Towards a queer liminality
: An examination of the use of space in Irish lesbian fiction 1872-2017

  • Amy Finlay-Jeffrey

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Historically, Ireland has been perceived as being a homophobic, illiberal, socially conservative country. This perception has now changed. Ireland is now commonly regarded as being a modern, European, secular and (arguably) queer-friendly nation. The equal marriage referendum in 2015 highlighted the extent to which traditional heteronormative institutions have been queered, in that they have been radically altered. That is to state that marriage, the prime heteronormative space, is now a space that same-sex couples can occupy. Space is therefore very important as it exists on both symbolic and literal planes. The Irish nation has made ‘space’ on a symbolic level for LGBTQ+ people, but also literally as reflected in the fact that many legal changes have improved the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.
This thesis examines the use of space in Irish lesbian fiction from 1872-2017. I understand space both in a metaphorical and literal sense, the latter to designate the physical spaces in which the authors have placed their lesbian characters. The term lesbian is associated with the poet Sappho, who resided in the Greek island of Lesbos. The fact that Sappho originated from an island, a liminal borderland space, is significant as it signifies how lesbianism can be regarded in spatial terms. By applying theories of liminality to lesbian fiction, this thesis examines the points of intersection between queer and liminal space, to argue for what could be defined as a space of queer liminality that exists in Irish lesbian fiction.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsUK AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorSinead Sturgeon (Supervisor) & Stefanie Lehner (Supervisor)


  • Irish literature
  • lesbian fiction
  • women's writing
  • space
  • liminality

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