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Gay Identity in Liberal Ireland and the Social Silencing of Male Prostitution: The Rent Boy Figure in Keith Ridgway’s ‘Angelo’ and The Parts.
School of English Research Seminar
José Carregal Romero, University of Vigo, Spain
“Gay Identity in Liberal Ireland and the Social Silencing of Male Prostitution:
The Rent Boy Figure in Keith Ridgway’s ‘Angelo’ and The Parts.”
One of the most renowned gay fiction writers of contemporary Ireland, Keith Ridgway emerged in the 1990s as a powerful and innovative literary voice concerned with the rapid changes taking place in Irish society due to the economic boom and liberal discourses of the Celtic Tiger years. Published in the early 2000s, “Angelo” (2001) and The Parts (2003) foreground the class oppression and social divides of liberal Ireland. My reading of Ridgway’s works is informed by Robin Patric Clair’s formulation of silence as embedded in language, as “creating and re-creating our social realities” through the “organizing” of knowledge (Organizing Silence, 1998: 21). In particular, this study tackles the moral and cultural implications of the social silencing of male prostitution, as represented in Ridgway’s accounts of gay life and the rent boy trade in 1990s and early 2000s Dublin. My talk will thus address how, at the time, public attention on male prostitution was not only scarce, but also painfully displaced from the destitution that most rent boys experienced. The harsh realities of prostitution remained occluded by a liberal discourse that nonetheless created a new icon of gay identity –of an urban, middle-class and consumerist lifestyle– to celebrate national progress, while silencing the increasing economic disparities of the era. In “Angelo” and The Parts, Ridgway challenges the liberal stereotype of gay identity, offering intersectional approaches to gay life in Dublin, reaching into the underworld of male prostitution. In this way, Ridgway exposes the reader to a hidden world of violence and oppression, dramatising at the same time the effects of the social silencing of prostitution. This paper is part of a larger project, led by Professor Teresa Caneda at the University of Vigo, entitled “Inconvenient Truths: Cultural Practices of Silence in Contemporary Irish Fiction”. This project is funded by the Spanish Agency for Research and the European Regional Development Fund.
José Carregal-Romero obtained his PhD from the University of Vigo (Spain) in 2016, with a dissertation on Colm Tóibín’s fiction, which received the Inés Praga Terente Award by the Spanish Association of Irish Studies (AEDEI).He is now in receipt of a post-doctoral fellowship awarded by the Autonomous Government of Galicia, Spain (Axudas posdoutorais 2017), and is conducting part of his research at University College Dublin and University College Cork. He is currently writing a monograph on lesbian and gay identities in the fiction of contemporary Ireland. His publications include articles in journals such as Irish University Review, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction and Etudes Irlandaises.
Free - all welcome. Organised by School of English