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(27-05-2006) Irish Feminist Futures Postgraduate Conference

 Organised by:


Irish Postgraduate Gender and Women’s Studies Network


Board of Women’s Studies UCC

 27th May 2006 – University College Cork



9.30-10am: Registration – Room 156, The O’Rahilly Building


10-10.20: Welcome by Dr Sandra McAvoy and Opening address by Dr Rebecca Pelan


10.20-11.50: Session 1: Panels 1-3


1.      Negotiating Identities:


Meaghan Connaire (Communications, SUNY) – Confessions of an Irish-American Feminist.


Christine O’Dowd-Smyth (School of Humanities, WIT) - Literary Representations Of Dis-Embodiment & Dis-Placement In Postcolonial Algerian & Irish Women’s Writing: A Comparative Study..


Rhona Trench (Drama Studies, QUB)- Staging Morality In On Raftery’s Hill.


Niamh Hehir (Women’s Studies, UL) - Threshold Identities: The Abject and Embodied Subjectivity in The Flower Master and Other Poems.


2.      Genres, Stereotypes and Genders

 Annalisa Sommariva (Comparative Literature, Trento University) - Sex And The Irish Woman At The Turn Of The Century According To Two Irish Comedies


Jo McNamara (NUI Galway) - All-Conquering Heroines? An Analysis Of Female Portrayals Within Fantasy Genre Films


Katharina Greiner (Hispanic Studies, UCC) - The Irish Traveller Girl As Female Protagonist In Film And Literature: Marita Conlon-McKenna’s The Blue Horse (O’Brien Press, 1992) And Perry Ogden’s Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl (An Lár Films, 2005)


Zelie Asava (Film Studies, UCD) - Multiple Ethnicities, Sexualities In The Crying Game (Jordan, Ireland, 1992)


3.      Performing Gender and Sexuality

Sonja Tiernan (WERRC, UCD) - “Refuse To Wear The Shackles Of Sex;” Cross-Dressing, Transexualism And Intersex In The Journal Urania 1916-1940.


Hazel O’Brien (WERRC, UCD) – Lesbian Parenting: The Renegotiation of Feminist Motherhood.


Linda Greene (WERRC, UCD) - Gender And Sexualities, Concrete Borders Permeable Membrane.


 11.50-12.00: Coffee


12-1: Workshop - Room 156



12-12.30: Jennifer Dewan to say a few words on her own experience of PhD writing, opening then to the floor for discussion.

12.30-1: Susan Cahill and Claire Bracken to introduce the IPGWN network and showcase the network’s template website, followed by a brainstorm regarding possible future activities of network and decision on name.


1-2: Lunch – University College Cork Staff Restaurant



2-3: Roundtable Plenary Discussion on Irish Feminist Futures – Room 156


Chair:   Dr. Sandra McAvoy (Women’s Studies, UCC)



Prof. Pat   Coughlan (English, UCC)

Dr. Katherine   O’Donnell (WERRC, UCD)

Dr. Rebecca Pelan   (Women’s Studies, NUIG)

Dr Maryann Valiulis (Women's   Studies TCD)



3-3.15: Coffee



3.15-4.45: Session 2: Panels 4-6


1.      Submerged Histories


 Alice McDermott and Mark Power (History and Cultural Studies & Communications, WIT) - Putting Them in their Place: Writing Irish Nurses into Factual Great War Literature.


Ana Nunes (School of English and Drama, UCD) - “From The Fantastic To Magic Realism: The Spectral Presence In Phyllis Perry’s Stigmata”.


Julie Richko (School of Archaeology, UCD) - Homes, Homelands And Identities: Archaeologies Of Nineteenth-Century Irish Peasantry And Its Diaspora.


Parvin Ghasemi (School of Lit. and Humanities, Shiraz University, Iran & Newcastle University) - Memory At Work:  Regeneration And Empowerment In Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse.


2.      The Body


Deirdre Quinn (Centre for Media Studies, NUI Maynooth) - Marching Back To Maternity: Foucault, Butler And The Space Of The HIV/AIDS Body In Irish Broadcasting.


Jenny Murphy (School of English and Drama, UCD) - The Body In Almodóvar’s Work: A Site Of Rhizomatic Symbolic Violence.


Michael Hutchen (School of Philosophy, UCD) - The Body In Its Sexual Being.


Jeannette Boyne - By The Pricking Of My Thumbs: The (Un)Imagined Body.


3.      Theory and Politics


Emma Bidwell (Dept. of English, UCC) - You Are So Embarrassing! : Feminists And Queers And The Spaces In Between.


Jennifer Dewan (Anthropology, Columbia University) - Merely Theory? Some Thoughts On Feminism, Activism And Academic Practice.


Michael O’Rourke (School of English and Drama, UCD) - Butler’s Untimely Politics.




Abstracts and Speaker Biographies


Asava, Zelie (Film Studies, UCD)

Multiple Ethnicities, Sexualities In The Crying Game


This paper will question ideas of race, gender and sexuality through the figure of Dil in The Crying Game. Dil engages in various maquerades, performing performance, femininity and Englishness.  This film concurs with theoretical arguments of social constructionism.  Jordan highlights the superficiality of gender position and identity, race and nationality, boundaries and divisions – exemplifying in Dil the slippage between signifier (external, visible construction) and signified (psyche).  Jordan is interested in what lies between boundaries, interstices: the in-between in society thus he undermines the fixity of ideology, sexuality, nation, the absoluteness of identity.

I will refer to texts by Laura Mulvey and bell hooks to show how Dil’s transgressive identity transforms traditional representations and how the presence/absence of different racial groups on screen informs our understanding of these groups in society; thus exemplifying a sociological link between cinematic and social mixed-race representation. 


I am a second year PhD student at UCD in Film Studies.  My area of research is the representation of mixed-race people in French and American cinema.  I also teach a course on gender and race in cinema and next year will lecture on world cinema.


Bidwell, Emma (Dept. of English, UCC)

“You Are So Embarrassing! : Feminists And Queers And The Spaces In Between”


In the last ten years queer theory and queer politics have slowly been making their presence felt in Gender and Women’s Studies.  Queerness is subtly changing the epistemology of feminism.  Even a brief mention of Judith Butler in a Women’s Studies Course, or an awareness of transgenderism, alters the traditional understanding of gender and, therefore, of the ontological grounds of feminism.  This understanding, however, travels both ways.  Queer theory, arguably, owes much of its theoretical background and ‘voice’ to feminism, specifically to feminism’s search for new ways of being.  Why then do these two so often view each other with embarrassment and defensiveness?  Is there a possibility of dialogue between the two or are the moments of intersectionality only going to produce bewilderment?   If feminism is based upon a definition of woman and queer theory argues for a fluidity of gender can there be any viable dialogue between the two?


In this paper I will address these questions and argue that, due to its size and demographic make-up, Ireland has a unique opportunity to respond to the difficulties that currently disrupt dialogue between these two schools of thought.  If the emerging voices of young women are to be heard, I believe that the gap between feminism and queerdom must be bridged.  Feminism will then remain vital and transformative.



Emma Bidwell is in her final year as a PhD. candidate at University College Cork, her thesis is entitled ‘Female Masculinity in the Works of Carson McCullers’.  She is a Government of Ireland Scholar funded by the IRCHSS.  She has presented papers at the Lesbian Lives Conference in 2003, 2004 and 2006, the Queer The(e)ories Symposium at UCD, and at the American Literature Association Conference in Mexico. Her particular areas of research are female masculinity and gender performance.  Emma teaches Modern Literature with Oscail and a seminar on Writing on the American South in UCC.


Boyne, Jeanette “By The Pricking Of My Thumbs: The (Un)Imagined Body”

It must be possible ‘to concede and affirm an array of materialities that pertain to the body, that which is signified by the domains of biology, anatomy, physiology, hormonal and chemical composition, illness, age, weight, metabolism, life and death’ (Butler, Bodies That Matter, 65), and to acknowledge that each of those categories has a history and a historicity, i.e. that they are determined by and within discursive relations of power that are available for contestation.  My goal in this paper is to speak about the embodied subject within an historical/theoretical approach that neither denies the materiality of our bodies nor imprisons us within the body.

When neuroscientist Eric Kandel (In Search of Memory), finds learning at the cellular level, the unitary body atomises, dis-integrates, only to reintegrate, to reappear for the first time so to speak, as culturally-inflected body image—an image so powerful that following an amputation, despite the physical, intellectual, and visual evidence that a limb is no longer there, it nevertheless continues to itch, or to cramp.  The phantom body image has multiple sources, from proprioceptive input from the lived-in, sensible body, to a ‘memory’ of the Lacanian real (the space between consciousness and symbolic self-consciousness), to the cultural environment.          

Lacan describes somatic symptoms as ‘the silence in the supposed speaking subject’; Damasio argues that ‘the comprehensive understanding of the human mind requires an organismic perspective’; Elizabeth Grosz says that ‘bodies and minds are not two distinct substances or two kinds of attributes of a single substance, but somewhere in between these two alternatives’.  I am hypothesising that the mind is to the brain as body image is to the body—a virtual reconstruction, a series of images, perceptual and recalled, represented topographically, integrated in time and in constant interactive—symbolic—flux.  As the body is to the mind (its source) so the mind is to the body image, creating a bidirectional triangular relationship—body, mind, body image (all contested terms)—in constant dynamic tension, within which the sujet en procès is always already in a state of becoming.


 Jeannette Boyne is a migrant from the English department to psychology.  Having worked on representations of women, hysteria, and madness in nineteenth-century literature for a PhD in English at Sussex University, Jeannette followed that thread into the twentieth century and is currently working toward a post graduate diploma in psychology.  She is particularly interested in the relationship between mind and body—that is, in how the embodied subject is, so to speak, minded.


 Connaire, Meaghan (Communications, SUNY)

“Confessions of an Irish-American Feminist”

 This paper investigates Irish-American feminism.  What does it mean to be an Irish-American feminist in today's world? It can be summed up in one word: contradiction. Practicing a radical feminist lifestyle while retaining Irish-American roots proves to be difficult. The desire to change the capitalist system which oppresses many runs parallel to a pride in how Irish immigrants in the United States, in making better lives for themselves through hard work and subsequent worker exploitation of the capitalist system.  My project is situated within my own politics of location—comprised of my family history, Irish history and feminist philosophies; an understanding of who I am and where I will go begins to materialize.  Having been raised Irish-Catholic, I challenge the notion that organized religion is not conducive to feminism. Living in a world that is rapidly globalizing, it is crucial to question how important it is to label oneself Irish-American. The desire to practice a life rooted in non-violent philosophy is met with the violent history of not only my family but of Ireland itself. Violence is romanticized in Irish history and is passed down from generation to generation. How can non-violent philosophies accommodate violent pasts? Is it even possible? In addition issues of globalization, this paper locates Irish Feminism within Irish and American History, which until recently has amounted to studying the everyday life experiences of men in these cultures.  To be an Irish-American woman is to be born into a man's world. It is pertinent to the future of feminism that both Irish and American women realize there are hundreds of women to write back into our histories.  As such, the paper calls for the inclusion of women in Irish and American history and utilizes artifacts from the work of Matilda Joslyn Gage and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington to advance a politics of intercultural feminism.


Meaghan Connaire, undergraduate SUNY Cortland, Cortland, NY. I will be receiving my bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration in journalism and minors in Women’s Studies and Professional Writing. I am a third-generation Irish-American and plan to earn a Master’s in Irish Studies or Irish History.


Dewan, Jennifer (Anthropology, Columbia University)

“Merely Theory? Some Thoughts On Feminism, Activism And Academic Practice”

 In my experience learning and teaching women’s studies, I have found that there is a split between people who ‘do theory’ and people who don’t.  Since I myself am firmly entrenched somewhere in the middle of that split, I realize that such sweeping generalizations do not describe what real people do.  However, I do think it describes a real debate that lies at the heart of the practice (and theory) of women’s studies, namely the relationship between practice and theory.  Women’s studies occupies a unique position in the academy: it is an academic discipline (or multidiscipline) as well as a basis and forum to promote social change.  Women’s studies is concerned with making women visible and exploring the reasons why they are not, as well as seeking out ways in which to effect social change. It is simultaneously academic and political, theory and practice.  And yet there is a reticence to ‘theory’, particularly those varieties of critical theory (for instance, poststructuralist and postmodern theories) deemed ‘too difficult’, ‘too trivial’ or even ‘apolitical’.  According to sociologist Steven Buechler social theory was developed as a way to “discipline and normalize an unruly world”, particularly in the context of colonial expansion (Buechler 2000:3).  Indeed, the development of social theory – and its corresponding practices - can be linked to the proliferation of capitalism and liberalism around the globe.  But it has also been the means by which thinkers have attempted to change the world, providing the basis for radical and revolutionary social change (e.g. Marxist theory, feminist theory, queer theory).  In this sense, theory and practice necessarily co-exist.  This paper will explore some thoughts regarding the uneasy relationship between theory and practice in the discipline of women’s studies, and its effect on the future of feminism, activism and academic practice in the modern world. 


I am a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Columbia University.  I am currently writing my doctoral thesis on social change, political activism and feminism in Ireland.  The thesis is principally concerned with examining the relationship between citizens/activists and the state in the context of late capitalist modernity (i.e. European integration, economic change, globalization). I spent two years in Cork conducting ethnographic research among women's groups and political activists as well as historical and archival research.


Ghasemi, Parvin (School of Lit. and Humanities, Shiraz University, Iran & Newcastle University)

“Memory At Work:  Regeneration And Empowerment In Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse

 To The Lighthouse investigates the characters’ journey to the past in search of their true identity and rewards them with a sense of assertion of self and an understanding of others.  Thus, Annette Kuhn’s theory in Family Secrets (1995) implying that memory work has the power to uncover personal experiences and incidents in the characters’ mind, “things buried deep in their past” (3), can be productively applied to To The Lighthouse to reveal the characters’ quest for identity and their eventual achievement of self-recognition. The journey to the lighthouse is undertaken on several levels.  In addition to its physical/literal level of actualization, it is a mental and psychological journey.  While Mr. Ramsay, James and Cam take part in both physical and mental journeys, Lily Briscoe, the Ramsays’ surrogate daughter, feels no need to undertake the physical journey as her mental trip to the past is sufficient for her to accomplish her ends towards self-discovery.  Lily, who dominates the point of view in part III of the novel, is, particularly, very active in the mental quest in search of her gender identity and her own definition of individual self and womanhood.  Lily’s final revelation, the epiphany, comes at the moment of the eventual arrival at the lighthouse which coincides with the completion of her creative work (the painting begun 10 years ago) and memory work as she achieves an insight into her own self.  This self-realization, which is achieved by other characters as well, indicates that “the unfolding in memory texts of connections between memory and the past / memory and time, memory and place, memory and experience, and memory and images, memory and the Unconscious” (kuhn 5) can be utilized to empower the individual via self-knowledge.


Parvin Ghasemi is Assistant Professor of Eng. Lit at School of Lit. and Humanities at Shiraz Univ., Iran (currently an academic visitor at Newcastle Univ., UK).  Her academic interests include American Fiction, African American Literature, and Women and Gender Studies.  Her articles have appreared in Alif, American Univ of Ciaro, Language Forum, India, Kerman Univ. Journal, and Tabriz Univ. Journal, Iran.  She is the author of Novel Textbook and Five Stories (translation). She earned her B.A in Iran (78), M.A. from SUNY-Brockport (80) and Ph. D. from The Pennsylvania State Univ. (dissertation on Toni Morrison's novels 1994). At present, she is spending a sabbatical year at Newcastle University (UK) working on Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and a modern Iranian woman poet, Forough Farrokhzad.


Greene, Linda (WERRC, UCD)

“Gender And Sexualities, Concrete Borders Permeable Membrane”

 In this paper I attempt to critically reflect on gender role expectations, sexuality and body politics via an exploration of problematic definitions of sex and sexual identity.  Historically the female body has been loaded with partriachicaly informed heteronormative theory placing it categorically and uniformly into a particular sex role at both the social and diagnostic level. The lesbian body particularly has become a highly politicised landscape with borders and territories as women are labelled lesbian or ‘not lesbian enough’ depending on body type, dress and appearance. This paper attempts to briefly analyse the complex relationship between the body, sex and sexual identity as so called ‘subversives’ attempt to radically transgress such limitations and live their lives on their terms.  By exploring the limitations of borders surrounding sex and sexuality I endeavour to promote different ways of understanding, loving and being. This paper seeks to analyse such borders and explore the potentially ‘dire’ consequences of not fitting neatly into the two-sex model of sex or the nexus of heteronormativity. Such borders effectively seek to contain and control and quite deliberately function as tools of social surveillance and disempowerment. The paper might be of particular interest to researchers concerned with gender and identity politics.


Current research topic focus; Lesbianism and Sports. Linda graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1999 and went on to complete her MA in Women's Studies at UCD.  An ex-International and professional level athlete she currently teaches Photography and is in her 3rd year of her PhD research at WERRC, UCD.


 Grenier, Katharina (IRCHSS Postgraduate Scholar, Hispanic Studies, UCC)

The Irish Traveller Girl As Female Protagonist In Film And Literature: Marita Conlon-McKenna’s The Blue Horse (O’Brien Press, 1992) And Perry Ogden’s Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl (An Lár Films, 2005)”

 This paper examines the role of the female protagonist in Marita Conlon-McKenna’s The Blue Horse and Perry Ogden’s film Pavee Lackeen, with a view to establishing the importance of the figure of the Irish traveller girl in 21st century Irish film and fiction. I propose to show that the concept of Ireland’s ideal female protagonist, and particularly women’s perception of the ideal female protagonist, has been influenced by external rather than internal factors and may need some re-evaluation. My paper will explore this theory by analysing the two characters in question (Winnie in Pavee Lackeen and Katie in The Blue Horse) through a comparison between the modern stereotypical representations of the female protagonist in film and literature, and the character of the female protagonist in the Bildungsroman (novel of development) and the fairytale of female awakening.


Katharina Greiner is a Government of Ireland Scholar and a final-year PhD student in the Department of Hispanic Studies in UCC. She is currently completing her PhD thesis on Fairytale and the Cinderella Metaphor in Spanish Post-war Women’s Writing, and has presented a number of papers on related subjects in the past, including “Motherhood and the Mother-Substitute: The Fairy-godmother figures in NadaLa vieja ley and Mientras vivimos” at last year’s 1st Irish Postgraduate Women’s Studies Conference held in UCC. Originally from Germany, she completed her BA degree in Dublin City University, subsequently lived in Spain for two years and hopes to continue her study of Spanish women’s writing by expanding her research to include inter-cultural comparisons.


Hehir, Niamh (Women’s Studies, UL)

Threshold Identities: The Abject and Embodied Subjectivity in The Flower Master and Other Poems

 Medbh McGuckian wrote The Flower Master and Other Poems after her experience of pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal depression. It is a collection written from the perspective of a fractured identity, where a scattered self seeks reconnection and unification throughout. The unsettling effect of the maternal experience in this collection brings to focus the fluid, unstable and destabilising influence of the body, particularly the maternal body, in our negotiation of identity. It also indicates the extent to which our identity is derived and constituted by our corporal experiences.

 In this reading of the body in The Flower Master and Other Poems we begin to understand the body to be, as Braidotti suggests, “not an essence, but a play of forces”. The charge of essentialism has often prevented a full engagement with issues of the body in feminist discourse, with notions of biologism associated with any return to the body as a source of identity. In this paper, I will focus on the destabilising effects of the maternal body and attempt to, as Margrit Shildrick suggests, “interrupt the binary that positions the biological as static and culture as representative of development and change.”

 How then do we approach this analysis of identity and corporeality and what kind of subject is constituted by this fluid body? Julia Kristeva’s theory of the subject-in-process and her understanding of the abject offers an analysis of subjectivity that acknowledges the destabilising influence of a body that is “plural, fluid and unbounded.” The experience of the abject has particular consequences for the female body and consequently for our negotiation of female subjectivity. This paper suggests that this fluid body is integral to our understanding of the subject-in-process where we inhabit threshold identities, always acutely aware of the precarious nature of these subject positions. In these threshold spaces where, as Kristeva suggests ‘There I am at the border of my condition as a living being’ we understand how significant the body is to our understanding of identity, both as a destabilising and constitutive force in our negotiation of identity.


I am a Phd student with the Women’s Studies Department and the Department of Language and Cultural Studies at The University of Limerick. The subject of my thesis is a Kristevan reading of gendered spaces in Medbh McGuckian’s poetry. I am currently lecturing on the Certificate and Diploma courses in Women’s Studies.


Hutchen, Michael (School of Philosophy, UCD)

The Body In Its Sexual Being”

 The essay to follow is a philosophical elucidation of Merleau-Ponty’s conceptualization of the body and its sexuality.  In and through the phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty attempts to uncover a conception of the body, world, me, and you as part and parcel of the sexual interplay.  That is, drawing from Edmund Husserl, Merleau-Ponty depicts a world of intentionally affecting beings that are bound in and with the affections of other beings.  This intentional affectivity he calls sexuality.  The body, then, is the focal point of the affecting world, our world, and whatever resultant ‘thoughts’ found therein.  In the end, sexuality is not some by-product of human indulgence, but rather it characterizes the very way in which the world, and life itself, occurs.  


Currently, I am working towards receiving my Masters in Philosophy at UCD.  My thesis is going to be on the differences between the transcendental philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl. Earlier this year, I spoke at a post-graduate philosophical conference in Galway, and I am a member of the Irish Philosophical Society. 


McDermott, Alice & Mark Power (History and Cultural Studies & Communications, WIT)

“Putting Them in their Place: Writing Irish Nurses into Factual Great War Literature”

 Predictably, given the extent of the horror and mayhem so widely associated with its conduct, front line experiences of the First World War have resulted, in the past ninety years or so, in the production of a large body of literature attempting to document and interpret individual, community, national, and international responses to same.

 Since the 1990s, in particular, that already sizeable resource has been further enlarged because of a significant resurgence of interest in, and production of, Great War literature.  This renewed awareness was influenced, no doubt, by the ending of the Cold War at which time so many of the issues first raised prior to 1914 re-emerged in Europe, engendering a recognition more objective, perhaps, than had been the case previously, that the conflict, quite apart from its political/military result, was also largely responsible for ushering in the so-called ‘modern world’ in place of the world of Victorian Imperialism.

 Perhaps the most dominant feature of this entire body of factual Great War literature is its almost exclusive focus on the male experience of the conflict., entirely understandable in many ways, considering that most of those on the front lines were men, so much of their subsequently published recollections focused on the military experience of war, and so many of them went off to war with a kind of ‘Boys Own’ sensibility regarding its conduct.  It has meant, however, that the voices of many women who served as military nurses and ambulance drivers throughout the campaign have been allowed to remain silent ever since and their activities, frequently regarded as less significant and exciting than those of their male colleagues, undocumented.

In Ireland, this situation has been further complicated by a fairly unique national ‘erasing’ of Great War recollection and also because the underlying class conflict which formed part of the nationalist struggle meant that many of the women who served in the war were from a ‘level’ who choose to remain in Britain after independence . The  result has been a total absence of published First World War memoirs by any of the tens of thousands of Irish women who saw front line service throughout same.

 The purpose of the paper  proposed for the conference is, therefore, to present, and explore the potential of, a means by which it may be possible to retrieve, despite the passage of the intervening years and, in most cases, solely from the secondary oral testimonies of descendents of their families, friends, and local community members, the stories of some of these women who were significant not only as members of a large group of hitherto ‘untapped’ front line witnesses to many of the pivotal campaigns of the First World War but also as the main providers of primary emergency medical care in the immediate and various aftermaths of all of its battles.


Alice Mc Dermott lectures in History and Cultural Studies at Waterford Institute of Technology. She holds a B.A. in English and History (NUIG), a H. Dip. In Ed. (NUIG), an M.A. in History (NUIG) and an M.A. in History and Local Studies (UL). Mark Power is a journalist on Waterford Local Radio. He lectures part-time in Communications at Waterford Institute of Technology. He holds a B.A. in English and History (NUIG) and an M.A. in Film and Television Studies (University of Amsterdam).


McNamara, Jo (NUI Galway)

“All-Conquering Heroines? An Analysis Of Female Portrayals Within Fantasy Genre Films”

 Fantasy, or rather its modern permutation in a standardised format as a stereotypical portrayal of heroic endeavours within a subverted reality, has recently experienced popularity few other genres enjoy. By creating a significant impact on cinema box offices, fantasy genre films have emerged as a new platform for female characters within fantasy texts to reach massive audiences. As a standardised experience where the forces of good struggle with permutations of malevolent powers, the role of women within fantasy films varies, dependent on source material and the impact of the creative collaboration on the work. Several interesting developments in how women are portrayed within the typical quest narrative have been documented on the silver screen.

 By means of analysing some prominent fantasy genre cinematic releases, this paper will explore what progress has been made in addressing inequalities in portrayals of women as well as trying to discover if feminism can exercise influence within the boundaries of mainly patriachal narratives. Using texts such as The Princess Bride, Willow, Labyrinth, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy among others, this paper will examine existing examples of female characters’ space to develop within male-dominated environments and question the female voice within the fantasy film genre.


Currently pursuing PhD studies on the topic of female fantasy authorship viewed through a feminist literary criticism lens, explorations of women operating within the parameters of the fantasy genre seem especially interesting to me. I completed a BA in English with Computer Science in UCC in 2003 and an MA in Writing in NUI, Galway in 2004.


Murphy, Jenny (School of English and Drama, UCD)

“The Body In Almodóvar’s Work: A Site Of Rhizomatic Symbolic Violence”

 The body in the cinema of Pedro Almodóvar is a representation of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari would call rhizomatic possibility (in which no hegemonic classifications or hierarchical systems of organisation are at play). Almodóvar’s bodies are limitless; while often appearing to have a multiplicity of sexual identities, they are in Deleuzian/ Guattarian terms, bodies without organs. Their rhizomatic structures allow a freedom of being and becoming in every sense, so that they are not restricted by identity, gendered or otherwise. However, in conflict with Deleuze and Guattari’s statement that there is “no ideology and never has been”, Almodóvar’s bodies reflects an ideology that cannot be denied. They embody the heterosocial, the other, the in-between as an opposition to hegemonic, homosocial structures.

 While the Almodóvarian body may be explored as a rhizomatic entity, there are also ideological conflicts present (which may be seen as hierarchical): between how the body is gendered and how gender is performed, and between gender and sexuality. In Deleuze and Guattari’s work, “woman” operates as a means by which to break down the hegemonic structure of “man”, but the necessary conflict that must accompany this in practice is not explored. In Almodóvar’s work, the rhizomatic body expresses its gender conflicts through violence – physical violence, symbolic violence and simulated violence. The second half of this paper will deal with the body as a site of splitting and struggle, in tandem with Baudrillard’s and Žižek’s ideas on symbolic and simulated violence.

 Using two of Almodóvar’s most recent films, Talk to Her (Hable con ella, 2002) and Bad Education (La mala educación, 2004), I will examine scenes of (sexual) violence and assess how these acts deterritorialise (and reterritorialise) the body, homosocial gender structures, and symbolic violence itself.


Jenny Murphy is a B.A. graduate of NUI Galway and received her Masters from University College Dublin. Now a PhD student of UCD, her topic of interest is the representation of images of sex and violence (in homo- and hetero-social frameworks) in the work of three directors: Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar and Neil Jordan.  She presented a paper at last September's "Gender and Violence" conference in the  University of Aberdeen and has recently turned her attentions towards Deleuze and Guattari, using their theories in conjunction with the work of the above directors to form the basis of papers delivered at conferences in UCD, Maynooth and Boston College  in 2006.


Nunes, Ana (School of English and Drama, UCD)

“From the Fantastic to Magic Realism: the Spectral Presence in Phyllis Perry’s Stigmata

 Among African American contemporary writers, female novelists have been at the forefront of recreating history, and more particularly the history of slavery. The aim of this paper is to examine how female writers have made a unique contribution to the African American historical narrative. For this purpose, I will examine Phyllis Perry’s Stigmata (1998), exploring the ways in which this author reworks traditional narrative devices in order to recreate a partially lost and fragmented history of the female slave. I will consider how Perry engages with the magical in order to rework the narrative model presented by Toni Morrison in Beloved (1987). In Stigmata, Perry interrogates both the nature of reality and its representation, introducing an innovative narrative form which reflects an imaginative world where the boundaries between the earthly and the ghostly become blurred. I will examine how magical realism provides the necessary narrative strategy through which a lost history can be recreated and how the ancestral spectre can function as a means of translating the absences of African American history into tangible presences, revising the tradition of the ghost tale in the search “for new representations […] in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable”, as Jean-François Lyotard puts it. The paper will also emphasise how the female slave experience conditioned women’s relationship to history and literacy. The slave women’s ties to their children represented an added difficulty to their escape from slavery. Their links to their offspring and the homes they made for themselves were spaces where oral strategies were reinforced. I will examine the role of women as creators and bearers of oral traditions developed and passed on along a matrilineal line. I will focus my analysis on how orality enlarges the narrative space, shaping the representations of female history, identity, memory, motherhood, surrogacy, and the communities women create to sustain and support each other.


Ana Nunes completed her PhD in November 2005 at University College Dublin. Her thesis is entitled Representations of History in the Fiction of African American Women Writers. She has published several essays on African American women writers. Recent publications include articles on authors such as Paule Marshall, Gayl Jones, and Sherley Anne Williams. Nunes is a senior tutor in the School of English at University College Dublin, where she also teaches a seminar on Early American Writing.


O’Brien, Hazel (WERRC, UCD)

“Lesbian Parenting: The Renegotiation of Feminist Motherhood”

 This paper examines the processes through which lesbian mothers are renegotiating the boundaries of feminist motherhood. By examining key  feminist works such as Rich (1976), Chodorow (1978) and Oakely (2005), this paper suggests that there are commonalities shared between many feminist writers on motherhood which  both support and reject the lesbian vision of parenting. The paper argues that lesbian parents are often better placed to fulfil the feminist vision of parenthood, as they form new ways of mothering which although informed by patriarchy, is not enforced by it.

 By utilising some of the research conducted with lesbian parents, and those in long term lesbian partnerships such as Sullivan (1996),  Ryan Flood (2003), and Oerton (1997) it is possible to glimpse the realities of issues such as child care, division of household tasks, and emotional support. Other less tangible issues such as changes in identity from woman to mother and the institutionalisation of motherhood are issues that effect the lesbian mother no less than her heterosexual counterpart. It does appear that some issues connected to the mothering  process vary little between those in lesbian relationships, and those in heterosexual relationships. It must also be borne in mind that heterosexual women are also capable of reinventing the institution of motherhood.  This paper argues therefore, that the renegotiation of boundaries is spurred forward not by sexual orientation, but by alternate ways of living, and mothering.


I am currently a 2nd year PhD candidate in WERRC, where  I am conducting my thesis on the lesbian experience of parenting in Ireland. Prior to WERRC, I completed a M.A in Sociology at NUI Maynooth, on the theme of Modernity in Ireland, and completed a minor thesis as part of that course on the role of laypeople in the parish within the Dublin Diocese.  Also in NUI Maynooth, I completed a B.A (Hons) degree in Sociology and English. Although my research interests span wide areas, my specialist area is in the topic of sexualities, with reference to modern Ireland.


O’Dowd-Smyth, Christine (School of Humanities, WIT)

“Literary Representations Of Dis-Embodiment & Dis-Placement In Postcolonial Algerian & Irish Women’s Writing: A Comparative Study”

 In this paper, I wish to propose a comparative and thematic study of two very different yet complimentary emerging genres in contemporary postcolonial women’s literature: Algerian French language literature and Irish literature written in English. Through an intertextual reading of the autobiographical writings of Malika Mokeddem & Nina Bouraoui on the one hand, and Nuala O Faolain & Nell Mc Cafferty, I shall underline the very similar thematic of dis-embodiment and dis-placement common to postcolonial women’s writing in general.

 This paper shall also examine the concept of women’s autobiographical writing as intrinsically different to male writing – not only thematically but also structurally and linguistically separate and autonomous – and will also explore the socio- historical & socio-cultural reasons for this difference using the complimentary methodological tools of feminist theory, postcolonial theory (in particular the cross-colony identification theory) and literary theory.


Dr. Christine O’Dowd-Smyth is a Lecturer in French & Francophone literary & cultural studies at Waterford Institute of Technology. Her specialism is in Francophone Postcolonial Studies & Francophone North African women’s autobiographical writing. Her 2005 Ph.D thesis: Silence, exile and the problematic of postcolonial identity in North African Francophone Literatures drew on the comparative cross colonial analysis of Algerian & Moroccan postcolonial Francophone writers, both male, female & diasporic, with postcolonial Irish writers, writing in English. She has published extensively in international academic journals and has organised two International Conferences in WIT in the areas of Francophone Literatures and in Ireland/Newfoundland/Francophone world comparative studies. She organised the first WIT Writer in residence in April 2005 by inviting the Franco-Algerian writer & sociologist Azouz Begag who has since become France’s first Minister for Equality She is also a published poet, a feminist and lifelong political activist. She has recently started training for the auxiliary ministry in the Church of Ireland.


O’Rourke, Michael (School of English and Drama, UCD)

Butler’s Untimely Politics”

 Judith Butler has certainly produced a body of work that matters. It matters not only because it takes theory into the realm of difficult socio-ethico-political questions, but also because it does so without sacrificing the complexities, hesitations, and difficulties that necessarily surround such a project. For Butler, theory matters precisely as practice, as material responses to specific (and often horrific) political situations: it is an analysis of how these situations have come to be structured as they are, and how they can be changed without simply reinstituting the same normative interpellating discourses that gave rise to such situations in the first place. In accounting since Gender Troublefor identity as the product of still-conflicted exclusionary normative practices she asks us to consider the possibility of reinscribing our heterogeneous present and future. While categories of identity certainly cannot and should not be abandoned in such a project, Butler nonetheless argues for the theoretical and political necessity to “learn a double movement: to invoke the category, and, hence, provisionally to institute an identity and at the same time to open the category as a site of permanent political contest”. It is because her work has this relentlessly dual focus-calling for concrete responsive action in the present (ordinary time) while preserving the possibility, indeed necessity of a reinscribed future (messianic time)-that Butler’s work matters so singularly and so crucially.

Judith Butler is not a thinker who is normally or primarily associated with political theory or democratic theory. In fact Martha Nussbaum famously damned Butler’s “hip defeatism” in The New Republic, claiming that “For Butler, the act of subversion is so riveting, so sexy, that it is a bad dream to think that the world will actually get better. What a bore equality is! No bondage, no delight. In this way, her pessimistic erotic anthropology offers support to an amoral anarchist politics”. But, in recent years Butler has been outspoken about the war in Iraq, the detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and a defender of Palestinian rights. In this paper, however, I want to think through the politics of her work, not just in the sense of the kinds of political activity that might be bequeathed by that work (a task that will almost certainly disappoint) but rather the constitutive role that politics plays for her in the formation of social arrangements, identity, and so on.  Second, I want also to highlight the fact that, in many of Butler’s writings since the mid-1990s there has been frequent reference made to both the state and to democratization, with Butler aligning her work with the post-Marxist project of radical democracy initiated by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Finally, I am interested in the intersections (or crossings) between Butler’s post-identity politics, questions of “recognition” and democratic projects in a context in which the legitimacy (or motivation) of the state is frequently in question. In Butler’s post-identity politics one cannot assume that identity is pre-given, that it is foundational of a politics in some way or that it is an unquestioned premise of political argument. Rather, post-identity politics signals that identity is a construction that is put into question as soon as it is posited, something fluid, relational, and in-process



Michael O’Rourke is Faculty of Arts Fellow in the School of English and Drama at University College Dublin in Ireland, where he is completing a PhD thesis entitled “A Passion for the Impossible: Waiting for the Queer Theory to-come”. He is the editor (with Noreen Giffney) of Critical InQueery: A Reader, (with David Collings) a special issue ofRomanticism on the Net on “Queer Romanticisms” (2005) and a special double issue of Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge on “The Becoming-Deleuzoguattarian of Queer Studies” (2006). He has edited two books with Katherine O’Donnell: Love, Sex, Intimacy and Friendship Between Men, 1550-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) and Queer Masculinities, 1550-1800: Siting Same-Sex Desire in the Early Modern World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). He co-edits (with Noreen Giffney and Myra Hird) Queeries: An International Journal of Queer Studies, and is series editor (with Noreen Giffney) of the Queer Interventions book series with Ashgate Press. His articles have appeared or will appear inRhizomesMedieval Feminist ForumThe History ReviewFeminism and PsychologyThe OSCHOLARSIrish University ReviewSCOLAGRomanticism on the NetSouth Atlantic Reviewnew formationsIrish Feminist ReviewSixteenth Century JournalSexualities and The Journal of Lesbian Studies.


Quinn, Deirdre (Centre for Media Studies, NUI Maynooth)

“Marching Back To Maternity: Foucault, Butler And The Space Of The HIV/AIDS Body In Irish Broadcasting”

 The body occupies an important space in our society, according to Foucault and Butler. Foucault proposed that the body is a space structured by society. However, he suggests that this space should be liberated from the constraints of such structures. Judith Butler develops this idea to a greater degree by suggesting that gender and sexuality are free floating entities which the body becomes an agent of through performance. Thus, the space of the body in the media becomes a space of performance.

 The focus of this paper will be to examine the chasm of difference between Foucault and Butler and to examine the HIV/AIDS body as a space of performance. This difference shall be explored through the mapping of the space of the HIV/AIDS body in Irish broadcasting. The representation of the HIV/AIDS body in the drama ‘No More Tears’, a drama based on the  tribunal, commonly known as the Blood tribunal  and in the controversial documentary ‘Bad Blood’ shall be used in this exploration.  However, the main focus of analysis will be the representation of the HIV/AIDS body in the current affairs programme ‘Prime Time’ since the beginning of this new century. The speaker shall consider the apparent retreat representation of HIV/AIDS into the maternal body in Irish broadcasting.


Deirdre Quinn is a second year PhD student under Dr. Chris Morash in the Media Studies Centre within the Department of English at NUIM. She completed an MA in Media Studies in DIT. Her research interests lie in the area of the body and its space of representation in the Irish culture, focusing on Irish broadcasting.


Richko, Julie (School of Archaeology, UCD)

“Homes, Homelands And Identities: Archaeologies Of Nineteenth-Century Irish Peasantry And Its Diaspora”

 This body of work is an exploration of nineteenth-century Irish peasantry in Ireland and overseas via a theoretically informed archaeological analysis of its material cultures and respective domestic spaces. The principle guiding this research holds that society is constituted materially and spatially, and that sensitive analysis of any society’s objects and landscapes of habitation, from the household-scale upwards, is necessary if it is to be understood in any holistic sense. Using selected case studies, the primary aims in this thesis are to document aspects of the material culture and domestic-spatial organisation of Irish peasant society and the diaspora during the mid-1800s. Secondly, this work will explore the transformation or resistance to transformation, of materialities and spatialities during the Post Famine-era rent strikes and evictions leading to transnational diaspora. Finally, this paper will explore how those transformations, or resistances to transformation, reflect four particular conceptualisations and negotiations of identity at critical moments of political, social, geographical or ecological rupture: the national/political/ethnic (‘Irish’), the social (‘peasant’), the gendered, and the ‘self’.

Research on gender in archaeology has had a slow birth and was muted in its early stages. Ethnicity and gender are intrinsically tied to tensions and negotiations within and among colonial locations. The idea and understanding of home is gender and ethnic-specific, carrying severe implications and expectations for the manner in which people should behave in each context. Gender construction is intrinsic in the production and deconstruction of memory symbols and their meaning.

 By the very nature of archaeology, archaeological findings become promotions for a nationalistic agenda. Nevertheless, there has been a constant failure for social theory to fully understand nationalism. Archaeology is steadily becoming praxis, a theory of action. To expand on this topic, the following paper discusses the social changes that occurred in the nineteenth century in Ireland and abroad using the household as the locus for memory. These social changes, furthermore, have reflected and shaped the households in this locale of Europe and abroad.


I am a 2nd year PhD student at UCD in the School of Archaeology. I received my BA in Anthropology from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. I received my MA from Illinois State University in Historical Archaeology and will be presenting my findings from my thesis research.

Current Research:

I am currently involved in the excavation of Derryveagh homes in Co. Donegal while examining the social changes that occurred in the nineteenth century in Ireland and abroad using the household as the locus for memory. These social changes, furthermore, have reflected and shaped the households in this locale of Europe and abroad.


Sommariva, Annalisa (Comparative Literature, Trento University)

“Sex And The Irish Woman At The Turn Of The Century According To Two Irish Comedies”

 The cinematic representation both mirrors and shapes identity and attitudes all over the world. The fairly recent establishment of a film industry in Ireland meant that through most of the Twentieth century, the country and its inhabitants were only represented on the silver screen through the eyes of foreign filmmakers. It was not uncommon to present Ireland as a country of violent, superstitious and ignorant people who were dominated by the dogmas of Catholicism. Obviously this stereotype was adopted to view both men and women, forging some patterns of behaviour, especially concerning sexuality, strongly influenced by the Catholic moral teachings, which were considered part of the Irish character. Lately, Ireland has developed its own film industry, among obvious financial conundrums, but also the support of EU, and benefiting from a new wave of interest on the part of both America and EU. Through the discourse analysis of two comedies, She didn’t Say No (1958) and The Most Fertile Man in Ireland (1999), the paper will investigate the representation of women’s sexuality in Ireland, as depicted in these two instances. Though the 1999 film revolves around a male protagonist, it simultaneously offers a stimulating array of female characters. The paper will first highlight the archetypical role of each version of femininity in the films and then, assess weather these characters adhere to the stereotype, create a new role model or, on the other side, if they were created in response to a precise socio-political agenda. The analysis will be contextualized with references to both historical and legal aspects of women’s life in Irish society. Finally, the conclusions drawn will be compared with two other traditionally Catholic countries: Italy and Spain.


Annalisa Sommariva graduated from Università degli Studi di Trento in 2003 defending a thesis on the representation of the 1970s troubles in film. That same year she gave a paper at the First Irish Film Studies Postgraduate Seminar organized by Trinity College, Dublin, on Peter Mullan’s Magdalenes Sisters (2002). In November 2005, she was invited as a speaker at the Third Annual Irish Studies Conference at University of Sunderland. She is about to complete a PhD in Comparative Literature at Università degli Studi di Trento on literary and cinematic representation of historical events.


Tiernan, Sonja (WERRC, UCD)

“Refuse To Wear The Shackles Of Sex;” Cross-Dressing, Transexualism And Intersex In The Journal Urania 1916-1940

 In 1916 a group of radical thinkers, led by Eva Gore-Booth, established the journal Urania.  This pioneering journal advocated the elimination of gender and proposed to reform the categories of men and women into one ideal feminine form.  While Urania advocated the deconstruction of gender, sexuality and the sexed biological body, the editors took a unique approach; rather than attacking the constructs of both genders, ‘masculinity’ is presented as unpleasant while ‘femininity’ is the desired choice of having just ‘one’ gender.  The central argument for the elimination of gender was consistent throughout every issue; challenging mainstream feminism, medical sexology and perceived norms of society.  In this paper I focus on the area of cross dressing masquerade, transexualism and intersex. In this area Urania provides us with an alternative archive of radical feminist thought and contributes vital information towards the history of intersex and gender re-assignment.   


Sonja Tiernan is Teaching and Research Scholar in WERRC, School of Social Justice at UCD.  She is undertaking a PhD on the literature of Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926). Sonja has a Higher Diploma and an MA in Women's Studies from WERRC and was awarded the UCD Open Postgraduate Scholarship for 2005-2006 and has recently published an article; "Tipping the Balance with Historical Fiction: Tipping the Velvet as a Lesbian Feminist Device," in Irish Feminist Review, Ed Rebecca Pelan.  2005, Vol 1, pp. 161-85.   


Trench, Rhona (Drama Studies, QUB)

Staging Morality In On Raftery’s Hill

 Set in the Midlands of Ireland, Irish playwright Marina Carr’s 2002 drama, On Raftery’s Hill, centres on the issues of incest and rape in the Raftery household. This paper examines the construction of morality through familial sexual violation, particularly in relation to the female. The relationship between the loss of subjectivity and the concealment of a destructive identity emerges in the play’s narrative and is explored. The paper examines how abusive sexual behaviour embodies the imprint of a vast range of social meanings in the drama, specifically how unsavoury social concerns are made to ‘disappear’ through forms of denial and avoidance. The complexities involved in the mechanisation of such relationships reveal the ways in which individual and social value systems are built around abusive sexual behaviour in the play. On Raftery’s Hill also demonstrates how a socially controlled transparency advocated by the Irish State and designated to ‘guarantee individual security’, actually perpetuates the risk of personal safety. Julia Kristeva’s notion of abjection, which examines a particular kind of implosive subjectivity as a result of self-abasement, is used to interrogate Carr’s characters in relation to the Raftery family. The play shows the difficulties in breaking the cycle of incest controlled by patriarchal power and which requires a system of individual compliance.


I am a final year doctoral student at Queen's University Belfast researching the plays of Contemporary Irish Dramatist Marina Carr 1988-2002. The trajectory of my thesis explores the confrontation of the past in the present in Carr's work. Julia Kristeva's Theory of Abjection as articulated in 'Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection' is central to framing the argument, and the research also engages with colonial and post colonial theory.I am contributing to a book volume on 'Contemporary Irish Theatre' published by Colin Smythe and Oxford University Press in 2007. Contributors include Terry Eagleton, Conal Morrison, Marina Carr, Brian Friel, Melissa Sihra and more.

Women's Studies

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