The sins of the father: a study of patrilineality in Colm Toibins' The Heather Blazing and Dermot Bolger's The Valparaiso Voyage

Hill, Martin (2003) The sins of the father: a study of patrilineality in Colm Toibins' The Heather Blazing and Dermot Bolger's The Valparaiso Voyage. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Inspired by Anthony Clare's notion of a "masculinity in crisis", my thesis explores two narratives written by male authors from the Irish Republic in an effort to determine if (and how) an ongoing and often heavily resisted "feminist" and gendered "revolution" (Clare 4) has shaped men's relationships to forms of power in contemporary Irish writing. My study examines Colm Toibin's The Heather Blazing and Dermot Bolger's The Va/paraiso Voyage to consider how cultural and historical
transitions such as postcoloniality, the increased presence of Irish women in the public sphere, the decline of the moral authority of the Catholic Church, and the uneven economic prosperity of the Celtic Tiger may have reinforced andlor challenged male power and privilege in each text. To address these issues my thesis will focus upon the portrayals of 'the father' - in his theistic, familial and political forms - whilst contextualising each narrative in the socio-historical climate which is formative of gendered-national identities.
My discussion of The Heather Blazing considers how Toibin's narrative collapses the separation of public and private spheres sought by The Constitution of Ireland (1937) to enable the female characters of the text to produce subtle, but profound challenges to the power and authority of 'the father'. These challenges provide an effective critique of the outmoded practices of Toibin's protagonist, Eamon Redmond, whose identity is afforded by the various 'fathers' of Toibin's Irish Republic. Thus, The Heather Blazing may be seen to suggest an anxiety towards the issue of patrilineality and the son's inheritance, and perpetuation of, the values of 'father' and 'Father'.
Similarly, my reading of The Valparaiso Voyage considers how the masculinities within Bolger's contemporary Irish Republic - a country 'thriving' under the auspices of the Celtic Tiger economy - seems compelled to mirror both its colonial and anticolonial fathers. Against this historical backdrop, Bolger's text imagines the consequences of the sins of the father upon his progeny in an Irish Republic mired in the corrupt financial activities of its former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. My thesis
ultimately seeks to gauge if the masculinities of each text are truly "in crisis" within an Irish Republic whose gender mores have, constitutionally at least, undergone unprecedented changes in the past forty years. My discussion, therefore, is also keen to gauge the stringency of the critical interrogations of masculinities undertaken by these male writers.

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