‘In the common light of day’: gender and socio-political Issues in Jane Barlow’s early prose fiction – Irish Idylls (1892), Kerrigan’s Quality (1894), and The Founding of Fortunes (1902)
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Jane Barlow (1856 -1917) was one of the most popular and prolific Irish authors of her day. A writer of poetry, short-stories, and novels, her work was widely-read both in her native country, and abroad. The primary objective of this study, therefore, is to re-introduce this neglected author to literary-critical discourse, and to situate her work in the context of contemporary revivalist literature, and nineteenth-century Irish women’s writings. The analysis deals solely with Barlow’s early prose-fiction: Irish Idylls (1892), her first and most successful short-story collection, and two of her most important novels Kerrigan’s Quality (1894) and The Founding of Fortunes (1902). Notwithstanding their generic status as fictional narratives, and the fact that they concentrate on ‘domestic’ situations and personal relationships, this study contends that Barlow’s work explores issues of significant socio-political relevance to contemporary Irish life in relation, particularly, to matters such as poverty, emigration, land-ownership, and the representation of women. As such, this reconsideration of her writings will add to ongoing reassessments of the revival among Irish studies scholars, and to our increasing knowledge and understanding of Irish women’s writings from this period.
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