English - Doctoral Theses

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    Performing women’s poetry: an evolving craft
    (University College Cork, 2023) Manning, Maria Hanora; Jenkins, Lee; Hanna, Adam; Irish Research Council
    This research project proposes to examine a current cohort of female poets employing performance techniques in their poetries, investigating how these poets continue to adapt and adopt the aesthetics of earlier poets. In recent years, the popularity of poetry in online communities has boomed, with an inevitable backlash to this poetic movement, criticising its contribution to poetry as a cultural form, such as Rebecca Watts’ PN Review article. Throughout this research, I aim to locate these poetries (often described as “digital” or “e- poetries”) along a continuum of performance, identifying the ways in which such a factor is evoked in both these new works and the work of earlier poets. Bearing in mind the theories John Miles Foley’s book Oral Literature and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind, which suggests the internet is a natural evolution of oral literature and spoken word poetries, I aim to connect the work of this cohort of poets with performance poets before them, examining the performative overlaps between oral and digital literatures. This project will interrogate the ways in which performance is enacted through a number of guises, from the sounds of orality and musicality, to the embodiment of performance by these poets. I aim to examine the creation of an aesthetic of performance among these women poets, paying particular attention to the ways the female body is performed in this work. Finally, I consider the social implications and contexts of such work, exploring the connections between poet and audience, the poetic persona and the performance of politics in these poetries. My research is primarily focused on work of poets disseminating their work chiefly through non-print methods, such as recording, performance, and social media, in the 21st Century. I will also examine the performance poetries of women poets in the 20th Century, examining the connections and creation ofa performance aesthetic, aiming to link the work of poets across these eras by examining a series of aspects of their poetics, such as the orality, the body, musicality, social engagement and public spheres of poetry.
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    Revival: traditional medicine in the works of W. B. Yeats, Augusta Gregory, and J. M. Synge
    (University College Cork, 2023) Walker-Dunseith, Holly May; Hanna, Adam; Davis, Alex
    This thesis is an investigation of the representations of traditional medicine and healing practices in Revival-era literature, with a specific concentration on the works of three authors: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Lady Augusta Gregory (1852- 1932), and John Millington Synge (1871-1909). Looking at the Revival period (c.1889-1922) from a medical perspective, this study links writing concerning healing and healers to the wider historical, political and social forces at work in Irish society. Folk medicine and cures, both as image and metaphor, are central to the literature of what has become known as the Revival period in Ireland. As indigenous methods of healing, folk medical practices have a metaphorical significance as well. The Irish Literary Revival can be seen as a resuscitation of sorts: a cultural process that was framed in explicitly medical terms, which sought to breathe new life into the country’s past. Traditional medicine was a distinctive area of Irish life and practice that could be woven into Irish prose, drama, and poetry as part of a project to bring to light the country’s overlooked folk ways. The deployment of folk medicine, healers, and cures as an image, though, had a wider metaphorical significance that is inextricable from the political tensions at work in Ireland in the decades before the foundation of the Free State. Literature that represents traditional medicine at times gestures towards the possibility of a culture and nation in the act of healing itself from illness, and at times questions these nationalist discourses.
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    Mad mums, bad dads and heroines with "street cred”: an analysis of multiple perspectives on the appeal of Jacqueline Wilson's dark realism
    (University College Cork, 2023) Quinlan, Áilín; O Gallchoir, Cliona; Martin, Shirley
    Jacqueline Wilson remains one of the most controversial – and popular - children’s authors writing today. Many of her stories focus on uncomfortable family and social issues, ranging from separation and divorce to infidelity, domestic violence, child abandonment, foster care, breast cancer and mental illness. Wilson’s depiction both of the dark side of domesticity and of how her realistic young protagonists respond to the challenges they face in chaotic, deprived and sometimes frightening home environments, has brought her a mixture of disapproval and renown from the adult world and earned her an enormous fan base amongst child readers. The question addressed in this study is why such apparently bleak and depressing topics hold such enormous attraction for young girls, and what it is about the darkness in these stories that they enjoy. Furthermore, given how these popular books are characterised by such grim modern social realism, it is also important to determine whether the young readers are receiving an accurate and fair picture of the reality of life for some children. This thesis will explore these issues and others. A study of the available literary criticism on Wilson’s work in terms of her realism, characterisation, style and technique, was supported by extensive research into the perspectives of renowned literary scholars in the area, and an examination of traditional realistic children’s literature whose roots stretch back to the publication of A Pretty Little Pocket Book in 1744 by the publisher John Newbery. This was followed by an examination of relevant sociological research on the impact on some children of living in families headed by lone parents and/or in circumstances of financial deprivation, relationship breakdown and blended families in order to determine whether the experiences of Wilson’s young protagonists accurately reflect those of real children in similar situations. Following extensive engagement with both literary criticism and sociological research, the thesis will then present the results of primary research conducted to further explore the research questions. This primary research methodology was qualitative and involved both adults and children. A series of semi-structured interviews with adults explored the perspectives and insights of parents and experienced professionals working in the area of childhood who were familiar with Wilson’s work. The research with children was conducted using participatory research methods to seek the views of some of Wilson’s young readers on what attracted them to the dark realism of her complex and often grim family stories. The researcher established a Jacqueline Wilson Book Club which met seven times and utilised focus group participatory methods. It should be emphasised that the young focus group members in particular contributed significantly to the findings of this research, offering thought-provoking perspectives on how girls are often portrayed in literature, and on the dynamics of family relationships and the complex web of child and adult behaviour which lie at the heart of Wilson’s work. It is important to state here that a significant issue to emerge from the research carried out for this thesis was the absence of the voice of the child reader in scholarly discussions of children’s literature. This thesis sets out to help address this lacuna by giving children the opportunity to express their opinions on Wilson’s work in terms of why they enjoy it, thus demonstrating the potentially significant contributions that can be gained from exploring the perspectives of child readers and thereby corroborating or contesting existing scholarly theories on the benefits or otherwise of including children’s voices in literary criticism.
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    Monstrous mothers and founding fathers: Kristevan maternality in Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman cycle
    (University College Cork, 2023) Dennehy, Thomas; O'Connor, Maureen; O Gallchoir, Cliona
    The role of the mother, her potential failure to be good enough, the structure and performance of family, neglect, and family value and performance have become critical issues in social research and adult fiction in the middle of the twentieth century. These adult preoccupations are to be found in literature specially written for children and young adults and Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman cycle published between 1981 and 1987 is an extended study of the existential and urgent issues of maternal abandonment and the issues it presents for her child protagonists. This thesis is a study of the maternal issues that this sudden act of abandonment creates across the span of the seven novels. The initial focus of the series and this research is the plight of four children who are abandoned by their mentally ill mother and who struggle to process their plight and create a new family and a home. A post Freudian psychoanalytic approach is adopted in this research and this approach is concerned with the earliest maternal issues explored in Klein, Winnicott and Kristeva. The maternal search is accomplished in the opening book — they find a home with an initially unwelcoming grandmother — but the effects of the family dysfunction which initiates the series extend across the remaining six novel of the cycle and are questioned and evaluated in this research. The research will question the function and place of the mother and of family itself and asks if a more elastic idea like Kristevan “maternality” is an issue which the narratives explore. The dysfunctional effects are visible in the life choices and decisions of Dicey Tillerman, the eldest child and the protagonist of the series The research will explore the claim that the Tillerman series demonstrates that family, as a nourishing , sustaining social possibility can be created in liminal and unexpected places and should not be exclusively identified with the patriarchal family. The research will stress a number of critical theoretical movements that underpin the development of the protagonists across the series: the developmental move from Melanie Klein’s first developmental position, the paranoid schizoid to Klein’s second position, the depressive and the move from an old and archaic, closed judgmental, bipolar order, described in the research as a “covenant” to a new order, a new “covenant” marked by respect and the practice of open and lateral communication. In the final book Voigt offer a resolution, seen in the sudden decision of Dicey Tillerman to drive to her boyfriend’s house and rekindle their apparently foundering relationship but one which, in its result contradicts the radical questioning of family which the narrative of the series was consistently preoccupied by. This decision will be interrogated as will the implications of a sudden and abrupt return to the hegemonic family authored and validated by patriarchy.
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    A method to the madness? Representations of female psychological disorder in Irish women’s fiction 1878-1914
    (University College Cork, 2022-10) Regan, Éadaoin; O Gallchoir, Cliona; Laird, Heather; University College Cork
    This thesis investigates representations of female psychological disorders in selected Irish women’s fiction published between 1878 and 1914, focusing on how these stories challenge contemporary perceptions of the cause and cure of mental illness. The authors included in this project are as follows: George Egerton, Edith Somerville and Martin Ross, Richard Dehan, Sarah Grand, Bithia Mary (B.M.) Croker, and Charlotte Riddell. I propose that these stories point to contemporary women’s awareness of their mental illnesses or what society perceived these to be. This includes a discussion of Freudian analysis’ wide-ranging list of hysterical symptoms: general illness, fantasies, or dreams. It also explores various instances of self-harm such as anorexia, alcoholism, and suicide. With reference to contemporary psychoanalytic theories on hysteria, I offer a correction to cultural perceptions of women’s mental health issues during the fin de siécle. For some of the texts explored, these Irish women writers were anticipating psychoanalytic interpretations of wider women’s experiences or at the very least responding to the culture which formed psychoanalysis. Furthermore, I argue that in contrast to prevailing perceptions of the time, the texts suggest that neuroses are not solely caused by repressed sexuality. This thesis contributes to a re-evaluation of fin de siècle Irish women’s writing, thus building upon the research carried out in this area over the past three decades. It does so by employing critical readings of nineteenth-century Irish women’s writing but through an alternative methodology, one that engages with long-neglected Spielreinian, Horneyan, or Jungian theories. This thesis therefore explores fictional representations of fin de siècle women’s mental illness using psychoanalysis as a comparative study of the impact domestic, social, and cultural had on neurotic behaviour. This thesis also engages with the implications of the geographical proximity of Ireland to the centre of the British Empire, which necessitated the former’s adherence to the latter’s laws and social expectations. For Irish women, like their English counterparts, there was an emphasis on women’s integral roles within the Empire as daughters, wives, and mothers. While the New Woman movement stretched beyond Ireland and Britain, differences in legal and cultural ramifications means that the experiences represented in these fictional texts incorporate complex contemporary tensions which result in psychological disorder. Though thesis focuses on women’s experiences during the period, where relevant, it also examines the role of Irish culture and its impact on the selected fictional instances of madness. The British Empire’s colonisation efforts in Ireland had significant impact on the island and are inextricable from discussions of its sexuality, maternity, culture, individuality, and women’s mental illness. Similarly, psychoanalysis was not created in a vacuum. If Freud’s case studies can be deemed an archive of their time, then the selected Irish women’s writing can be seen as somewhat of a counter-archive. As argued throughout this thesis, the selected fiction deconstructs contemporary perceptions of a universal Irish women’s experience during this period. It therefore suggests Irish women had a far more intricate understanding of their mental illness, and society’s impact on it, than their contemporaries acknowledged.