Emma Penney

Supervisor: Dr. Lucy Collins

School: English, Drama and Film

Private Subjects?: Women’s Poetic Identity in the Age of Neoliberalism

This project draws on recent research developed in the USA which traces the spread of neoliberal ideas into the common-sense ways we interpret literature. The research has a tripartite structure; it develops a critique of neoliberal thought by recuperating a mid-century poet whose work does not easily conform to the individualistic model supported by a neoliberal market mind-set.Through a survey of critical responses to women’s poetry in Ireland since the 1970’s, (a decade which marked the acceleration of neoliberal economic and social policy), this research identifies a trend in Irish literary criticism wherein women’s poetry is persistently linked to the private sphere. Research will reveal how the personal emotions and affective terrains of the private sphere are now governed by neoliberalism – they have undergone a transformation and now prop-up free-market ideology. As such, utilising women poets' connection to the private sphere as a form of resistance has distinct limitations in the neoliberal period. This project draws on Rachel Greenwald Smith’s model (2015) to highlight how a critical focus on private experience has surged in the neoliberal period.

Recuperating the work of Freda Laughton generates a new critical methodology for reading women’s poetry in an impersonal way. Laughton’s work is not easily linked to the private sphere of personal experience. Her poetry does not provide a unitary image of the individual and thus challenges neoliberal value systems.