Culture, class, and gender in the works of Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Date of Completion

January 2001


Literature, English




Somerville and Ross have been categorized as reactionary colonial writers whose fictions fit neither in the literary and political agendas of the Irish Renaissance and those of British Modernism. To appreciate their artistic merits, I argue, one has to understand first their intrinsically irreconcilable ideological alliances. Their embrace of British nationality conflicted with their cultural identification with the Irish, and their feudal ethics contradicted their feminist vision. While they write in the mode of traditional realism and in Victorian English, modernist points of view dominate their colonial narratives. Drawing upon the concept of hybridity in post-colonial theory, my dissertation examines how the co-authors' fluid identities fragment their treatment of conflicts between cultures, classes, and genders. I contend that although the novelists' racialist rhetoric reinforces English prejudices against the Irish, their multiple narrational stands and appropriation of Celtic archetypes reveal the positive sides of Irish stereotypes, and undermine the values of their feudal/patriarchal society. ^