Date of Award
Master of Arts
Marilyn Kallet, Stanton B. Garner, Jr.
Although many critics, and Eavan Boland herself, have written about how her poetry functions to reclaim the Irish feminine image from its static position as lyric representation of the nation, much remains to be said about how Boland represents and reimagines Ireland in her poetry. Using the metaphor of cartography, which Boland frequently refers to in her writing, I argue that she lyrically "maps" the nation across space, time, and language. Her palimpsestic poetic maps of Ireland include what a mere pictorial representation could never, and what prior male-written poetry never did, show: the space of a Dublin suburb, the history of her marriage, the mental scarring of an imposed English language represented as physical fractures on skin or land. Her own subjectivity is the most important component of this map, and so she liberally inserts fragments of her own life into pre-existing national narratives. Through close readings of poems published between 1990 and 2007, I explore how Boland mixes national history, geography, family stories, and memories of her own life to arrive at a poetic "structure extrinsic to meaning which uncovers / the inner secret of it" (ITV 47). This is not a truth about history, nor merely a declaration that women, particularly Irish women, have been silenced in poetry and history. Instead, the inner secret is her own recognition of the connection between herself and the women of whom she writes, as well as her readers; that the framework she builds from pieces of the past provides a way to understand our current selves. Boland remains conscious of the constructed nature of this framework in each poem where she challenges official narratives and maps of the nation, replacing their truth with her own. She loads specific places, histories, and uses of language, as well as the ideas of these things themselves, with complex and even contradictory meanings. Her poems represent not the truth but a truth, and one which has been carefully crafted at that. Put together, these explorations of "Ireland" and all its various truths constitute an imaginative map of the nation as she perceives it.
Helton, Rebecca Elizabeth, "Apt Renderings and Ingenious Designs: Eavan Boland's New Maps of Ireland. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2010.