Women representing Ireland in the seventeenth century: From English idyll to Irish nightmare

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Although Ireland figures large in the life writing, or auto/biographical writing, of early modern Englishwomen, the past few decades' attention to early modern women's life writing has given little attention to the presence of Ireland in these texts or, more significantly, to the formative role of Ireland on the writers' world views and textual choices. In this essay, therefore, I provide a survey of the four most common representations of Ireland that appear in this body of work. These include an idealized version of Ireland as a mini-England; the inverse depiction of Ireland as a kind of nightmare landscape; and slightly less morally laden versions of Ireland as a site of rich potential for individual transformation or as a land of mystery and somewhat exoticized otherness. Although Irishwomen's narratives about Ireland also deserve more attention, and although the question of individual identity—including “English” and “Irish”—is incredibly fraught in this particular context, this initial survey will create a foundation on which further scholarship can be built.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12494
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am grateful for funding support from the University of Minnesota Imagine Fund, Grant‐in‐Aid, and Faculty Research

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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