Research Pioneers 4: Heidi Hansson

Heidi Hansson’s edited collection New Contexts: Re-Framing Nineteenth-Century Irish Women’s Writing (2007) has been praised by reviewers for its call for the field of literary studies to be augmented and for ‘addressing women’s literature as a “distinct tradition”’. Together with her monograph Emily Lawless 1845-1913: Writing the Interspace, published in the same year, Hansson’s work has been described as ‘the basis for a productive and timely reassessment’ of Irish women’s literature. Here, we ask Hansson, Professor in the Department of Language Studies at Sweden’s Umeå University, about the origins of her interest in Irish literature and what we can learn from studying literary texts from a transcultural perspective.

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Roots of the Present: Memories of My Grandmother Mary Manning

By Lucien Senna

Lucien Senna in front of Glendalough House

I remember it vividly, as though it was this past summer. I was only seven years old and it was one of three joyous summers I spent in a house rented by my grandmother Molly Manning. It was a pink Georgian house in Sandycove, overlooking the sea, where my mother, sister, brother and me stayed to be near my grandmother’s house on Herbert Road.  Only one particular summer’s day stands out as disturbing. I still have a faded colour photo of it. I am standing in a light pink dress with ruffled short sleeves. My hair is a wild crown of frizzy brown curls and I’m posed hesitantly in front of an imposing grey “castle.” The year was 1976. The “castle” was Glendalough House. It was early August. An avid reader of fairytales, I was eagerly looking forward to this day. Upon arrival, my grandmother’s brother-in-law, “Uncle Bobby” Childers, who married her late sister Christobel, urged me to explore the grounds of his house while the adults sat down to talk. I was living a bygone dream.

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Between Two Worlds: Examining "Merry England" as an Outlet for Irish Women Writers

Mary McCartney, University of St. Thomas

In 1885, Katharine Tynan sent a letter to Alice Meynell thanking her for reviewing Tynan’s book Louise de la Vallière and Other Poems in the monthly periodical Merry England (1883–1895). Tynan writes, “It is a beautiful review, and I am glad to have been reviewed by you. […] I value your belief that I am a poet as much” (qtd. in Atkinson 29). Tynan was an Irish nationalist writer who had close ties to W. B. Yeats and was involved in the early years of the Irish Literary Revival. Meynell was a British writer, publisher, and suffragist who co-founded Merry England with her husband Wilfrid in 1883. Most existing scholarship about Merry England is dedicated to the periodical’s contributions to the Catholic Literary Revival, such as Elizabeth Gray’s article “Catholicism and Ideal Womanhood in Fin-de-Siècle Women’s Poetry.”  To date, the periodical’s function as a platform for Irish women writers has been largely overlooked. Yet Merry England played an important role in the careers of Irish women writers working in London or submitting work to London publications.

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Irish Women Writers and the Argosy (1865-1901)

Tove Lilith Conway, University of St. Thomas

The title of the Argosy (1865-1901) conjured up the idea of a ship filled with rich cargo. Indeed, each monthly issue of the magazine offered tales of travel and adventure, along with a steady supply of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction prose. The magazine was initially produced by Alexander Strahan and edited by Isa Craig; however, after the controversial serialization of Charles Reade’s sensation novel Griffith Gaunt (1866), Strahan sold the magazine to London-based novelist Ellen Wood (Ehnes 154). Within three years of her takeover, the magazine’s monthly circulation rose to 20,000. Alvar Ellegård describes the Argosy as “appealing primarily to a genteel, middle-class, lady public, of low to fair educational standard” (17). Yet under Wood’s editorship (1867-87), the magazine addressed complex themes, destabilized gender roles, and upset boundaries between high and low culture (Phegley 187). It also turned readers’ attention to cultures and locales outside the metropolis. It often featured content focused on Irish culture. For example, the Argosy published numerous short stories that ranged in topic from Irish rural landscapes to the Irish peasantry. Irishness was an integral part of the magazine’s identity, themes, writers, and readership.

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Research Pioneers 3: James H. Murphy

From the period of his earliest publications, James H. Murphy has been involved in the process of recovering and re-examining largely forgotten Irish works. As one reviewer noted of his Catholic Fiction and Social Reality in Ireland, 1873-1922 (1997), Murphy’s work is consistently the ‘product of considerable and careful research’ into ‘texts many of us never heard of’. Likewise, as another reviewer asserted about his 2011 Irish Novelists and the Victorian Age, Murphy’s intensive research into and surveys of novels by the ‘many forgotten authors’ of that era have been key to the invigoration of research into Irish women’s literary texts. We ask Murphy to reflect on his influential research and recovery efforts here.

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