Multivalent Masculinities in the Northern Irish Post-Conflict Novel

  • Christine Hughes

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis contends that the post-conflict Northern Irish novel depicts and establishes increasingly diverse and progressive models of masculinity. Utilising a chronothematic approach I analyse how the portrayal of masculinities in these novels, published over the past twenty years, progresses from the violent hegemonic models of the past towards the inclusive and alternative masculinities more representative of contemporary, post-conflict society.

The first chapter analyses two of Sean O'Reilly's novels set pre-and post-Good Friday Agreement. I argue that these novels are early examples of trauma fiction which illustrate the devastating effects of trauma, and the traumatising effect of hegemonic masculinity, on masculine construction. Furthermore, I contend that the lack of alternative expressions of masculinity emasculates the protagonists, who in an attempt to compensate, increasingly emulate the violent hegemonic masculinities from which they feel disenfranchised.

In order to interrogate alternatives to the heteronormative discourse on masculinity, in the second chapter I examine representations of "queer" masculinity in novels published over the past two decades. I also consider the relationship between the Irish bildungsroman tradition and its relationship to the coming-out novel. Moreover I establish that while the depiction of sexuality has become more dynamic and fluid, the representations of masculinity in these novels are problematically similar.
In the third chapter I utilise a unique approach to transgenerational trauma theory as a hermeneutic to analyse father-son relationships in two of David Park's novels. I posit that the generational conflict between father and son, or the "father wound", is an inherently masculine trauma that may be passed transgenerationally and is exacerbated by the impact of the Troubles. 
Finally, I examine the depiction of ageing masculinities as important embodiments of masculinity that serve to destabilise a hegemonic script that reinforces the power and relevance of young to middle aged men. By emphasising the plurality of ageing men, I seek to queer the spectrum of masculinity as well the depictions of how older men from the province come to terms with their pasts to renegotiate masculinities in the present.
Date of AwardMay 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKathleen McCracken (Supervisor) & Stephen Butler (Supervisor)


  • Masculinity
  • Gender
  • Trauma
  • Post-conflict

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