Eavan Boland’s and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s Silences: Negotiations with Gendered Writing in Pre- and Post-Independence Ireland

Madeleine Scherer

Abstract


This article focuses on Ireland's pre- and post-independence moment for a study on gendered postcolonial writing. I addresses the Revivalist Movement and particularly the Irish Literary Revival, the Celtic Twilight, leading up to the moment of independence in 1919, and the ways in which authors such as Yeats and Synge have both used and written against the female body of for instance “Cathleen Ni Houlihan” as a metaphor for the land of “Mother Ireland”, the colonised state which needs to be liberated by independence fighters. It examines how due to especially the literary revival of a mnemonically constructed mythology propagated by Yeats, this link between the colonised land and the female body was so pervasive within the Irish cultural imagination. Thereby, it uses examples of poets such as Seamus Heaney who were outrightly sceptical about the revivalist movement, but who still utilized this trope in, for instance, his bog poems, constructing bog queens buried within the land waiting for liberation. After establishing its cultural pervasiveness, it considers how female artists have written against this canonical trope and their relative successes in doing so. The main authors who are analysed for this purpose are Eavan Boland and NualaNí Dhomhnaill. In these readings, silence as a metaliterary form of expression will be useful to frame the silences these poets see both within historical women's writing and in their own work. In Boland's work the article thus addresses the metatextual silences of her female figures in poems such as “The Journey”, while in Ní Dhomhnaill it considers the larger, culturally implicit silences of writing in Irish.

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