Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Burwell, Rose Marie, 1934-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


O'Doherty; Eva; 1826-1910; Downing; Ellen Mary; Women poets; Irish--19th century--Biography; Irish poetry--Women authors--History and criticism; Poets; Irish--19th century--Biography


This dissertation evaluates the work of two women poets who wrote during the nineteenth century, Ellen Mary Downing and Eva Marie Kelly. My research focused on eight years of The Nation, an Irish newspaper that promoted the ideology of a radical, political movement known as Young Ireland. Further, my evaluation of the poetry applied four lenses in my critical analysis: the historical importance of the poetry, its political significance, its relevance to feminist criticism, and its importance to the literary canon. The goals of my study were threefold: first, to resurrect forgotten women writers whose work contributed significantly to the corpus of Irish literature during the nineteenth century; second, to present the work of these women within the context of a political movement's rhetoric; and third, to establish the poetry as valuable to feminist and Irish studies. Critical theory informs my research from three perspectives. First, historical criticism establishes the poems as cultural artifacts, uncovering influences of historical events, especially the Famine, on the writers and their work and revealing social influences at work in Victorian Ireland. Second, feminist criticism voiced by Cora Kaplan identifies gender and class as significant factors in Victorian women's writing and in the Victorian woman's sense of herself as agent or subject, vis á vis as object of patriarchal social forces. Because nineteenth-century Ireland was very much a Victorian society, Kaplan's observations provide important insights into poetry by the women under investigation. Last, Isobel Armstrong's theory, which describes a poetic of England's Victorian women poets, provides a lens that reveals a similar woman's poetic for Irish women writing during the Famine, suggesting that parallel psychological forces influence literature written by women in both societies. In conclusion, I argue that the works of Ellen Mary Patrick Downing and Mary Eva Kelly hold value for English scholarship as historical documents, as rhetorical or political poetry, and as reflections of the “woman's poetic” at work in Victorian literature.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [271]-281).


xvi, 281 pages




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