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    Revivalist: Medical herbs and rejuvenation in the works of Lady Augusta Gregory
    (Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI), 2023-03-17) Walker-Dunseith, Holly May
    When Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) effected her famous mid-life self-reinvention from Anglo-Irish landlady to revivalist dramatist, healing women from her locality provided significant guides and models for her new life and work. This article will discuss what Gregory learned from the lore of a local healer, the shadowy Bridget Ruane (who died c.1899). It will analyse how Gregory worked Ruane’s folk medical knowledge into her prose writings and plays, including The Pot of Broth (1904). In restoring the name of this non-elite woman from the west of Ireland, this article suggests the benefits of casting the net more widely for names to stand alongside Gregory’s as creators of Revival-era culture.
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    Floating hell: the brutal history of prison hulks
    (Immediate Media Company; BBC Studio Distribution, 2022-10-27) McKay, Anna
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    ‘Black butter melting and opening underfoot’: the ‘peat harvest’ in Irish literature and culture
    (Taylor & Francis, 2021-02-24) O'Connor, Maureen; Gearey, Benjamin
    In this paper, we discuss ‘turf-cutting’, or the ‘harvest’ of peat, a centuries-long agricultural practice in Ireland. Although healthy peatlands are known to be carbon sinks, calls for the end of peat cutting are controversial in a country still largely defined by rural traditions. We consider the relationship between peat, peat cutting and identity: the ‘bog’ features significantly in literature and has played a central role in notions of a specifically gendered version of ‘authentic’ Irishness. The cutting of peat exposes and destroys cultural heritage in the form of the archaeological record, and we contrast this reality with the representation of peat cutting in the poetry of Seamus Heaney. We then focus on the fiction of Edna O’Brien, for whom the bog is precious, meaningful, culturally and aesthetically, when left in its undisturbed state, or when explored to connect to the past rather than fuel patriarchal desires
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    “Single Out the Devalued”: The figure of the nonhuman animal in Eavan Boland’s poetry
    (Associação Brasileira de Estudos Irlandeses and University of São Paulo, 2021-05-23) O'Connor, Maureen
    Boland has argued that “good nature poets are always subversive” and, though she did not identify as a nature poet, she compares her praxis to theirs: “their lexicon is the overlooked and the disregarded…. They single out the devalued and make a deep, metaphorical relation between it and some devalued parts of perception.” Boland’s engagement with the “natural” rarely provides a focus for analyses of her work, which predominantly attend to the poet’s own frequently identified preoccupations: her relationship to history, especially Irish history, and her role as an Irish woman writing within and against a largely male-dominated tradition. However, both of these issues of ambivalent and insecure identification and situatedness are implicitly connected to cultural constructions of the “natural.” This essay traces Boland’s negotiation with a legacy of Irish women’s silence by considering the appearance of the nonhuman animal in her verse, which evolves from traditional metaphor to a figure that challenges representational norms and expectations, thereby transvaluing the signifying power of silence and questioning the status of language itself, particularly as a uniquely human construct.
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    Alice's Garden: Imagining agency in the natural world in Clare Boylan's Black Baby
    (Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI), 2020-10-31) O'Connor, Maureen; Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación; European Regional Development Fund; Agencia Estatal de Investigación
    The Irish writer Clare Boylan is something of a forgotten figure, despite enjoying significant literary success in her lifetime. Because of her untimely death, little critical work has been done on her fiction. Her blackly comic sensibility responds sensitively to characters situated in culturally specific environments, with particular attention paid to the vexed and contradictory position of women in their relationship to the natural world, and so this essay conducts a reading of her 1988 novel, Black Baby, using the insights of feminist new materialism and critical posthumanism, especially as articulated by Rosi Braidotti. In every genre, contemporary Irish women’s writing finds space in the natural world to explore alternatives to the status quo. Black Baby imagines an interracial family of women (and cats) in the enchanted environment of a miraculously blooming winter garden. By staging Alice’s most transformative moments, including her final moments of semi-consciousness, in a garden, Boylan makes recourse to the idea of an unending, generative process. Nothing really dies when life is no longer an individualised experience, but an impersonal moment of radical inclusion that exceeds the material limits of any one life span.