Author (Your Name)

Rebecca Troeger, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. Religious Studies Dept.




The Irish literary tradition has always been inextricably bound with the idea of image-making. Because of Ireland's historical status as a colony, and of Irish people's status as dispossessed of their land, it has been a crucial necessity for Irish writers to establish a sense of unique national identity. Since the nationalist movement that lead to the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 and the concurrent Celtic Literary Revival, in which writers like Yeats, O'Casey, and Synge shaped a nationalist consciousness based upon a mythology that was drawn only partially from actual historical documents, the image of Nation a.. Woman. and the use of Woman as a symbol for sovereignty and motherland, has become more and more prevalent in Irish culture. Now, that image is ubiquitous, and any Irish woman who intend to write must consciously deal with the fact that women in Irish literature are often symbols for an abstract idea. Therefore, an unresolvable opposition is formed between "Woman/Nation" as an empty static concept and muse that is created, defined, and utilized by men, and real women who speak and act, and are therefore by the very fact of their existence excluded from the Irish literary tradition. In this study of Irish women writers, I will look at the formation and the history of the image of woman in mythology and literature. and how it is used in current mainstream poetry by Seamus Heaney and John Montague. Also. I will look at contemporary Irish women poets' widely differing ways of dealing with their exclusion from the literary tradition.


Irish literary tradition, Ireland, Celtic Literary Revival