Troubles Women: Using Creative Writing Practice to Challenge Misrepresentations of IRA Women in Troubles Fiction
In 2013 I was awarded a full studentship to
study for my creative writing doctorate at Northumbria University. My practice-led research project focused on writing a novel that attempts to communicate the lived experience of being a woman in the IRA during the 1980s. The novel, Herself Alone in Orange Rain, is part two of my Celtic Colours Trilogy, and follows the fictional character, Caoilainn Devoy, granddaughter to Finn Devoy (the young hero in Green Dawn at St Enda's).
Having read a vast array of Troubles fiction and conducted a scholarly investigation into the reality of the roles played by women in the IRA during the modern Troubles, I noted a glaring gap between the real, lived experiences as recounted by the women themselves and the portrayal of them in a genre of fiction that is mostly written by and for men. Feeling it was time this gap in Troubles fiction was addressed, my research aimed to produce an original work of narrative fiction that more faithfully portrays the life of a woman in the IRA as informed by her academic research.
The novel, scheduled for publication by Cinnamon Press in 2017, challenges the stereotypical tropes frequently employed in Troubles fiction which result in apparently inaccurate and, too often, sexist, portrayals of women, showing them either as 'ice maiden' assassins, grieiving but stoic widows/mothers or naive and easily duped virgins.
Accompanying the creative componant of the doctoral work is a scholarly reflective critical commentary which offers an assessment of the portayal of women in Troubles fiction and a detailed analysis of the novel produced in response to the research topic.
The project was completed in October 2016 and the doctorate awarded in early 2017. Click on the link below to read the Abstract for my thesis.
Belfast mural showing women protesting during the Troubles. This stereotypical view of the role of women during the conflict is often replicated in Troubles fiction and, while women did perfrom such roles, there were also women who took an active part in the armed struggle, something which Herself Alone explores.