Modernism in Irish Women’s Contemporary Writing

Wednesday 22nd November 2023 at 7:45am (Melbourne)
Professor Paige Reynolds, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts
Stubborn Modes, Stubborn Problems: Modernism in Irish Women’s Contemporary Writing

Opening with a close reading of Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You (2021), this paper offers a new history of Irish women’s writing, exposing the critical biases that have occluded our understanding of its intricate relationship with literary modernism. I’ll also lay out the conceptual framework for the stubborn mode of modernism. Stubborn modes are tried-and-true literary tactics that trigger a sense of recognition when readers encounter them, a constellation of traits—including style, tone, forms, content, and history—commonly associated with a particular literary movement or school that travels across time. Composed of literary conventions, the stubborn mode of modernism in contemporary fiction sustains the aesthetic as well as the political impulses associated with the movement’s early history. By helping to remind readers of the sweep of history, the stubborn mode in Irish women’s fiction underscores the durability of certain cultural problems, as well as calling attention to remedies previously imagined for them, whether the outcomes of those interventions have proven to be successful, unsuccessful, or (more likely, as seen across time) a measure of both.

Paige Reynolds, Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, publishes on topics related to modernism, drama and performance, and contemporary Irish writing and culture.  She is author ofModernism, Drama, and the Audience for Irish Spectacle (Cambridge UP, 2007) and editor of Modernist Afterlives in Irish Literature and Culture (Anthem Press, 2016), The New Irish Studies (Cambridge UP, 2020), and Irish Literature in Transition, Volume 6, 1980-2020 (with Eric Falci, Cambridge UP, 2020). Her monograph Modernism in Irish Women’s Contemporary Writing: The Stubborn Mode is forthcoming from Oxford University Press, 2024. 

This paper will be chaired by Clair Wills, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature in the Faculty of English, Cambridge.  Join us online via Zoom

John Kerrigan, Eamon Duffy, Vona Groarke, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, Elizabeth Hession
Cambridge Group for Irish Studies