Five Irish women

The second republic, 1960-2016

By Emer Nolan

Five Irish women


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3674-9
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: September 2019
  • BIC Category: Literature, Gender studies: women & girls, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Women, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: from c 1900 -, Society & social sciences / Gender studies, gender groups, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women


Five Irish Women is comprised of five interlinked portraits of exceptional Irish women from various fields - literature, journalism, music, politics - who have achieved outstanding reputations since the 1960s: Edna O'Brien, Sinéad O'Connor, Nuala O'Faolain, Bernadette McAliskey and Anne Enright. Several of these could claim to be among the best-known Irish people of their day. The book looks at their achievements -- works of art in some cases, but also life-writing, interviews and speeches - and at their reception in Ireland and elsewhere, shedding light on some of their shared preoccupations, including equality, sexuality and nationalism. The main focus is on the ways in which these distinguished women make sense of their formative experiences as Irish people and how they in turn have been understood as representative figures in modern Ireland.


'Emer Nolan's book depicts women who are strong enough to hold their ground. They are enabled by that very culture which can at moments betray them. Like the author of this subversive study, each has a gift for explanation rather than simplification - of art, politics, and a changing society. This is a work of passion and truth.'
Declan Kiberd, University of Notre Dame

'Five Irish women offers a well-sequenced, cleverly-interlinked study of five Irish women - Edna O'Brien, Sinead O'Connor, Nuala O'Faolain, Bernadette McAliskey, and Anne Enright - who individually and collectively represent some of the diverse ways in which the women's movement and feminism have entered the public sphere in Ireland since the 1960s. The individual studies are remarkably well-rounded, sure-footed and finely-nuanced. Nolan has marshalled these figures such that they allow the reader to acquire, as the study unfolds, a remarkably variegated sense of how Irish feminism has evolved over half a century and across a political spectrum from the socialist republican left to the liberal center and across fields running from literature to music to journalism and politics. All of the individual women studied here have reflected deeply, often eloquently, on their formations in the earlier Ireland they have helped to transform, most displaying complex and in many instances decidedly non-doctrinaire responses to the Irelands "old" and "new" that have shaped them.

Nolan writes in a lucid and totally uncluttered prose and the analyses of the lives and works of the memorable women featured are wonderfully vivid. An impressively original book.'
Joe Cleary, University of Yale

'Emer Nolan's individual studies are more than a celebration of notable women, as she captures these women's moment in history and points to how Ireland affected them and how they influenced Ireland. She succeeds in putting across complex ideas clearly and succinctly in accomplished prose.This is an exciting and provocative book.'
Marie Mulvey-Roberts, University of the West of England

'Through detailed analysis of the voices and worlds of five very different "maverick" women Emer Nolan succeeds brilliantly in her aim to show "what the uncommon lives of these women tell us not just about themselves but about our common life - in general, but specifically in Ireland." Her book is fascinating and essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand and appreciate changing attitudes towards culture, nationalism, religion, feminism and the media in Ireland during the past sixty years.'
Lyn Innes, Emeritus Professor of Postcolonial Literatures, University of Kent, Canterbury

'Emer Nolan, author of the very useful Joyce and Nationalism, has chosen to reflect on five interesting Irishwomen who came to prominence in the second half of the 20th century. They are Edna O'Brien, Bernadette McAliskey, Nuala O'Faolain, Sinead O'Connor and Anne Enright . These choices represent women who made a considerable impact in their fields of literature, journalism, music and politics, and who exemplified different and evolving versions of feminism. None of them relied on a more famous male spouse or father and all of them achieved international as well as national recognition . Overall, this is a well-written, clever, very useful book which will add to our knowledge of later 20th-century feminism, politics, Irishness and its meanings, and the results of freedoms achieved and exploited by a cohort of outstanding Irish women.'
The Irish Times

'This is an immensely timely, readable, thought-provoking, and enjoyable book that will resonate far beyond the seminar room. It persuasively and comprehensively records the significance of the women in question and makes a very strong case for their centrality to the period covered.'
New Hibernia Review


1 Edna O'Brien: writing sex and nation
2 Sinéad O'Connor: the story of a voice
3 Bernadette McAliskey: speechifying
4 Nuala O'Faolain: an emotional episode in public life
5 Anne Enright: taking the Green Road


Emer Nolan is Professor of English at Maynooth University, Ireland

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