Patriarchs, pugilists, and peacemakers : interrogating masculinity in Irish film

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2008-08

Authors

Moser, Joseph Paul

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Abstract

Examining representations of gender from a postcolonial feminist perspective, Patriarchs, Pugilists, and Peacemakers: Masculinity in Irish Film analyzes select works of three popular filmmakers whose careers, taken together, span the period from 1939 to the present.1 I argue that these three artists--John Ford, Jim Sheridan, and Paul Greengrass--explore fundamental questions about patriarchy and violence within Irish and Irish-American contexts, and that, in the process, they upset conventional notions of masculine authority. Investigating alternative conceptions of manhood presented in these films, as well as these filmmakers’ complex engagement with Hollywood film genres, I offer a fuller understanding of their subtle critiques of patriarchy. I contend that their illustrations of socially sanctioned male dominance in the lives of women, as well as their portrayals of male and female resistance to patriarchy, constitute a subversive challenge to traditional order. In the process, I address gendered archetypes that are prevalent in Irish and American cinemas and analyze the ways in which Ford, Sheridan, and Greengrass employ and critique these masculine types through their portrayals of fathers, sons, boxers and pacifists. Ultimately, I argue that the recent Irish films of Sheridan and Greengrass gesture toward future modes of manhood that completely disavow patriarchy and violence. In sum, this project plots a trajectory of Irish cinema during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, charting a progression from ambivalent critique of patriarchy (in the films of John Ford) to outright rejection of patriarchal masculinity (in Jim Sheridan’s work) to reconceptualization of manhood and the family (in the Irish films of Sheridan and Paul Greengrass).

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