Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

No More Than Human by Maura Laverty: Impressions of a Reluctant Governess in Spain

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

No More Than Human by Maura Laverty: Impressions of a Reluctant Governess in Spain

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper represents an imagological analysis of Maura Laverty's strongly autobiographical novel No More Than Human (1944) about the experiences of a young Irish governess in Spain in the 1920s. Drawing on the theory and methodology of imagology, it discusses the well-rounded image of Spain conveyed by Laverty's depiction of Spanish land- and cityscapes, characters, and socio-political conditions revealing the author's familiarity with widespread Spanish stereotypes. In line with the imagological tenet that the creation of hetero- and auto-images is interdependent, the paper shows how by having her heroine comment explicitly on Spanish society and politics of the 1920s Laverty indirectly expresses her attitude to her native country Ireland in the first decade of national independence. From both the political, religious, and moral values expressed in the novel under discussion and the scant existent biographical information on Laverty it is concluded that the writer shared the patriotism and the Catholic, rural, and patriarchal values of the official, Church- and State-sanctioned version of Irish nationalism. At the same time, however, she seems to have rejected the extreme moral conservatism propagated by statesmen and clerics in the early years of the Irish Free State.

Key Words. Maura Laverty, No More Than Human, imagology, national stereotypes, Ireland, Spain.

Resumen. Este articulo representa un analisis imagologico de la novela marcadamente autobiografica No More than Human (1944) de Maura Laverty sobre las experiencias de una joven institutriz irlandesa en Espana en la tercera decada del siglo veinte. Haciendo uso de la teoria y metodologia imagologica, el articulo discute la compleja imagen de Espana creada por Laverty gracias a su descripcion de las tierras, ciudades, personajes y condiciones socio-politicas espanolas que revelan la familiaridad de la autora con la gran variedad de estereotipos de Espana. En linea con el principio de la corriente ideologica de que la creacion de hetero- y auto-imagenes es interdependiente, el articulo muestra como por haber hecho su heroina comentarios explicitos sobre la sociedad y politica espanola de los anos veinte, Laverty indirectamente expresa su actitud hacia su pais nativo Irlanda en la primera decada de independencia nacional. En base a los valores tanto politicos, religiosos y morales expresados en la novela referenciada y la escasa informacion biografica que existe de Laverty, se puede concluir que la escritora compartia el patriotismo y los valores catolicos, rurales y patriarcales de la version oficial del nacionalismo irlandes sancionado por la iglesia y el estado. Al mismo tiempo, sin embargo, ella parece haber rechazado el extremado conservadurismo moral propagado por politicos y clerigos en los primeros anos del Irish Free State (Estado Libre Irlandes).

Palabras clave. Maura Laverty, No More Than Human, imagologia, estereotipos nacionales, Irlanda, Espana.


Maura Laverty's novel No More Than Human is reminiscent of her elder compatriot Kate O'Brien's more widely read semi-autobiographical romance Mary Lavelle insofar as it similarly recounts the adventures of a young, inexperienced Irish governess in Spain in the 1920s. Like Kate O'Brien, (1) Maura Laverty (1907-1956) could draw on personal experiences in her novel, for at the tender age of seventeen the writer had set out for Madrid to take up her post as a governess to a Spanish-Irish family (Cf. Castle 1992: 6). Whereas O'Brien's Mary Lavelle as well as her other novels and non-fictional writings have been reprinted and rediscovered by critics since her death in 1974, Maura Laverty's oeuvre has almost sunk into complete oblivion. Although Laverty's first and third novels Never No More and No More Than Human were republished in the 1980s by Virago Press, Laverty's works have not received the same critical attention as O'Brien's writings in the past twenty years (cf. …

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