Contemporary redefinitions of the Irish family in Colm Tóibín's fiction

  1. Carregal Romero, José
Supervised by:
  1. María Teresa Caneda Cabrera Director

Defence university: Universidade de Vigo

Fecha de defensa: 16 December 2016

  1. Anne Fogarty Chair
  2. Martín Urdiales Shaw Secretary
  3. María Soledad Morales Ladrón Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 426973 DIALNET


For most of the twentieth century, definitions of the family in Ireland have traditionally followed a hetero-normative and patriarchal pattern whereby husbands and wives fulfilled deeply unequal roles. Moreover, the notion of family has been too often idealized as a site of peace and unconditional love, its members being united by unbreakable bonds of mutual affection. In his fiction, Tóibín is interested in the clash between selfhood and society, where one’s family circle becomes an intimate but conflictive arena. Therefore, readers should not expect portraits of happy, unproblematic family relations. On the contrary, “traditional” families in his oeuvre tend to be dysfunctional and the relations between their members become strained because of emotional distance, regrets and distrust. Crucially, most of Tóibín’s central characters do find their sense of home and domesticity outside the traditional parameters of the family. In this study, ColmTóibín’s fiction will be contextualized within the post-nationalist literary panorama in Ireland, in which the certainties of the past become under examination. Through his revisionist agenda, Tóibín certainly undermines received notions of nationhood, society, domesticity and belonging. In this respect, I would claim that the concept of family in Ireland, considered for generations as a social institution regulated by Law and moral discourses, is redefined by the writer’s discourse of alterity and emphasis on ambivalence. Thus, Tóibín resists genealogical discourses on the family, favouring an alternative definition that is determined by context rather than essence.