British and Irish Women Writers and the Women’s Movement

This study pairs selected Irish and British women novelists of three periods, relating their voices to the women’s movements in their respective nations. In the first wave, nationalist and militant ideologies competed with the suffrage fight in Ireland. Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September illustrates the melancholy of gender performance and confusion of ethnic identity in the dying Anglo-Irish Ascendancy class. In England, suffrage ideologies clashed with socialism and patriotism. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway contains a political unconscious that links its characters across class and gender.
In the second wave, heterosexual romantic relationships come under scrutiny. Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls trilogy reveals ways in which Irish Catholic ideologies abject femaleness; her characters internalize this abjection to the point of self-destruction. Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook pits the protagonist’s aspirations to write novels against the Communist Party’s prohibitions on bourgeois values.
In the third wave, Irish writers express the frustrations of their cultural identity. Nuala O’Faolain’s My Dream of You takes her protagonist back to Ireland to heal her psychic wounds. In England, Thatcherism had created a materialistic culture that eroded many feminists’ socialist values. Fay Weldon’s Big Woman satirizes the demise of second-wave idealism, asking where feminism can go from here.


The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century British and Irish Women’s Poetry

This Companion provides new ways of reading a wide range of influential women’s poetry. Leading international scholars offer insights on a century of writers, drawing out the special function of poetry and the poets’ use of language, whether it is concerned with the relationship between verbal and visual art, experimental poetics, war, landscape, history, cultural identity or ‘confessional’ lyrics. Collectively, the chapters cover well established and less familiar poets, from Edith Sitwell and Mina Loy, through Stevie Smith, Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Jennings to Anne Stevenson, Eavan Boland and Jo Shapcott. They also include poets at the forefront of poetry trends, such as Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay, Patience Agbabi, Caroline Bergvall, Medbh McGuckian and Carol Ann Duffy. With a chronology and guide to further reading, this book is aimed at students and poetry enthusiasts wanting to deepen their knowledge of some of the finest modern poets.