Writing the Nations: Welsh, Northern Irish, and Scottish Literature

  • Hywel Dix
Part of the The History of British Women’s Writing book series (HBWW)


This chapter analyses how women writers in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland have attempted to develop distinctive narrative voices that articulate diverse kinds of female experience in a series of literary canons that are overwhelmingly male. Beginning with Welsh women writers, it argues that their historical challenge has been to resist a strong imperative to compartmentalize different kinds of work: nationalist, ethnic, English-language, Welsh-language, and feminist.1 As the cultural confidence of Wales has increased, so too have Welsh women writers become more confident in articulating a multiplicity of subject positions simultaneously, rather than categorizing and dividing them. The resistance to compartmentalization is also an important consideration when analysing contemporary writing by women from Northern Ireland. Drawing on Edna Longley’s critique of the dominant tendency to separate all Irish culture into either nationalist or unionist categories, the chapter proposes that such binary thinking prompts female writers from Northern Ireland to develop literary strategies that bring different texts into a dialogic relationship with each other.2 A similar set of concerns will be revealed as important elements in Scottish women’s writing since 1970, but there a subtly different position will be expounded. It is argued that ideas of luck and fate are frequently and ironically presented by Scottish women writers to reveal that what is often experienced as chance is more commonly the result of contingently taken political decisions.


Female Experience Birth Parent Birth Mother Woman Writer Cultural Confidence 
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© Hywel Dix 2015

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  • Hywel Dix

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