Troubling Irish Women: Edna O'Brien's _Country Girls Trilogy_ 公开

Itzel, Jessica Annemarie (Spring 2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/b5644s76n?locale=zh
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Abstract

Troubling Irish Women: Edna O'Brien's _Country Girls Trilogy_ By Jessica A. Itzel A decade before the launch of the women's movement in Ireland, Edna O'Brien shocked Irish audiences with her realistic representation of women's experience in her first novel, The Country Girls. Her debut novel, followed by The Lonely Girl and Girls in Their Married Bliss, was promptly condemned by the Catholic Church and banned by the Irish Censorship Board for reasons of indecency. In spite of this initially unsympathetic reaction in her home country, O'Brien became one of Ireland's most popular and widely read writers. Even with this success, however, O'Brien remains a critically neglected figure in Irish literary history and deserves greater recognition for the role she played in challenging Irish patriarchal ideology as well as transforming women's writing. In this thesis, I argue that O'Brien troubles Irish women by both challenging patriarchal constructions of womanhood in Ireland and at times, remaining complicit in them. In her first three novels, the figure of the woman becomes the contested site of patriarchal control; social order remains dependent on the submission of women into wives and mothers. Yet O'Brien thrusts her female heroines outside prescribed roles of wife and mother, threatening the structures that provide the foundation for Irish society. Even so, she cannot divorce herself entirely from the influence of Irish ideals of womanhood and her female protagonists are punished for their transgressions. With the publication of her early novels, Irish patriarchal authorities-the Irish Catholic Church and national government-attempted to squash O'Brien's influence within Ireland but ironically, the resulting controversy elevated her to celebrity status. Using newspaper sources and letters in O'Brien's collection at Emory University, I demonstrate that the Irish reaction to O'Brien was far from homogenous and similarly, her position in regards to Irish patriarchy remained unstable. Ultimately, O'Brien emerges as the first figure to openly navigate and critique Ireland's constraining constructions of womanhood and also emerges as its most successful writer. In her works and in her own life, O'Brien complicates and subverts traditional ideas of womanhood and contributes to an opening up of Irish society to women's experience and writing.   

Table of Contents

Introduction………………………………………………………………………………1

Chapter 1: Complicating Womanhood: Kate and Baba in The Country Girls Trilogy

Constructing Womanhood……………………………………………………………….12

Inheriting Womanhood…………………………………………………………………..13

The ‘Other’ Women………………………………………………………………...........19

Becoming Wives…………………………………………………………………………24

Investigating Female Sexuality…………………………………………………....……..33

‘All Bitches:’ Women Perceiving Women………………………………………………39

Chapter 2: Revisiting the Country Girls……………………………………………...43

Women’s Liberation Movement…………………………………………………………44

Reconsidering Womanhood? O’Brien’s Country Girls Epilogue……………………….47

Chapter 3: Positioning Edna O’Brien…………………………………………………54

Censored: The Indecency of Edna O’Brien……………………………………………...55

As They Saw Her: Popular Response to O’Brien………………………………………..65

Breaking into the Literary Canon: O’Brien and 20th Century Women’s Writing………70

Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………77

Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………80

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