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Women, War and Letters, 1880-1920

Project Description

Conceptions of national identity are gendered in Ireland, as in other national contexts, and to define oneself as a patriot was to be gendered in a particular way. In Ireland, to engage with national politics and national conflicts in the period between the Land War and Partition was to find oneself grappling with gendered norms and expectations, through which distinctive modes of ‘patriotic action’ could be validated or naturalised, but also re-interpreted or condemned. At the same time, in an international context, imperial and colonial conflicts of the late nineteenth-century opened up new conceptions of space and national identity, while in the early twentieth century, the First World War produced a sustained literary re-evaluation of cultures of militarisms and masculinity. These political events were, however, taking place alongside a series of other conflicts, conflicts centred around disruptions of norms of gendered behaviour and class alignments, as well as disruptions of literary norms with the rise of Modernism. The aim of this research project is to interrogate the literary tropes and political constructions through which women’s writing conceptualises conflict, and the processes through which narratives of identity – gender, national, local, literary – are constructed, de-constructed and rewritten as counter-narratives.

Principal Investigator

Prof. Margaret Mills Harper (UL)
Dr Tina O’Toole (UL)
Dr Muireann Ó Cinnéide (NUIG)
Dr Gillian McIntosh (QUB)

External Partners

Prof. Patricia Coughlan (UCC)
Dr Clíona Ó Gallchóir (UCC)
Dr Maureen O’Connor (UCC)
Dr Eamonn Hughes (Queen’s University Belfast)
Dr Gillian McIntosh (Queen’s University Belfast)
Prof Heidi Hansson (Umeå University, Sweden)
Prof Hedwig Schwall (KU Leuven, Belgium)
Dr Elke D’hoker (KU Leuven, Belgium)
Dr Kathryn Laing (Mary Immaculate College Limerick)
Dr Maura Cronin (Mary Immaculate College Limerick)


Project start: April 20th 2011

Project Outputs

April 2011: European Working Group meeting held at UL; this brought the majority of our group together to initiate the research project and to plan research outcomes and future funding bids.
2011-13: Individual research leading to finished articles in the fields of literary history, literary criticism, late-imperial and colonial politics, cultural analysis, and psychoanalytic literary criticism.
2012-13: Two-day international symposium, to involve members of our group planned for June 2012, titled: ‘Behind the Lines: Women, War and Letters 1880-1920’. Professor Matthew Campbell (York) will be one of the plenary speakers at this event.
2016: Women Writing War: Ireland 1880-1922, eds. Tina O’Toole, Gillian McIntosh, Muireann O’Cinneide (UCD Press, 2016)