Emerging Identities

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Michaela Schrage-Früh

Emerging Identities. Myth, Nation and Gender in the Poetry of Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Medbh McGuckian

ISBN 978-3-88476-644-6, ISBN 3-88476-644-9, 240 S., kt., € 24,50 (2004)

(MUSE - Mainz University Studies in English, Bd. 7)

In the process of Irish identity-construction, myth has been of central, almost exclusive importance in a way unparalleled by other national traditions. In this context, no national emblem has been as formative and ubiquitous as the personification of Ireland herself. The representation of Ireland as a woman in various guises (Cathleen Ní Houlihan, Éire, Erin, the Shan Van Vocht, Dark Rosaleen, Mother Ireland) is a pivotal motif also in the Irish poetic tradition, a tradition that, for centuries, was dominated by male poets. Within the span of the last thirty years, women have increasingly challenged and effectively rewritten the canon by subverting and redefining traditional representations of gender, myth and nation in Irish literature.

Emerging Identities retraces the gradual emergence of Irish women's poetic identities by offering a comparative in-depth study of selected works by three major contemporary Irish women poets, Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Medbh McGuckian. The introduction provides a survey of the development of the myth of Ireland as a woman and a brief sketch of the ways in which this myth, until recently, has been powerful enough to silence Irish women's voices and to overshadow their identities. Devoting one detailed chapter to each of the three poets respectively, this study explores the diverse ways in which these poets subvert, revise and rewrite gendered national representations and myths. Emerging Identities concludes with a comparative assessment of the three poets' achievements and with an outlook on the current place of gender issues in contemporary Irish women's poetry.