Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)

First Advisor

Patrick McGee


This dissertation examines how the Anglo-Irish writers, Edith Somerville and Martin Ross (nee Violet Martin), attempt to define themselves and others in terms of class, gender, race, and religion at a time when self-definition itself is an act of resistance and defiance. This analysis focuses on four novels: The Real Charlotte (1894), co-authored by Somerville and Ross, Mount Music (1919), An Enthusiast (1921), and The Big House of Inver (1925), written by Somerville alone. Since these novels were composed during the most chaotic years of Irish history when the country was in transition from the status of a colonial dependency of the British Empire to that of an independent bourgeois state, this study examines these novels in the context of those far-reaching historical events. This dissertation demonstrates the changes and developments in class, gender, and race as they are constructed in the context of a changing national identity. While admitting Somerville and Ross's "class consciousness" (indeed, their novels are a brilliant and accurate account of the class structure in small town, rural Ireland) and their construction of the peasant and middle classes as other, this study argues that such a construction does not always equate difference with inferiority, not does it assume that these representations are uniform or static in these four novels. In fact, the writers' representation of these constructs and the manner in which they intersect with each other will vary from one character to another and from one novel to another, according to the historical situation. Furthermore, these changes in social identities, social relationships, and balance of power, which frequently depend upon a relationship to the land, may not be explained by the change from collaborative to single authorship alone but rather to the volatile political conditions of the time. Finally, this study proposes that these novels can also be read as acts of resistance to the rapidly changing dominant ideologies of the time.