Bowen: The Unspeakable Loneliness of the Anglo-Irish Expat

  • Michael O’Sullivan
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


This chapter reads the work of Elisabeth Bowen in light of contemporary accounts of loneliness and the experiences of colonial English expat communities. For Elizabeth Bowen’s Anglo-Irish community, the feeling of being a resident expatriate was enduring and it produced a unique kind of “ascendancy” loneliness that for critics such as Frank O’Connor was unspeakable or unrepresentable. Bowen’s collection of essays People, Places, Things offers new insights into her motivations as a writer. The later essays possess a warmth and philosophical empathy her critics rarely assign to her characters and fictional worldviews. Bowen can be regarded as transposing the emotion of this unspeakable loneliness onto the aesthetics of space that is so central to her fiction and that transforms furniture and “imperturbable things” into objects that have an inordinate influence on the events of the narratives.


Elisabeth Bowen Anglo-Irish identity Loneliness Property Personhood 

Works Cited

Works Cited

  1. O’Sullivan, Michael. “Loneliness and the Submerged Population: Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice and Joyce’s “The Dead”. Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. VIII, 322 pp. 105–19.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael O’Sullivan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishChinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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