Girlhood, desire, memory and Northern Ireland in Lucy Caldwell’s short fiction

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This essay discusses two short stories of girlhood written by Lucy Caldwell: “Mayday” (2016) and “Here We Are” (2017). It argues that although Caldwell’s fiction is mobilized by an engagement with the politics of Northern Ireland, it is not the physical violence of “the Troubles” that animates her work. Rather, her stories are concerned with the broader reverberations of the conflict and its aftermath; the conservative political climate that characterized the latter part of the twentieth century; and the domestic debris that decades of conflict have left in their wake. Caldwell’s focus on young female sexuality – and the ways in which this is curtailed, controlled, and abused – enables her to analyze the anachronistic politics of Northern Ireland while opening up imaginative avenues through which to envision the future. In exploring moments of connection and the enabling power of girlhood desire, Caldwell provides a feminist alternative to the masculinist narratives, so often of (paramilitary) violence, that have characterized engagement with the North of Ireland during the latter part of the twentieth century. The essay emphasizes that it is not the trauma of the Troubles that galvanizes Caldwell’s short fiction but the trauma of being denied bodily autonomy, or the right to love whom you choose in a manner equal to your peers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306–321
JournalContemporary Women’s Writing
Issue number3
Early online date16 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018


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