Symbolic and Actual Motherhood in Ireland: Maternal Identities in Doireann Ní Ghríofa's A Ghost in the Throat

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Ireland has long been represented as a woman. In the context of nineteenth-century Irish nationalism, the figure of Mother Ireland was established to motivate male Irish nationalists to join the fight against the British coloniser. However, this mother figure, along with religious mother figures such as the Virgin Mary, is experienced as a burden to Irish mothers and women. This experience is depicted, and sometimes negated, in the autobiographical works on motherhood that recently have established a new Irish literary trend. One of these works is Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat. This thesis first shows that this work of autofiction negates symbolic mother figures, such as the Virgin Mary, Mater Dolorosa and Mother Ireland. Then, it discusses that Ní Ghríofa challenges the expectations that those figures have imposed on mothers and women today, such as altruism and domesticity. Ní Ghríofa’s work underlines the importance of representations of maternal subjectivity, which has often been left undiscussed in Irish literature. Within a larger feminist context, this thesis argues that Ní Ghríofa’s work challenges recent equality movements that depict a diverse group of women through one single female figure.
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