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University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies


Ms Naoise MurphyAHRC Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership, Isaac Newton Trust Studentship 

Queering Irish Women’s Writing in the Twentieth Century 

Supervisor: Dr Caroline Gonda (Faculty of English) 


My research examines the haunted quality of Ireland’s modernity through the fiction of mid-twentieth-century Irish women writers Dorothy Macardle, Kate O’Brien, Elizabeth Bowen and Molly Keane. Seeking out the ghosts of modern Ireland, I turn to queer ways of reading, paying attention to the marginal and the disavowed. This new reading queers the archive of twentieth-century Ireland, disrupting common-sense narratives of modernity and modernisation, gender, sexuality, race and class in the postcolonial state. 

Irish women’s writing is entangled in reductive narratives of modernisation that create a feel-good account of contemporary Ireland, disavowing the structures of domination and exclusion that continue to define the country. Ireland’s modernity is haunted; bad feelings cannot be banished to the over-and-done-with past, but instead erupt in chaotic and disturbing ways in the modern nation. Contending with the violence of the official archive, a particularly vexed issue in the context of Ireland’s legacies of institutional abuse, my dissertation argues for a queer refusal to move on from bad feelings as a form of narrative resistance. In their improper responses to the imperatives of the post-independence state, Bowen, O’Brien, Keane and Macardle dwell on bad and backward feelings that disrupt the forward-moving, feel-good temporality of modernity. Where the state valorises the progressive time of reproduction, family and nation, these writers indulge in illicit, unrespectable affects. Bringing resources from queer, trans and postcolonial theory into dialogue with feminist criticism, this queering of Irish women’s writing delves into the shadow side of Irish modernity.

Academic Background:

BA (First Class) Combined Honours in Arts with Year Abroad - English Literature and French, Durham University

MPhil (Distinction) in Multi-Disciplinary Gender Studies, University of Cambridge


‘The Queer Transnational in Kate O’Brien and Elizabeth Bowen.’ Review of Irish Studies in Europe (RISE) 5(1), Special Issue: Irish Sexual Liberation and its Literature - Part 1. ‘Speaking out/ when it's dangerous’, 2022, 8-27. 

‘Kate O’Brien: Queer Hauntings in the Feminist Archive.’ Journal of Feminist Scholarship 19 (Fall), 2021, 80-91.  

‘Queering history with Sarah Waters: Tipping the Velvet, lesbian erotic reading and the queer historical novel.’ Journal of International Women’s Studies 22(2), 2021, 7-18.

‘The Right to Dream: Gender, Modernity, and the Problem of Class in Kate O’Brien’s Bourgeois Bildungsromane.’ Irish University Review 49(2), 2019, 276–289. 

Research interests:

queer and trans theory, gender and sexuality, postcolonial studies, modernism, Irish writing, twentieth-century and contemporary literature