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'That life of commonplace sacrifices' : representations of womanhood in Irish Catholic culture in James Joyce's Dubliners



Graduation date: 1999Traditional interpretations of James Joyce's Dubliners have often focused on the pervasive "paralysis" of the city, covered in the stories' range of "childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life." However, these approaches have limited their focus on the women in the stories, often spotlighting the male characters--and the author--through a Freudian lens; consequently, the interpretations have overlooked important considerations in light of developing feminist criticism. Through a selection of the stories, this thesis attempts to show how the text of Dubliners offers a cultural critique of the ways in which women were oppressed and constrained by the Irish Catholic ideology which established their roles within society. By the close of the collection, however, Joyce's creation of an inchoate image of the multi-dimensional, sexualized women of his mature works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, is embodied in the character of Gretta Conroy in "The Dead." Using Judith Butler's theory of performative acts of gender construction and Julia Kristeva's cultural dynamic of "the maternal" in the Stabat Mater, this criticism of the text lifts the female characters from the backgrounds of Dubliners and reveals the diseased culture of Dublin from another perspective. The female characters in the text act out expected cultural roles, often modeled after the Irish Catholic ideal of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through the speech, silence, and physical acts of the female characters in Dubliners, "the female" in Irish-Catholic-Victorian culture is constructed--and\ud reinforced--for Joyce's audience. This reading then furthers our understanding of the institutions, values, and practices which defined "womanhood" in nineteenth-century Dublin

Year: 1998
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Provided by: ScholarsArchive@OSU

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