Bowen’s Court has most commonly been confronted through methodological paradigms stressing its affinity to traditional Irish generic and historiographical conventions. In contrast, this essay reassesses Anglo-Ireland’s contribution to early twentieth-century literature by rereading Elizabeth Bowen’s text within the context of an international cultural and economic world-system. It argues that two historical narratives inform Bowen’s Court: a gothic chronicle of decline and a protoprofessional story of detached expertise. These narratives correspond to two visions of Anglo-Ireland’s transnational position, the first conceiving of the Protestant Ascendancy as neofeudal landlords who transform Irish labor into capitalist wealth, the second characterizing the Anglo-Irish as a cosmopolitan class of professional managers. By regarding these socioeconomic roles as affective dispositions between which her class vacillated, Bowen creates a cyclical history in which the deficiencies of gothic hysteria and detached professionalism supplement each other in a dialectical exchange. Understanding the socioeconomic circumstances underlying Bowen’s Court provides an important insight into how Bowen and fellow Anglo-Irish writers used affect to legitimate their class position after Irish independence, as well as how they were able to envision an Anglo-Irish renaissance.
Matt Eatough; Bowen’s Court and the Anglo-Irish World-System. Modern Language Quarterly 1 March 2012; 73 (1): 69–94. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-1459724
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