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Title: Modern homes? : an analysis of Irish and British women's literary constructions of domestic space, 1929-1946
Author: Byrne, Aoife
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 6157
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Cosy aphorisms such as “home is where the heart is” have always suggested a universal understanding of home. But home is a subjective concept that defies any homogenous designation. If, as Walter Benjamin told us, a consequence of modernity is the necessary sequestration of ‘bourgeois’ domestic spaces from an increasingly ‘modern’ outside world, such a spatial binarism is notably absent in the works of Irish and British women authors from 1929-1946. On the contrary, in these texts, domestic space has multiple functions, not least of which is its usefulness in exploring concepts of modernity, including the consequences of industrial scale warfare on civilian life. During this time, women authors such as Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O’Brien, Nancy Mitford, Evadne Price and Daphne du Maurier respond to the ways in which the ideas of home were in a continuous state of redefinition. They do this for multiple reasons. Factors changing these authors’ perceptions of d0mestic space vary from material, aesthetic, external, broadly philosophical and political. These issues are also sometimes deeply violent, as is seen, for instance, in the burnings of the houses of the Anglo-Irish Ascendency in the Irish War of Independence, and the destruction of houses by bombing in the London Blitz. This project analyses Irish and British domestic spaces as women authors imagine them after the formal segregation of the two countries with the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1922). As both countries move in different political and cultural directions, so too, these authors perceive, do the meanings of home. This changes the ways in which authors construct both the conceptual ideas of home and the material realities of houses in both countries. Congruently, this cross-cultural analysis complicates our understanding of these women authors’ responses to changing meanings of home, women’s issues, and the experience of modernity in the period.
Supervisor: Maddison, Isobel Sponsor: National University of Ireland
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: women's literature ; domestic space ; modernism ; popular culture