Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Women on the Move: Mobility in Evelyn Conlon's Fiction

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Women on the Move: Mobility in Evelyn Conlon's Fiction

Article excerpt

Abstract. This article explores the representation of women's mobility in Evelyn Conlon's fiction and focuses on texts in which the female protagonists are depicted as "women on the move" and coded as transgressors and trespassers. The article discusses Conlon's fiction of mobility in the light of patterns of displacement and dislocation which are recurrent in the novels and stories analyzed. Although the writer consistently disrupts unified patriarchal narratives of "at-homeness", the article argues that her works expose also the need for connection and continuity and, thus, embody a reformulation of more open forms of belonging and a proposal for more inclusive identity paradigms.

Key Words. Evelyn Conlon, Mobility, Irish Women, At-homeness, Identity, Irishness, Contemporary Irish Fiction, Subversive Writing

Resumen. Este articulo analiza la representacion de la movilidad de las mujeres en la ficcion de Evelyn Conlon y presta especial atencion a aquellos textos en los que las protagonistas aparecen caracterizadas como mujeres en continuo movimiento y son retratadas como transgresoras. El articulo examina la movilidad en la ficcion de la escritora irlandesa a la luz de las nociones de desplazamiento y dislocacion recurrentes en las obras seleccionadas. A pesar de que Conlon fractura de modo consistente los relatos patriarcales sobre la identidad, el articulo mantiene que su ficcion expone tambien la necesidad de conexion y continuidad constituyendo, por lo tanto, una reformulacion de paradigmas identitarios mas tolerantes y propuestas de pertenencia mas inclusivas.

Palabras clave. Evelyn Conlon, movilidad, mujeres irlandesas, identidad, Irlanda, ficcion contemporanea, escritura subversiva

In his introduction to Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, Stephen Greenblatt contends that certain cultures engage routinely in celebratory performances of their authenticity and cultural legitimacy through rituals and discourses which are often identified with the notion of "at-homeness" (2010: 3) and presented as "the necessary condition for a robust cultural identity" (3). Although Greenblatt does not refer specifically to Irish culture, some of his arguments seem to fit appropriately the case of Ireland where tourism, for example, certainly depends on what he calls "a commodification of rootedness" (5), a process that is described in the following terms: "cultures that appear to have strikingly unmixed and local forms of behavior become the objects of pilgrimage and are themselves fungible as mobile signifiers" (5). Likewise, what the critic identifies as the dialectic of "persistence and change" (2) underlying the formation of many cultural identities aptly echoes recent approaches to issues of mobility and stasis in Irish Studies. While Greenblatt claims that accurate cultural analyses must bear in mind various forms of mobility such as exile, emigration and wandering, he also perceptively observes the need to account for "the persistence, over very long time periods and in the face of radical disruption, of cultural identities for which substantial numbers of people are willing to make extreme sacrifices, including life itself" (2).

In the pages that follow I shall draw on Greenblatt's dialectic of persistence and change, which I believe may be invoked to dislodge other kinds of binary notions underlying conventional thinking about identity and mobility, in order to explore the contradictions inherently attached to those notions specifically in the Irish context where the experience of uprootedness and homelessness coexist with discourses of authenticity, wholeness and legitimacy. Paradoxically, although mobility has been a vital part of Irish culture and identity, strongly characterized by the experiences of emigration, exile and diaspora, the institutionalization of Irish nationalism and the emergence of the Irish Free State were accompanied by rigid constructions of gender which confined women to the domestic space and limited their roles to static identity positions. …

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