Being Neither and Both: The Liminal Nationality of Four Eighteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Women Writers, A Study of Genre, Gender, and Nation
Type of Degreedissertation
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This dissertation examines the work of four Anglo-Irish women writers who published in the long eighteenth century, an integral voice in the development of Anglo-Irish nationality. These voices present a counter-perspective that breaks down the ideology of Nation-building and reveal the relationship between gender and Nation and how that relationship functions to silence marginal voices. I employ the concept of liminality as a guiding paradigm. This study illustrates the liminality of being Anglo-Irish in the eighteenth-century and the effects of the liminal phase on a developing national consciousness, specifically how the doubly-liminal role of woman writer disrupts the construction of a metanarrative of Nation. Working from travel narratives in early, post-Glorious Revolution England to autobiography in the Jacobite era to the sentimental novel and constitutional debates of the 1770s and concluding with sonnets and the Act of Union in 1800, I explore generic and gender conventions deployed and challenged as each woman attempts to construct herself as an Anglo-Irish citizen and the reception that such constructions receive. There is a noticeable shift in descriptions of Nation from Mary Davys’s The Fugitive, published in 1705, to Mary Tighe’s sonnets, written in Age of Revolution, from loyal English citizen to patriotic Irish anti-unionist. The work of these four women and this analysis suggests that the idea of Nation in the Anglo-Irish mind was a mutable concept, at once dominant and vulnerable. This dissertation also shows that debate over identification, kingdom or colony, reached far into the minds of writers, especially those for whom oppression was concrete rather than abstract.