Joseph Valente and Margot Gayle Backus

Nov 3, 2022

The Child Sex Scandal and Modern Irish Literature

Writing the Unspeakable

Indiana University Press 2020

What can James Joyce, Kate O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, Keith Ridgway, Tana French, and Anne Enright tell us about Ireland’s culture of child sexual abuse? Much, it turns out. In their 2020 co-authored book, Writing the Unspeakable: The Child Sex Scandal and Modern Irish Literature (Indiana UP, 2020), Margot Gayle Backus and Joseph Valente examine the works of these six modern Irish authors, whose writings are both reflections of and engagements with the “open secrets,” “architecture of containment”, and “enigma of sexual violence” in the Free State/Republic. Join us as we chat about psychoanalysis, the struggle to write about child sexual abuse, the anti-trans and homophobic rhetoric of current Florida and Texas “child protection” laws, and the window that literature provides for thinking about Irish history.

Averill Earls is the Executive Producer of Dig: A History Podcast (a narrative history podcast, rather than interview-based), and an Assistant Professor of History at St. Olaf College.

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Averill Earls

Averill Earls is the Executive Producer of Dig: A History Podcast (a narrative history podcast, rather than interview-based), and an Assistant Professor of History at St. Olaf College.

Learn More