Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Ó Gallchoir, Clíona
Irish University Review
Gender Modernity and Nation in Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea
Optional Fields

The late 1990s and early 2000s were marked by the appearance of a number of ambitious historical novels by Irish writers, including Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea (2004), which enjoyed both critical and commercial success internationally as well as in Ireland. The turn towards historical fiction occurred as Ireland experienced an unprecedented economic boom accompanied by rapid social change during the period now notoriously referred to as the Celtic Tiger. The concern with Ireland’s belated entry into modernity that was a hallmark of the Celtic Tiger period is reflected in Star of the Sea, in which, this essay argues, there is an attempt to construct a national subject position fully compatible with modernity.  To this end, for instance, the Irish language is represented in the novel as a standardized, written language, so that the voiceless victims of the famine, many of whom were Irish-speaking and illiterate, can be reclaimed for twenty-first-century Ireland.  O’Connor is however concerned as much with authenticity as he is with modernity, and through the figure of Mary Duane the novel thus ultimately reinstates the silence and wordlessness that is a hallmark of the Famine in the Irish national imaginary.

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