Erin’s sons and decent daughters: The biopolitics of rural masculinities in Patrick Kavanagh’s Tarry Flynn (1948) In Aida Rosende-Pérez, Rubén Jarazo-Álvarez (eds.) The Cultural Politics of In/Difference: Irish Texts and Contexts, Peter Lang (2022) pp. 28-47.
In the years leading up to the foundation of the Irish Republic and the Irish Constitution in 1937, a series of legislations were passed leading to separatist gender dynamics between men and women. Many of the ideals promoted and culturally inculcated by de Valera through legislature presented paradoxical concepts of Irish manhood, of men as virile but chaste, and financially independent in an increasingly impoverished landscape. Patrick Kavanagh’s novel Tarry Flynn, published in 1948 and consequently banned until the 1960s for its obscenity, presents the realities of these state-sanctioned ideals of manhood. Kavanagh depicts the rural landscape of men perpetually striving to achieve these ideals and the consequences of these unattainable values. This chapter will interrogate Kavanagh’s depiction of manhood in Cavan in the 1930s and demonstrate to what extent, if any, these performances of manhood are moulded and shaped by attempts to conform to the state-sanctioned ideals of masculinity promulgated by Éamon de Valera and Archbishop John McQuaid. Drawing on R. W. Connell’s Masculinities and Michel Foucault’s work, I will investigate the hegemonic masculinities of the men in Cavan in the 1930s as well the relationship between Tarry and these ideas of manhood. By investigating Tarry’s perception of hegemonic masculinities, I will be analysing the correlation between the series of legislature passed in the preceding decade and the consequent cultures of rigid patriarchal dominance and in many cases, state-sanctioned misogyny.