The question of gendered voice in some contemporary Irish novels by Brian Moore and John McGahern
This thesis questions the use of the 'voice' metaphor in contemporary Irish cultural studies in order to examine the ways in which gendered identities are constructed in some Irish Catholic communities in twentieth-century Ireland. With reference to novels by Brian Moore and John McGahern as well as to Judith Butler's theories of performativity and citational practices, it argues that gendered identities are constructed through the repetitive citation of hegemonic cultural discourses. This thesis focuses on the ways in which gendered identities are produced and maintained through the citation of the official discourses of the Catholic Church and the State as well as the more mundane discourses related to popular nationalism and the family. The first two chapters concentrate on novels whose protagonists are trying to construct powerful identities in urban Irish society through the manipulation of gendered discourses. The discussion of Moore's The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne identifies some of the strategies through which conventional Irish women's voices are constructed and questions the validity of the category of 'authentic' women's voices. In the chapter relating to McGahem's The Pornographer, the powerful, abstract male voice is exposed as a performative construct which is sustained only through the abjection of those elements which disrupt the narrator's performance of masculinity. The remaining chapters concentrate on the use of idealised images such as those of the 'woman-as-nation' and the iconised mother in novels by Moore and McGahem. Moore's The Mangan Inheritance provides the basis for a discussion of whether or not voices attributed to women in texts by Irish men can be read in ways that disrupt the apparent authority of Irish men's voices. This thesis discusses the issues raised when men participate in the deconstruction of idealised images of Irish women. The final chapter examines the processes through which conventional identities are discursively constructed and maintained in two novels by John McGahem: The Dark and Amongst Women. This thesis contends that through the strategic redeployment of those voices attributed to idealised images of Irish women, voices which are conventionally regarded as silent, patriarchal gendered identities can be destabilised or displaced.