Protestant Women Novelists and Irish Society 1879-1922

Abstract: This thesis reviews a great number of novels by Anglo-Irish women novelists that - with few exceptions - have attracted little attention from contemporary and modern literary critics. My main focus is on the literature and its society. Because of the vastness of the material, I have limited my discussion to certain issues topical at the time of writing. These issues were, however, more than topical; they were controversial as well as decisive for the future direction of Ireland. The period I have chosen, 1879-1922,was an eventful one and crucial for those who lived in the country. Ultimately at stake were the nature and identity of Ireland. In 1879, the Irish National Land League was founded and history was implacably catching up with the Anglo-Irish. Their hegemony had been under threat and increasingly undermined in a number of areas for several decades before the predominantly Catholic Irish Free State was inaugurated in 1922, excluding the predominantly Protestant statelet in the north.The country which had been in union with Britain from 1800 had transformed its power structure completely. Those in power were now generally mere Irish. The disposition of this study reflects the areas of contention experienced by the Anglo-Irish of the period. Chapter 1, "Land and Politics", deals with the Anglo-Irish landlords and their families. The impact of the Land War and the agricultural agitations affected the relationship between landlords and tenants. When the land question lost its identity as a separate issue and became a metaphor for the issue of nationality, the conflict between them turned into a conflict between Unionists and Nationalists. Chapter 2 is devoted to different aspects of religion. Protestants had been greatly favoured by the Penal Laws until full Catholic emancipation was achieved in 1829. Their own church, the Church of Ireland, lost its special status and was disestablished in 1869. Increasingly, in order to qualify for Irishness it was a question of professing the Catholic faith but also of being of native Irish stock. Chapter 3, "Race", discusses the Celt and his presumed characteristics. The 'other' race, the English, will get some attention, as will the Protestant Anglo-Irish themselves. As they lost their power, the mere Irish Catholics gained control. Chapter 4 focuses on this new ruling class, 'the new Irish'. A brief conclusion follows.

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