Stranger in the house: The death of Cathleen ni Houlihan

Luisa Ferreira, Fordham University


This dissertation explores the changing roles of women in contemporary Northern Irish fiction. The texts include the following: W.B. Yeats's Cathleen ni Houlihan; Sean O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman, The Plough and the Stars, and Juno and the Paycock; Jack Holland's The Prisoner's Wife ; Linda Anderson's We Can't All Be Heroes, You Know; and Gerald Seymour's Field of Blood. Contemporary novels (in the 1980's) have portrayed the Republican woman's defiance of traditional expectations and her transformation from the immortal icon of the pure and faithful Irish maiden into a voice that demands freedom from the restraints placed upon her. In the North of Ireland, where violence has been of endemic proportions, the woman has been condemned to become the scapegoat for the sins of a nation. The Cathleen ni Houlihan paradigm, continuously serving as the model for unadulterated Irish femininity whose raison d'etre is to support the "Cause," has been challenged. Comparisons are made between the modern literature and current political and sociological developments to illustrate how love of country has given way to more pragmatic concerns for basic freedoms, resulting in the demise of the hero and in the myth of Cathleen ni Houlihan itself.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Ferreira, Luisa, "Stranger in the house: The death of Cathleen ni Houlihan" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3318236.