The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing Vols IV and V: Irish Women's Writing and Traditions
Cork University Press, Sep 1, 2002 - 3200 pages
Ten years in the making, harnessing the skills and expertise of dozens of scholars in Ireland and beyond, the final two volumes of the Field Day Anthology, without a doubt, represents one of the most important publishing events in Irish literature.
Ranging from 600 AD to the end of the twentieth century, these two volumes are unique in their scope and scholarship. Truly interdisciplinary, they not only challenge our preconceptions about Ireland, women, writing and history, but offer a springboard for re-imagining the relation between them.
The publication of Irish Women's Writing and Traditions raises the issue of the function of feminist recovery and reinterpretation of texts by and about women and, by extension, the function of an anthology such as this. The Anthology is not simply a reaction to the traditional canon: it questions the whole notion of literary canons constituted by reference to a universal standard of literary greatness. Literary canons and historical traditions have lostthe power of consensus in the last two decades and become arenas of cultural conflict and transformation.
The particular challenge to the editors of Irish Women's Writing and Traditions was to radically exceed the agenda set by the earlier volumes. The editors have unquestionably succeeded in their task. They have produced a collective project, which illustrates a wide range of perspectives on women's writing: literary, historical, legal, medical, theoretical and oral. Many of the texts have never been published before, and are virtually unknown outside academic circles. Combined, they illustrate the fact that there is no one paradigm of the history of women's writing and no possibility oftracing within Ireland an even, progressive development. While they do not complete a map of