Women, ambition, and the city, 1890–1910
in Irish women’s writing, 1878–1922
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This chapter traces the link between ambition and the city through the novels and works of several Irish women writers 1890-1910. Writers such as Hannah Lynch, Katherine Cecil Thurston and George Egerton frequently embedded authorial achievements or ambitions in their female (and male) characters. A common theme in such novels of the period is the use of the metropole (in most cases Dublin or London) as a site of greater potential liberty for young female characters, building on earlier work by May Laffan and Rosa Mulholland. This renaissance of the city as a site for either corporal or intellectual freedom in the ‘Irish Ireland’ or ‘Revival’ period offers us an opportunity to shift the focus from Irish writers and their glorification of the west of Ireland as a refuge from the horrors of rapidly advancing capitalism and materialism.

This chapter looks at what this glorification was defined against. By looking at upwardly mobile women in Irish writing this chapter argues that the mirror image or corollary of the noble male peasant was the dynamic young woman in the city and that she too ought to be taken seriously as a feature of the Revival.

Irish women’s writing, 1878–1922

Advancing the cause of liberty


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