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Descrizione dell’editore

Jennifer Johnston is a writer whose fiction has attracted much criticism, notably from Rudiger Imhof in his study, The Modern Irish Novel, where he takes Johnston to task both for the implausibility of her plots and for deficiencies of narrative technique and style. (1) In The Contemporary Irish Novel, Linden Peach argues that such criticisms arise from adopting naturalistic or historical approaches unsuited to her work. Instead he suggests regarding Johnston's characters as 'sites of ideological conflict or embodiments of ideological positions'. (2) This is a fruitful approach for his interpretation of The Railway Station Man in particular but, in showing how Johnston's women characters struggle for an identity 'predicated on freeing the known from their stabilising referents' (p.105), Peach inevitably falls into an ahistorical and in the end apolitical reading of Johnston's novels. In this article, I suggest that reading Jennifer Johnston's novels through a Kristevan lens may provide a solution to this problem, as well as producing fresh insights into the ways in which her female characters struggle to establish a voice for themselves within the life of the Irish nation. From the 1990s onwards Julia Kristeva has been preoccupied in her writings with nations and nationalism and it is one of the few instances where she privileges women in her writings. The novels of Johnston I shall be examining in the context of nation and gender are Fool's Sanctuary, The Invisible Worm, and The Railway Station Man. In Revolt, She Said, Julia Kristeva warns that even political movements which have freedom as their goal, as the Irish nationalists in the early years of the twentieth century may be said to have had, run the danger of becoming totalitarian if their ideals are constructed around exclusions. This is precisely the point made by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington during the early years of the twentieth century in her argument with Constance Markievicz over whether Irish women should prioritize their suffragism or their nationalism. In a pamphlet published in 1909, 'Women, Ideals and the Nation', Constance Markievicz argued that Irish women could not do without a nation of their own and that women's equal rights would naturally follow from their participation in the nationalist struggle. Conversely, writing in Bean na hEireann in the same year, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington urged Irish women to put the suffrage campaign first, arguing that, unless they did, women would remain in a subordinate role and Irish nationalism would retain its roots in the patriarchy. (3) Subsequent events bore out Sheehy Skeffington's analysis: Irish nationalism, particularly as embodied by Eamon de Valera's 1937 Constitution, was largely predicated on the exclusion of women from political and public life.

22 settembre
Irish University Review

Altri libri di Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies