How do we write the history of women’s lives when history itself has hidden them?

In this International Women’s Day episode of the History Workshop Podcast, Christopher Kissane speaks to the Irish poet and writer Doireann ní Ghríofa about her book A Ghost in the Throat, winner of the An Post Irish National Book of the Year and the Foyle’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year. The book weaves together the stories of two women separated by centuries: Doireann’s experiences as a young mother in twenty-first century Ireland, and the lost life of the poet Eibhlín Dubh ní Chonaill, whose lament for her murdered husband, Caoineadh Airt uí Laoghaire, has been described as the greatest Irish poem of the eighteenth-century. Finding Eibhlín Dubh’s story repeatedly obscured by an ‘academic gaze [that swiftly] places her in a masculine shadow, as though she could only be of interest as a satellite to male lives’, Doireann searches for the poet’s life with ‘the brazen audacity of one positioned far from the tall walls of the university’. Through research and imagination, between dropping her children to school and putting them to bed, she constructs a very different history. ‘This’, the book begins, ‘is a female text’.

Doireann ní Ghríofa is an Irish poet and essayist. Her book A Ghost in the Throat  (published by Tramp Press in 2020) won the An Post Irish National Book of the Year Award and the Foyle’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and is currently shortlisted for the Rathbone’s Folio Prize. She is the author of six collections of poetry in both English and Irish, and won the 2016 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Her new collection To Star the Dark is out with Dedalus Press next month.

Christopher Kissane is an Editorial Fellow at History Workshop Online. He was a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker and a co-author of the Royal Historical Society’s reports on race and gender in History. His book Food, Religion & Communities in Early Modern Europe is published by Bloomsbury. You can follow his research and writing here.

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