‘What does a woman want?’
Irish contemporary women’s fiction and the expression of desire in an era of plenty
in From prosperity to austerity
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Sylvie Mikowski asks why is it that women writers should have turned to the depiction of rich, globalized Ireland far more readily than their male counterparts. She shows how Deirdre Madden, Eílís Ní Dhuibhne and Anne Enright have each found a way to express in their fiction the ineradicable permanence of sexual difference in a world where economic and sexual liberalism combine to erase that disparity. The three authors present female characters that enjoy the possibility of rejecting marriage, motherhood and domestic confinement. Yet the plots and tones they employ suggest that this newly-found freedom of choice does not necessarily lead to fulfilment, or to a sense of achievement. This chapter will examine how these writers have each found a way to express in their fiction the ineradicable permanence of sexual difference in a world where economic and sexual liberalism combine to erase that disparity. It will also discuss how that difference is perceptible through symptoms such as existential malaise, depression, or even anorexia, and will explore how the aesthetic, especially through what Julia Kristeva called semiotic language, can be an answer to the malaise. The chapter offers a fascinating insight into aspects of the gendered expression of the Celtic Tiger.

From prosperity to austerity

A socio-cultural critique of the Celtic Tiger and its aftermath

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