‘We get all sealed up’: An essay in five deaths

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Coughlan, Patricia
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Edinburgh University Press
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In January 1941 Elizabeth Bowen, struggling to complete Bowen's Court, wrote to Virginia Woolf: ‘the last chapter seems to, or ought to re-write retrospectively all the rest of the book’, and also that she felt ‘despair about my own generation … we don't really suffer much but we get all sealed up’. I approach these two remarks as structuring ideas and as connected. Drawing on recent research on the affective dimensions of history, I examine the management of emotion in Bowen's elite class and period, entailing the systematic blockage of conscious suffering and outward displays of feeling. In this frozen war midwinter, she saw that the conclusion of her family history must decisively reject the trajectory of what had gone before. Would this painfully break the ‘seal’ of this last Bowen's tacit acceptance of settler values? The essay is in five episodes, four about a death in or near Bowen's experience, one in her fiction. Each adds a layer to my analysis of these associated questions and their significance
Irish literature , Elizabeth Bowen , Biography , Mourning , Anglo-Irish , Emotion , Ireland , Women
Coughlan, P. (2021) ‘“We get all sealed up”: an essay in five deaths’, Irish University Review, 51(1), pp. 9–23. https://doi.org/10.3366/iur.2021.0492.
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© Edinburgh University Press. This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Edinburgh University Press in Irish University Review. The Version of Record is available online at: https://doi.org/10.3366/iur.2021.0492