body becomes inscribed with meanings far beyond the physical; a woman's body comes to represent both the landscape and the morality of a nation. Colonial discourse in Ireland coded Ireland and the Catholic Church as Mother Ireland and the Mother Church. Thus the failed motherhood in Irish literature indicates a cultural issue far beyond individual families. This is supported by feminist theories of motherhood, which state that failed motherhood is caused by a lack of community, as mothers without cultural awareness and support face difficulties in connecting with their children in any kind of empowering way. I take these theories and read them against eight contemporary Irish novels, four by men and four by women. Examining the texts by the gender of the author shows striking similarities within each group, showing that the issues surrounding motherhood in Ireland affect the genders differently.
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