chapter  7
17 Pages

The deflowering of Irish cinema

The embodiment of Ireland as young and feminine and an object of pure love, or alternatively as an old woman sheltering her sons in times of adversity, has a long representational history and is the subject of much academic commentary (Cairns and Richards, 1991; Innes, 1993; Meaney, 1998; Nash, 1997). Indeed, the gendering of nation has most commonly been portrayed as a dynamic of opposites, John Bull and fair Rosaleen, masculine England versus feminine Ireland (Leerssen, 1996a). The ‘queering’ of the nation disrupts this representational binary, allowing writers and playwrights in particular to modulate and play with this history of association, liberating signifier from signified (Cullingford, 2001). Although less attention has been paid to the emasculation of the fictional Irishman, this has been no less the case and is explored lucidly by Declan Kiberd as the consequence of a tradition of failed revolutions (1996: 380-94). Weak fathers beget rebel sons but the dynamics of patriarchy render them politically impotent and hence driven to excesses of performative masculinity.