Erotic Deterritorializations in the Traveller Fiction of Liam O’Flaherty and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne

Author: Adam Lawrence

Irish fiction between the 1920s and 1990s traces a growing interest in the lives and fates of “Travellers” in the “postcolonial” Free State. In particular, authors as diverse as Liam O’Flaherty and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (whose writings neatly traverse this historical period) examine the myths and social policies that have sought to either exoticize these nomadic peoples as “tinkers” or categorize them in sociological terms as “itinerants.”[1] For both authors, the traveling life challenges identity defined by that which is rooted in the ownership and firm possession of the land and is bound by fixed notions of gender and sexuality. While Vivian Mercier is certainly correct in his assessment that O’Flaherty’s “true subject” is the “relationship between Man and Nature,” he fails to mention that the author interrogates both the universal category of “man” and the gendering of nature as female.[2] O’Flaherty’s tinker, who possesses androgynous characteristics, defies the rigid male/female dichotomy, implying that the land is something to negotiate rather than tame or triumph over.[3] Ní Dhuibhne challenges this same Man/Nature conflict, characterizing traveling and adaptation as sensual activities not governed by strict affiliation (familial ties, for example) but rather by contingent alliances between different groups.

The long history of discrimination against Irish Travellers presents what Jane Helleiner calls a “racism without race,” an ideology that constructs this segment of Irish society “as a population distinguished, not by ‘race,’ but rather by a negatively evaluated ‘way of life,’ exemplified by specific features including itinerancy, trailer-living, particular occupations, and poverty.”[4] The steady rise of anti-Traveller violence in recent decades reflects the anxiety over the instability of racial and social categories, as well as the fear that a mobile culture may very well redefine a fixed territory when it rolls through a district with its caravans, campfires, and cant.[5] However, considering that “the young marriages of […] ‘tinkers’ represented sexuality loosened from economic considerations of landed-class reproduction and Church regulations,” it is fair to say that Travellers also threaten established sexual mores.[6] From this perspective, travelling is a “deterritorializing” act since it transgresses spatial and moral boundaries, breaks free or “loosens” territories that were previously confining or inaccessible. According to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, deterritorialization-reterritorialization is an interconnected process in which an act or expression either destabilizes a structure, carries the parts away and alters them, or reassembles that structure and stabilizes it.[7] Both citizenship—that is, the rights to own land and property—and sedentary marriage constitute reterritorializing mechanisms since they seek to stabilize fluid identity as well as social and sexual identity. Traveller participation in the marriage rite, however, is a parodic imitation of the accepted form of this social practice: the original meaning of marriage, property, and sexuality is subverted and carried away. The “tinker” wedding, moreover, does not preclude more travelling. O’Flaherty’s and Ní Dhuibhne’s Travellers might be said to deterritorialize further since they reject even the traditional form of marriage and opt instead for more provisional arrangements; and the provisional life, free of the regulated systems of settled society, is the modus operandi of these nomadic characters. Deleuze and Guattari maintain that the “nomad can be called the Deterritorialized par excellence […] because there is no reterritorialization afterward as with the migrant, or upon something else as with the sedentary (the sedentary’s relation with the earth is mediatized by something else, a property regime, a State apparatus).”[8] The distinction between nomad and migrant is important because it highlights the activity of perpetual travel and the nomad’s willingness to relinquish space in the present in order to find more in the future.

O’Flaherty’s stories feature nomadic figures that struggle against bigoted, settled folk who, failing to impede mobility, hope to delegitimize travelling as a way of life. In “The Tramp” (1937) and “The Tent” (1926) especially, travelling lifestyle is depicted as an alternative form of masculinity, one which settled men find both appealing and intimidating; while the tramp of the first tale rejects marital ties altogether, the tinker of the second tale rejects the restriction of merely one marriage partner.[9] In “The Pedlar’s Revenge” (1976), O’Flaherty presents the decline of the “peddling” trade as a form of social impotence, but unlike the older generation of tramps and tinkers, the Pedlar does not depend upon distinct physical power or an outward sexual appeal to find his escape routes; rather, he seeks to displace the authorial voice of the patriarchy through an “uncouth” subversion of settled communal law.[10] While the male Travellers in all three of these tales are disparaged for their loose morals and their association with the workless class, their “sensuous,” “languid,” “womanish,” “graceful,” and “animal” attributes blur the socio-sexual boundaries sedentary males seek to impose.[11] Such gendered territorial anxiety reflects the fear of tinker eroticism and the false belief that this lifestyle is somehow distinctly “masculine”—at least in the traditional sense of the term.

Following the same tradition but in a later generation, Ní Dhuibhne’s short story “Summer Pudding” (1997) suggests that the appropriation of territory can be an erotic operation, which succeeds only by the continual formation of contingent alliances between seemingly disparate groups.[12] Accordingly, the emigrant women in the tale join an Irish “tinker” community in Wales in order to escape the fever and starvation of their own famine-struck Ireland. While one sister is repulsed by the itinerant “Gwydellion”—which signifies “Irish” or “Irish person,” and who claim neither racial nor spatial territory—the other sister relishes each new experience, exploring the sensual possibilities of travelling, working, eating, and possibly loving in an unfamiliar territory. Her ability to insinuate herself into both the Irish tinker community and the Welsh settled community blurs the distinction between the male and female, the Irish and non-Irish domain of work and travel.

The imposition of stereotypes and class categories lead the nomadic figures in O’Flaherty and Ní Dhuibhne to both assume and reject social roles; the scarcity of shelter and food propel them to beg, steal, or invent alternate ways of finding sustenance; and the lack of human warmth inspires them to redefine identity through bodily performance and sexuality. The erotic nature of these deterritorializations exists when these figures participate in what Deleuze and Guattari call the “machinic assemblage of bodies, of actions and passions, an intermingling of bodies reacting to one another.”[13]


I: Deterritorializing “God and Man”

i. “The Tramp” describes an unlikely environment for a defiant socio-sexual performance: one of the gracious State-sponsored gifts of the pre-WWII period—the “convalescent” workhouse hospital, which breeds only sick paupers rather than restored, socially adjusted citizens.[14] Michael Deignan, an educated Irishman and a former solicitor, has spent six months convalescing, knowing no other option but to accept the meagre generosity of the workhouse: a lump of bread, a bowl of thin broth, and no work. Enter the tramp, a robust forty-something male who challenges Deignan to abandon his useless loafing and strike off with him for a life on the road. This is a tramp who, at twenty years of age, decided that “it was a foolish game trying to do anything in this world but sleep and eat and enjoy the sun and the earth and the sea and the rain.”[15] As he says to Deignan, “That’s the only way for a free man to live.”[16] Perhaps this seemingly ideal lifestyle provokes Deignan’s initial contempt for the tramp, who apparently does not suffer from depression and hunger, and who has recourse to alternate routes during his travels. If Deignan’s poor health is a critique of State neglect, however, then the tramp’s good health is a critique of the whole notion of being “socially adjusted” in the first place.[17] Deignan, who tries to live a life dictated by sedentary rules, where “education” and property count more than experience and flexibility, falls hard when his unemployment strips him of his beloved status. The tramp, on the other hand, boldly refuses to follow any predetermined class system, choosing instead to rely upon unexpected encounters. This idealized representation of the tramp’s life is set against the belief that Travellers are simply remnants, remainders with no agency, driven to wandering out of necessity perhaps, but unable to predict their next move. O’Flaherty’s tramp reminds us, however, that life on the road forces the body to adapt to varying conditions (bad weather, unemployment, hunger), so that while he cannot predict the nasty rash that develops on his right leg, he can use this accident as a ruse to get admission into the workhouse hospital. “It’s easy,” he tells Deignan.[18]

The tramp’s mobility gives him a certain advantage over his opponents, and his bodily performance disrupts the societal demand for a fixed abode.[19] Consider the description of the tramp, presented through the third-person perspective of the two settled men:

[H]is tiny blue eyes darted around piercingly yet softly, just as a graceful wild animal might look through a clump of trees in a forest. His squat low body […] was after a fashion menacing with the power and vitality it seemed to exude. So it seemed at least to the two dejected, listless paupers within the shed […]. Each thought, “Look at the red fat face of that vile tramp. Look at his fierce insulting eyes, that stare you in the face as boldly as a lion, or a child […] Look at that huge black beard that covers all his face and neck except the eyes and the nose and a narrow slit for the mouth. My God, what throat muscles and what hair on his chest, on a day like this too, when I would die of cold to expose my chest that way!”[20]

Later on, when the tramp boldly hammers his chest to prove this animal vitality, Deignan is described as being jealous “of the man’s strength and endurance.”[21] While the emphasis here is on supposedly “masculine” characteristics, we should not miss the combined animal and sensuous elements in the Tramp: he is stereotypically male in the apparent power that his posture implies, yet his type of masculinity seems also to defy definition, leading the settled males to employ descriptors such as “soft” and “graceful.” The final part of the passage eroticizes the male body, implying a homoerotic quality that is always under the surface in O’Flaherty’s fiction: tales such as “Wild Stallions,” “The Mermaid,” and “Lovers” praise the beauty and vitality of the male (sometimes animal) body and lament its decline as the result of age, physical struggle, or communal persecution. In “The Tramp,” the nomad survives persecution because he embraces work, travel, and stereotypically male-oriented activities; but simultaneously, he subverts the meaning of these same activities by performing them in such a sensuous manner.

As part of his socio-sexual deterritorialization, the Tramp disdains anything associated with the “lawful,” including the binding, suffocating law of affiliation. He takes this view to the extreme when he describes his brief affair with a woman during his sedentary years: when he was in his 20s he impregnated a servant girl, and while she followed him, he “deserted her after six months.”[22] As he concludes, “She lost her looks after the birth of the child. I never clapped eyes on her or the child since.”[23] From the nomadic point of view, the Tramp’s desertion of the servant girl constitutes a radical rejection of the marriage institution, a refusal to put himself in the position of the pauper—precisely, the position of Michael Deignan. All the same, we cannot help but note the tone of misogyny in the Tramp’s story, as if filial devotion to one’s spouse, and to womanhood generally, cannot be refuted without insulting the woman herself, as if the woman could not adapt to the travelling life. Indeed, the tramp’s anecdote reveals a hypocrisy, that Deignan, the morally pretentious loafer, is more of a candidate for “road life” than the devoted servant girl whose reputation is likely more tarnished than that of her beloved tramp. This masculinist depiction of itinerancy reflects the sharp gender divide of the interwar years during which O’Flaherty was writing the greater bulk of his stories. As Helleiner remarks, “‘outsiders’ constructions of Travellers focused on a usually masculinized threat to the reproduction of rural class and gender relations.” Similarly, Helleiner adds, “the anti-Traveller racism of the parliamentary debates of the 1940s and 1950s invoked a masculinized Traveller population from which properly domesticated non-Traveller women required “protection.”[24] It could be argued that the gendered territorial anxiety in O’Flaherty’s work is self-consciously presented as a product of 1) the settled male fear of tinker exoticism/eroticism and 2) the (generally) male belief that the tinker lifestyle is somehow distinctly masculine. While we may take issue with the Tramp’s explicit rejection of feminine nomadism, we can still acknowledge his implicit rejection of traditional masculine attributes.

ii. Nomadic eroticism is even more prominent in “The Tent,” which describes the encounter between a drifter named Carney and a trio of Travellers that include a tinker, Joe Byrne, and his two wives, Kitty and another identified only by her golden hair. The ménage à trois arrangement indicates that, like the tramp of the previous tale, Joe Byrne rejects the settled man’s monogamous marriage institution. While the omniscient narrator gives us the first glimpse of travelling life through the quiet ritual of the tinker and his two wives, the third-person perspective changes when Carney, a recently settled man now forced to travel the roads, is given shelter from the storm. Having sat down to warm himself by the fire, he “size[s] [the trio] up carefully, looking at each suspiciously with his sombre dark eyes.”[25] Formerly a “Sergeant-major in the army,” Carney views the tinker lifestyle with the skeptical eyes of a man who used to be established in sedentary life but who is now set adrift “tramping the roads.”[26] His specific use of the verb “tramp” indicates his apparent decline from a better life; he has been reduced to the position of the tinker but is unable to adapt to the harsh environment. Carney, observed by the tinker to be a “big” and “sturdy” fellow who possesses the demeanor of “somebody in authority,” finds the hardihood of his hosts to be a slight to his current situation.[27] While Carney muses over the predicament of being “[s]tuck out on a mountain,” there is no sense that the landscape causes any distress for the tinker and his wives.[28] This sort of deterritorialization, which relinquishes space in order to maintain mobility, is incomprehensible to a man who associates hard work with the firm possession of land.

In lieu of blatant racism, or as an indication of the sort of “racism without race” that characterized anti-Traveller discrimination in the post-Famine era, Carney attempts to characterize the travelling way of life—a culture without “culture”—in disparaging terms:

The tinker was sitting on a box opposite him, leaning languidly backwards from his hips, a slim, tall, graceful man, with a beautiful head poised gracefully on a brown neck, and great black lashes falling down over his half-closed eyes, just like a woman. A womanish looking fellow, with that sensuous grace in the languid pose of his body […] The two women were just like him in texture, both of them slatterns, dirty and unkempt, but with the same proud, arrogant, contemptuous look in their beautiful brown faces.[29]

On the one hand, these “sensuous” attributes are part of the fantasy of sedentary society, as Helleiner describes. This fantasy eroticizes the tinker in the hopes of reterritorializing his identity. It is clear, however, that in his failure to find a visible “racial” difference, Carney latches onto the tinker’s apparent sexual ambiguity as a signifier of illegitimacy.[30] His disgust for Joe derives from the tinker’s combined strength and erotic power, a quality that the women also seem to possess. The effeminizing description is a self-conscious way of reassuring his previous position as a “big” man. Carney also finds the success of these vagrants suspect, attributing the tinker’s adaptability and his “grace” to his lack of masculinity and his alliance to these “slattern” women. But despite both the idealized and derogatory descriptions, the tinker’s “grace”—quite like that of the tramp’s—indicates his deterritorialization of these fetishizing strategies and his composure in the face of systemic prejudice. The obsessive emphasis on gender difference underscores Carney’s homophobic response to a “beautiful” man, even while it also attributes a certain homoerotic power to Joe Byrne.

Using the hospitable offering of whiskey as a ploy to distract the tinker, Carney then turns his attention to the tinker’s “golden-headed” wife: “he seized her around the body and pressed her to him.”[31] In this instance, Carney attempts to fix her into place, to both literally and metaphorically hold her down. But her early signs of playful struggle promise that his conquest will not be successful: she will evade and “pinion,” baring her “teeth in a savage grin,” tease and yet refuse pleasure.[32] Helleiner suggests that the female tinker woman has often been “portrayed as an unattainable object of settled desire.”[33] And while Helleiner may be right about the conventional portrayal, the “golden-head” actually refuses the position of “object” when she repulses Carney’s advances; that is, she is “woman,” but not in the way Carney would like, and so she is also and at the same time more than “woman,” not a territory that can be possessed, but a nomad who traverses a territory, grinning all the while. Additionally, Carney’s desire to possess the tinker woman is part of his contest with the tinker male who poses a more ambivalent sexual threat, especially given his “slim, tall, graceful” figure. Of the three attractive individuals who inhabit the tent, Carney believes he has selected the most attainable one. His defeat lies in his failure to judge his prey and in his inability to acknowledge his own position as prey: he is on unfamiliar territory with the harsh elements at his back and a “savage” sexuality in front of him.[34] After all, if Carney possesses a deep-seated prejudice, he also unconsciously attributes the tinker identity—and its particular tenacity—to all three of the tent’s inhabitants: “‘Tinkers,’ he said to himself. ‘Awful bloody people.’” If he finds the women—or a particular woman—more readily attainable, he can also admit, without realizing the ramifications, that the “two women were just like him [the tinker] in texture.”[35]

Moreover, Carney fails to consider the possibility that the trio constitutes a strange alliance, which succeeds through cooperation rather than opposition between the sexes. So it is, then, that the apparent misogyny in O’Flaherty’s stories is challenged indirectly by the unacknowledged—and therefore subversive—workings of a feminine nomadism. Despite the emphasis on the male tinker’s resourcefulness, it is evident, especially in “The Tent,” that women can convert such activities for their own ruses and tricks: the preparation of meals, the feigned offering of a sexual encounter, and the tactical alliance with the male for the purpose of a contingent territorial victory. If both the tramp and the tinker refuse to acknowledge such activities, their envious male opponents call attention to the more ambiguous sexual performance of such “graceful,” “beautiful,” “languid” and “animal” men. We might say that it is a matter of national male pride that Carney does not accept the travelling life as legitimate, even while his only other option appears to be the workhouse (and we see the detrimental consequences of this in “The Tramp”). In contrast, nomads (tinkers, Travellers, tramps) survive by establishing their own version of the “market economy,” which, as this second tale suggests, is bound up with gendered notions of work and travel. Following the deterritorializing strategies of these nomads, the Pedlar (as he is identified in the final tale) refuses to accord the dominant assemblages of “God and man” the authority of law.[36]

iii. “The Pedlar’s Revenge” presents a much darker portrait of Traveller life and, particularly, the consequences of integration and citizenship. In contrast to both the tinker and the tramp, O’Flaherty’s Pedlar is at a certain disadvantage, living a settled life among “neighbors” who have entrenched and well-protected prejudices against the wandering lifestyle. Deleuze and Guattari note that the goal of “the sedentary road” is “to parcel out a closed space to people, assigning each person a share and regulating the communication between shares.”[37] Yet, while the Pedlar appears to follow the rules of this society, he still possesses a nomadic cunning, characteristic of his Traveller counterparts in the previous tales. For example, while he no longer travels, he takes advantage of the small space parceled out to him, employing everything from his beehives to his culinary arts as ruses and forms of defense. If he possesses a frailer frame than the younger tramp or tinker, his “stooped” and “bent” form, which brings him close to the earth, gives him an animal tenacity further reinforced by the “fur”—rather than “hair”—that covers his chin.[38] But the Pedlar is a rather strange animal, ascetic yet sensual, like the burrowers of Kafka’s stories; if he shores up a certain amount of erotic mystique, his “uncouth” masturbatory gesture of stroking his “erect” blackthorn stick parodies the phallic power of the law that dominates settled society.[39]

There are two main conflicts in this tale that put the Pedlar in the position of passive defense. On the one hand, there is the life-long rivalry between the Pedlar and his bullying neighbor, Paddy Moynihan; on the other, there is the Pedlar’s new contest with the sergeant who investigates Paddy’s death. The tale begins with the discovery of Paddy’s death-by-poisoning—from what, we are not sure, but witnesses claim that Paddy had made accusations against the Pedlar just before he perished.[40] The ensuing dialogue between the sergeant and the Pedlar reveals exactly how much truth there is in these accusations. Whether or not he is guilty of the crime, the Pedlar is already associated with societal contamination.[41] He is, after all, skilled in the art of insinuation, of ingratiating himself with settled folk, and of manipulating some of their rules to boot.[42] Peddling means “to sell” but also “to dispense with,” suggesting that trickery would be required to accomplish this: to “peddle something off,” as Michel de Certeau has noted, is another way of “‘putting one over’ on the established order on its home ground.”[43] Like the paupers in “The Tramp,” it is apparent that Paddy had resented the Pedlar’s ability to adapt to the changing economic environment regardless of war and depression.[44] While the exterior of Paddy’s home is described as “desolate,” “overgrown with weeds,” full of holes, and the inside as “in a shocking state of filth and disorder,” the Pedlar’s home is immaculate inside and out, with a garden that is “well stocked with fruit trees and vegetables and flowers, all dressed in a manner that bore evidence to the owner’s constant diligence and skill.”[45] Joe Finnerty, the rate collector and the sergeant’s ally in the interrogation, tries to evoke sympathy for Paddy’s sordid lifestyle, even while we may notice the irony here: that a large and capable man cannot improvise enough to live comfortably when his fragile, harassed neighbor manages to cope.

The Pedlar is clearly “settled” in Irish society, and has been living amongst “neighbors” for years.[46] However, his treatment at the hands of Paddy, whose favorite game was to chant pejoratively, “Pedlar, Pedlar, Pedlar,” while a gang of persecutors threw rocks at the Pedlar’s feet, indicates the lingering suspicion of the Pedlar’s legitimacy.[47] In an echo of the tramp, whose greater vigor affords him the possibility of actually travelling, the Pedlar nostalgically laments that “the day of the wandering merchant is now done. He and his ass will climb no more up from the sea along the stony mountain roads, bringing lovely bright things from faraway cities to the wild people of the glens.”[48] As Jackson Lears reminds us in his cultural history Fables of Abundance, before the modern period “[i]tinerant peddlers were, literally and figuratively, agents of the marvellous.”[49] However, the nostalgic allusion in O’Flaherty’s story contrasts with the rather unromantic position of the contemporary Traveller. O’Flaherty’s Pedlar must settle for a roof rather than the stars above his head, and store his goods in one place rather than carry them with him. As Finnerty tells the sergeant, the Pedlar had an old “ramshackle shed” in which he kept everything he had collected around the countryside: “rags and old iron and bits of ancient furniture and all sorts of curiosities that had been washed ashore from wrecked ships.” In another of his playful moods, Paddy tied a turnip to a stick and lured out the donkey that was tied to the doorjamb of the shed, which caused the whole structure to collapse in a heap.[50] Such is the consequence, the tramp might say, when one is forced to fall back on sedentary life; however, as we discover, this reterritorialization is not permanent.

The Pedlar is acceptable as long as he continues to offer “lovely bright things” and tolerate the abuse of settled folk. And even though the Pedlar no longer wanders, his thoughts continue to move, as suggested in the reference to his “palsied hands [moving] up and down, constantly, along the blackthorn stick that he held erect between his knees.”[51] This ritual, repeated several times throughout the interrogation, indicates a particular nomadic cunning, which opts for speed (quickness, deviousness) when movement is restricted.[52] As Deleuze and Guattari say, “the nomad moves, but while seated.”[53] The blatant phallic reference in the Pedlar’s ritual reflects his desire to both regain some power in his community yet remain quietly subversive: his “uncouth dance” registers a line of attack, a shift in tactics, or a mode of defense.[54] That the Pedlar has any recognized “social” power is doubtful; his “palsied hands” and his wrinkled physiognomy are the marks of his incorporation into an economy that attempts to deprive him of mobility. It is notable, then, that the Pedlar’s woeful recollection of the wandering merchant is compared to the cries of a “lamenting woman”: like the women already featured or alluded to in O’Flaherty’s tales, he has been marginalized in his society.[55] For this reason, his masturbatory gesture parodies the communal and generative male power now frustrated by his tricky evasions. In this state of powerlessness, the Pedlar announces interminable desire in post-Famine Irish society (and for this reason anticipates Ní Dhuibhne’s work). Paddy, for example, envies the Pedlar’s resourcefulness—his ability to cultivate a lovely garden and three beehives, which, incidentally, had provided security against Paddy’s previous invasions. As the Pedlar himself explains to the sergeant, “the ruffian has suffered agonies on account of those bees, especially since the war made food scarce in the shops.”[56] This is the other side of the nomad’s apparently exotic nature: his cunning and resourcefulness. While Paddy Moynihan seeks out the Pedlar to cure his hunger for food, settled society demands the satisfaction of moral and economic stability—a demand, which, ironically, provides the Pedlar with agency. As Lears notes, peddlers “signified imaginative participation in a world of exotic, sensuous experience and titillating theatricality, perhaps even a faint and fitful dream of personal transformation.”[57] The Pedlar in O’Flaherty’s tale evokes such a “dream” but for the purpose of tricking the order of society through nomadic artistry.[58] The cultivation of the hives sustain his meagre body and secure his pretty but vulnerable home. As his confession to the sergeant reveals, the Pedlar’s level of defense increases as his escape route is narrowed.

According to the Pedlar, just the day before, Paddy had burst into his home complaining of a great, insatiable hunger, and, catching a whiff of what he thought was frying bacon but which was actually bacon fat, demanded to be given some. Out of fright that Paddy might destroy his place (a fear confirmed by Paddy’s earlier “pranks”), the Pedlar told Paddy that he had used candles to fry up his potatoes. As other witnesses confirm, Paddy then rushed out and purchased candles, presumably consumed the candle wax along with his potatoes, and subsequently died.[59] Upset by what appears to be an act of revenge, Sergeant Toomey reproaches him: “You are a very clever man […] There is nothing that the law can do to a man as clever as you, but you’ll have to answer for your crime to Almighty God on the Day of Judgement all the same.”[60] Finnerty reacts more strongly, exclaiming, “You terrible man! […] You wicked dwarf! You’ll roast in hell for all eternity in payment for your crime.”[61] The Pedlar’s greatest offense here seems to be his deviousness, that he is so clever as to kill without pre-meditation, without a pre-determined counter-strike (for the “revenge” alluded to in the title is really quite accidental). The Pedlar’s final diatribe allies him to the other nomads who mock the authority of the established law:

“Ho! Ho! […] Ho! Ho! My lovelies! Isn’t it great to hear the mighty of this earth asking for God’s help to punish the poor? Isn’t it great to see the law of the land crying out to God for help against the weak and persecuted […]

Do you hear me laugh out loud? […] No man heard me laugh like this in all my life before. I’m laughing out loud because I fear neither God nor man. This is the hour of my delight […] It’s the hour of my satisfaction.”[62]

What becomes the most potent form of revenge is precisely that which frustrates the strategies of sedentary society: not the murder but the evasion of human legal indictment for it (“There is nothing that the law can do to a man as clever as you.”)[63] The Pedlar denounces the settled folk for enlisting a deity that is supposed to look after, not punish, the weak; but he also denounces “man,” reinforcing his previous parody of phallic power. The Pedlar’s survival depends upon his ability to (erotically) deterritorialize the law that attempts to denounce him as a social pariah even while it seeks to reterritorialize (categorize, convict) him as a citizen.


II. A “Hundred Ways” to Leave Your Home: Erotic Deterritorializations

Perhaps it is due to the lingering racism and despatialization of Travellers in “Celtic Tiger” Ireland (1995-2007) that Éilís Ní Dhuibhne chose to focus on famine-era “tinkers” in her story “Summer Pudding.” [64] The title of Ní Dhuibhne’s story seems ironic, especially when we discover that the two main characters in the tale are the only survivors of a family that has died of starvation and fever in what appears to be the wake of the Great Famine (1845-49). Ní Dhuibhne never explicitly identifies a particular historical famine, even though some of the later dialogue alludes to the “fever,” “the hunger,” and most notably the failure of the potato crop, all of which tempts Irish readers at least to think of the Famine.[65] Yet, I would argue that the historical context is deliberately ambiguous, and, in its depiction of a band of roving itinerants, the story is perhaps an attempt to remind settled Irish that “tinkers” still traverse the country and are still treated with scant respect and even vicious discrimination.[66] Accordingly, Ní Dhuibhne’s story is structured as a series of scrambled or unordered sequences, which jump back and forth in both space and time, refusing to plot a definite course in any one direction. The errant narration, shifting from Ireland to Wales and back “home” again, and from famine to post-famine era and back again, seeks to undermine the authority of official history, which has always excluded Travellers. The repetition of the word “hunger” or “hungry” in the story indicates that Ní Dhuibhne is attempting to generate a desire in us to discover the significance of the departure from Ireland, beyond its historical in/accuracies, just as the two women emigrate to the foreign territory of Wales in the hopes of finding both alimentary and sensual nourishment.

While O’Flaherty’s stories continually reinforce the clash between settled and “itinerant” notions of socio-sexual identity, Ní Dhuibhne’s tale shows that such a dichotomy is artificial. One reason is that the story features sedentary individuals forced by circumstance to become nomadic; even though, as we learn from O’Flaherty, not everyone embraces “life on the road.” The apparent division of the sedentary and nomadic worlds is effectively dismantled by the two sisters’ contrasting descriptions of the tinkers: Mary is repulsed by their uncouth habits, but her sister, the unnamed narrator, reacts differently. While Mary dismisses them as “wild animals,” the narrator notes that she felt the same way, but only “at first.”[67] She goes on to carefully describe their body shape, hair, and eyes, and even goes so far as to ridicule the way she and Mary carry themselves like “jugs of milk that might spill if [they] didn’t take care.” If the tinker women happen to “throw their bodies along the road,” this is evidently a better strategy since it allows them to adapt to the unpredictable topography. The implication here is that there is something unladylike about the tinker women, but the narrator’s milk jug analogy simultaneously parodies the apparent sexual prudery of her sister and of sedentary sexuality in general. It becomes clear that, regardless of their opinions, both sisters will have to adapt to the tinker ways.

The degree to which the settled life becomes deterritorialized in Ní Dhuibhne’s tale is made clear when the narrator and her sister Mary find themselves employed as scullery maids in the home of two women, known as the Ladies of Llangollen, who are apparently from Ireland but may also be English.[68] However, despite their “proper” title, the “Ladies” are not bound by the instituted, ordered space of settled society but choose to invent their own version of it. As the narrator describes, “Inside, the house was packed with things: furniture, books, ornaments, musical instruments, brass flowerpots […] Everything was as cluttered up as it possibly could be.”[69] They seem to assume various cultural and gender roles as easily as they change their apparel. For example, Mary first identifies one of the women by her “black coat, black trousers,” and “high stiff white collar. A man’s black hat. Everyone knew that that’s what the Ladies wore as soon as they got away from their families (before, in Ireland, they wore silk dresses, pink and yellow, ball gowns, lovely hats, just like all other fine ladies).”[70] The Llangollen women’s lesbian relationship—first hinted at by this gender performance—indicates a more assertive subversion of the heterosexual “home”: as the narrator later tells us, “They had one bed in their dark, lovely, oaky room, where they had plenty of room for two.”[71] Moreover, while these women appear to settle for the stable domestic life, they also seek to deterritorialize the various gendered zones they encounter—getting “away from” the confining spaces of what they previously called “home.”

It is notable that, despite their haughtiness, the Ladies of Llangollen invite the two Irish sisters into their home. We have already seen in “The Tent,” however, how the offering and acceptance of hospitality can come with a price: Carney enters the tent and is offered hospitality (shelter, food) without questions, but his own offering of the liquor is clearly a pretense to possess the tinker’s wife. Ní Dhuibhne similarly demonstrates the hidden threat in a hospitable gesture. In one instance, after one of the Ladies contend that the famine in Ireland was simply an unfortunate tragedy caused by “fever” and not the lack of generosity and sympathy, the narrator privately reflects: “[w]hen we cut through the lumpy potatoes in July, through their browny-purple, warty skins, and saw them black and sticky inside, soft and sweet, we saw the fever. Their sweet sickening smell was the smell of the fever. The hunger and the fever were the same thing, although people like to think they were different.”[72] Not wishing to offend her hosts, she accepts their theory, all the while emphasizing that their apparent hospitality is tinged with prejudice and ignorance. Reaffirming their cultural ties with England, the Ladies reiterate Charles Trevelyan’s infamously callous attitude towards the potato famine of the 1840s: “We sent what we could.”[73] More importantly, the narrator’s description of the blighted potatoes highlights the necessity of flight and deterritorialization, strategies through which one might find bodily sustenance.

If the Ladies are somewhat condescending towards these new “itinerants,” their ramshackle house suggests the subtle insinuation of the tinker lifestyle. The feminine operation is always already at work in the nomadic lifestyle as a form of “la perruque” (“borrowing”) since it operates slyly as a tactic grafted onto the already established system of the so-called “male” domain.[74] Accordingly, the narrator’s infiltration of the tinker community enables her erotic enjoyment of the tinker male, Naoise, who is already married to a “yellow-skinned and dirty” woman. Echoing the tramp’s anecdote in O’Flaherty’s tale, the narrator describes Naoise’s wife thus: “She was the way the tinker women are as soon as they are married any length of time at all. Scrap […]. Poor thing, poor thing, poor scrap.”[75] If we also detect a tone of misogyny here, it is surely ironic. In her analysis of the tale, José Lanters notes that “A dim awareness of [the narrator’s] own future reverberates in her pitying assessment.”[76] In calling the “poor” woman “scrap,” she rejects the confining marriage institution but also reinforces the marginal position of women in the nomadic lifestyle; she asserts her contingent relationship with the husband but also forms an alliance with another individual who, like herself, has become a remainder (“poor thing, poor scrap”) within her own culture.

In another scene that parallels the fever/hunger conversation with the Llangollen lady, the narrator describes the “summer pudding” that is served up for both her and Mary: “When it was turned out on a plate it looked funny, white with red-purple blotches. [The cook] cut into the skin with a knife. Inside, it was black and purple, soft, sticky, sweet. She gave us each a slice and poured yellow cream over it from a blue jug.”[77] The narrator at once gives us the satisfaction of identifying the significance of the story’s title and baffles us by offering a description of a sweet delicacy that too closely resembles the images of disease and starvation.[78] “Black,” “purple,” “soft,” “sticky,” and “sweet” describe both the gift of generosity (the summer pudding) and the gift of death (the blighted potatoes), but in the end these words negate any tangible or at least definite image of the “gift.” The narrator allows the gift to become what it will, neither accepting death nor generosity, manipulating both as methods of survival and flight.

The two gifts are also associated with erotic desire, for the narrator admits that the summer pudding “tasted like Naoise. Not like his mouth, which was soft and salty, like all men’s mouths, but like his name and like his face.”[79] As part of her tactic of relinquishing the old, malnourished environment and reclaiming the new, sensual environment, the narrator turns her attentions to the tinker male:

One night I caught him alone, behind the encampment, where I was fetching water from the stream. He stood beside me while I filled the pandy and when I stood up he was right in front of me, his face close to my face, his stomach to my stomach. I put my free hand on his face and caressed it. I couldn’t stop my hand going up to his face, he was so close to me [...] He had kissed me for a good three minutes, hard, and his heat and his man’s smells had gone right into me and stayed there.[80]

It is notable that, unlike O’Flaherty’s female characters, the narrator initiates contact; despite the fact that Naoise does prolong the encounter through his “hard” embrace, the narrator also absorbs his energy, just as she has imbibed other elements of the foreign landscape. Naoise’s metaphorical link with both the famine and the summer pudding indicates how exile and itinerancy are events as well as tactics in the female deterritorialization of the Irish homeland, typically associated only with male desire. In Ireland, the blighted potatoes bring about death in the small village, even as they instigate an eastward journey towards the nomadic life; in Wales, the summer pudding brings about a new sense of vitality and nourishment, even as it signifies the immobilized life of the settled, subservient scullery maid. We could also say that the summer pudding transforms the potatoes, giving a new sense of “sticky” and “sweet” and offering the promise of a sensuous experience that neither transcends, nor succumbs to, the effects of starvation (at home) or confinement (abroad), but supplies the unexpected pleasures and dangers of negotiating a new territory.


Conclusion: Deterritorializing Land and “Man”

The Travellers of O’Flaherty’s stories survive by manipulating the law that already inscribes them and forces them to “peddle” in the first place, just as the women of Ní Dhuibhne’s tale are forced to insinuate themselves into the plentiful foreign country that has already contributed to a famine in their own. These nomads survive by appropriating the system that tries to exclude them, and they discover “lines of flight,” or freedom of expression, in the “collective assemblages of enunciation" that have supposedly determined their insignificance.[81]

One of the fearful aspects of nomads is that they have the ability to insinuate themselves into the settled world, and to mimic, absorb, and strategically reproduce the stereotypes that have apparently contained them. O’Flaherty and Ní Dhuibhne are just two in a line of Irish writers (from the early twentieth century to the present) who have continually interrogated class and gender categories, and who have done so through the motif of nomadism. A great number of O’Flaherty’s stories seem to indicate that he is stuck in that traditional and chauvinistic worldview that understands human struggle (against the elements, against disease and death and corruption) as mainly a male activity. In his tinker/tramp tales, however, O’Flaherty demonstrates a different form of masculinity; there is certainly a celebration of male beauty—indeed, if anything, the poetry of the male physical form is at its height in these stories—but the descriptors tend to emphasize traditionally female attributes, so that the male form is both eroticized and the boundaries between male/female blurred. Recall, for example, the paupers’ observation of the tramp: “what throat muscles and what hair on his chest”; or Carney’s observation of the tinker: “a slim, tall, graceful man, with a beautiful head….” Just as the capitalist system is challenged by the travelling life (which depends on borrowing, stealing, begging, peddling, and bartering), so too is the gender system of strict male/female roles and characteristics challenged. Following Deleuze and Guattari, perhaps we could say that O’Flaherty writes women, and in that gesture, is a man “becoming-woman.”[82]

“The Pedlar’s Revenge” certainly bears out such a deterritorializing process: here, the man finds his power by embracing the position of the “lamenting woman.” The Pedlar, more so than even the tinkers and tramps before him, assumes the role that is branded onto him—“Pedlar, Pedlar, Pedlar”—and in this imposition finds the means to escape the further branding that awaits him in the form of communal law. As it turns out, he knows that the “law of the land” can be turned to his own ends: beehives can function as a repellent against encroaching enemies, and wax candles can function as a last defense, a final ruse when the space of invention has been narrowed to a miniscule gap. At the moment of the Pedlar’s supposed “confession,” we discover that he has deterritorialized the sergeant’s argument by borrowing the language of the law to find his own freedom. Ní Dhuibhne’s “Summer Pudding” underscores the transformation from settlement to nomadic no-man’s land in which “tinkering” becomes a tactic for survival rather than a stigma of illegitimacy. If the Pedlar makes up for mobility in speed and cunning, the women compensate for their own lack of “device” with the availability of open space and the movement that accident and tragedy spurs on. But, to avoid simply reconstituting Lacan’s infamous situating of the feminine as absence or as “no-thing,” it should be emphasized that both male and female nomadic figures rely upon the “open” territory, to “parcel” out space through deterritorializing acts, which relinquish rather than firmly grasp the environment.[83]

For Ní Dhuibhne, nomadism is not just a default operation for an uprooted/unsettled person but is also a vital tactic for anyone attempting to escape oppressive boundaries, institutions, or situations. The Ladies of Llangollen are sexually subversive, even if they exude cultural and class condescension. The narrator in “Summer Pudding” finds sensual freedom despite the apparent drudgery of her scullery maid position. Most of Ní Dhuibhne’s female protagonists view their surroundings as hostile environments that require adaptation, defense, and flight; their wish to find simple pleasure in sexual intercourse is always tempered by their fear of becoming trapped by that very same intimate bond. However vulnerable they are to the hostile fauna and flora (foreign and unfamiliar territory, foreign and unfamiliar social organization or customs), Ní Dhuibhne’s women imbibe the nourishment they find (whether food or sex) to enable themselves to move onto the next day, or the next territory.[84] For Ní Dhuibhne—as for O’Flaherty—it all comes down to adaptation and mobility. All four tales deterritorialize settled notions of gender identity: the nomadic protagonists in each case find new styles of exchange in the form of appropriation (seizing plots of land for rest and shelter) and intimacy (absorbing the loving kisses and caresses of another human being).

[1] In her recent study The “Tinkers” in Irish Literature, José Lanters notes that, after the creation of the Free State, the “‘tinker’ trope” became “the embodiment of everything that was objectionable about the Irish past and worrisome about its future” (4). It is quite apparent, however, that in the post-Celtic Tiger era, “itinerant” has become just as repugnant a term; Lanters quotes one anonymous Traveller as remarking, “I’d rather drink my blood before I’d answer to the word, ‘itinerant.’” See José Lanters, The “Tinkers” in Irish Literature: Unsettled Subjects and the Construction of Difference (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2008), 4, 6.

[2] Vivian Mercier, introduction to The Wounded Cormorant and Other Stories (New York: Norton, 1973), vi.

[3] Liam O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” in The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories, ed. and intro. William Trevor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 69.

[4] Jane Helleiner, Irish Travellers: Racism and the Politics of Culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 8.

[5] Also known as “Shelta,” a language comprising medieval Gaelic and possibly Romani dialects, first associated with Irish “tinkers” in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. See Helleiner, Irish Travellers, 37-38. Lanters notes how “Cant” or “Gammon” (the words used among Travellers) functioned as a private form of communication: “it shuts out those who do not belong to the minority group, and it reinforces a sense of belonging and togetherness among those who do.” See Lanters, The “Tinkers,” 13.

[6] Helleiner, Irish Travellers, 45. Emphasis added.

[7] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 87-88.

[8] Ibid., 381.

[9] Both stories are included in Liam O'Flaherty's The Wounded Cormorant and Other Stories (New York: Norton, 1973).

[10] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar's Revenge,” 297.

[11] For “sensuous,” “languid,” and “womanish,” see O’Flaherty, “The Tent,” 69. For “graceful” and “animal,” see O’Flaherty, “The Tramp,” 14, and O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 293.

[12] Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” in The Inland Ice and Other Stories (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1997).

[13] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 88.

[14] O’Flaherty, “The Tramp,” 13.

[15] Ibid., 24-25.

[16] Ibid., 25.

[17] Robbie McVeigh addresses the problematic assumption that the State intervention in Traveller affairs is better than State neglect: “The tone of state discourse may change—from ‘problem’ to ‘respect’—but the intentions can be just as brutal and sometimes even more engaged when the state begins to act ‘in the interests of Travellers.’ Arguably for ethnic nomads being neglected by the state is often far less oppressive than being ‘protected’ or ‘respected’ by it.” See Robbie McVeigh, “‘The 'Final Solution’: Reformism, Ethnicity Denial and the Politics of Anti-Travellerism in Ireland,” Social Policy and Society 7, no. 1 (2008): 93.

[18] O’Flaherty, “The Tramp,” 17.

[19] In her study, Changing Culture: The Traveller-Gypsies (1983), Judith Okely notes that, “since travelling people are seen to defy the state’s demand for a ‘fixed abode,’ they are seen as both lawless and fascinating.” See Judith Okely, Changing Culture: The Traveller-Gypsies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 2.

[20] O’Flaherty, “The Tramp,” 14-15.

[21] Ibid., 18.

[22] Ibid., 24.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Helleiner, Irish Travellers, 162.

[25] O’Flaherty, “The Tent,” 69.

[26] Ibid., 71.

[27] Ibid., 68.

[28] Ibid., 70.

[29] Ibid., 69.

[30] For the visibility of “racial” difference, see Helleiner, Irish Travellers, 8.

[31] O’Flaherty, “The Tent,” 74.

[32] Ibid. The word “pinion,” used in the story, means to “restrain,” or “immobilize.”

[33] Helleiner, Irish Travellers, 162.

[34] O'Flaherty, “The Tent,” 74-75.

[35] Ibid., 69.

[36] Emphasis on “man” added.

[37] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 380 (original emphasis).

[38] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 293.

[39] Ibid., 292.

[40] Ibid., 287-88.

[41] Okely devotes a fair amount of space to the subject of “pollution” taboos in Gypsy culture. Specifically, pollution comes into play when the Gypsy relies upon the “Gorgio” (the Gypsy term for non-Gypsy, outsider, or stranger) for sustenance: “Great care has to be taken over the type of food acquired. Food in tins, packets or bottles, not perceivably contaminated by the Gorgio’s body or shadow, is usually most acceptable.”  Thus, while begging or “Calling” is a necessity, Gypsies view their relationship to Gorgios just as Travellers might view their relationship to sedentary folk: with suspicion and vigilance. See Judith Okley, Changing Culture: The Traveller-Gypsies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 83-84. And yet, the precautions do not prevent at least a kind of pollution, as we see in O’Flaherty’s work. Indeed, we might view the fictional portrayal of Traveller-citizen relations as a breach in the taboo, as an attempt to reinforce the ethical nature of “hospitality,” which, from the perspective of the settled person, might mean dispensing with tradition and welcoming the Traveller into the home, or, from the perspective of the Traveller, might mean relaxing suspicions, accepting the offer, and establishing an alliance.

[42] The notion of “insinuation” is closely associated with “appropriation,” a term that has fueled many debates in such discourses as art theory, anthropology, and postcolonial studies. In their article, “The Cultural Process of ‘Appropriation,’” Kathleen Ashley and Véronique Plesch note how in previous poststructuralist and postcolonial configurations, “appropriation” has suggested a theft and ultimately a binary model of the appropriator/appropriated: “the model is always a relationship between unequals—a dominant culture that appropriates and a weaker culture that has no control over its representations and products.” While a term like “intertextuality,” found in the work of Barthes and Kristeva, seems a more useful alternative, Ashley and Plesch note also how in the 1990s postcolonial critics had shifted towards the view that these “others,” these “‘subalterns’ […] may in fact be agents rather than powerless victims, capable of resisting or subverting the imposed agenda even as they appear to be adopting the tools of the dominant culture.” See Kathleen Ashley and Véronique Plesch, “The Cultural Process of 'Appropriation,’” in Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 32, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 2-4.

[43] Michel De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Randall (Berkley: University of California Press, 1988), 26.

[44] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 297.

[45] Ibid., 291-292.

[46] “Neighbor” usually signifies “fellow citizen,” that is, someone who has been fully inscribed into a (usually modern) society and daily routine.

[47] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 295.

[48] Ibid., 295-6

[49] Jackson Lears, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 25.

[50] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 291.

[51] Ibid., 292.

[52] For various instances of the ritual, see ibid., 293, 294, 297, 299.

[53] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 381.

[54] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 297.

[55] Ibid., 295.

[56] Ibid., 297.

[57] Lears, Fables of Abundance, 63.

[58] De Certeau argues that the “actual order of things is precisely what ‘popular’ tactics turn to their own ends, without any illusion that it will change any time soon. Though elsewhere it is exploited by a dominant power or simply denied by an ideological discourse, here order is tricked by an art.” See De Certeau, The Practice of Every Life, 26 (original emphasis).

[59] We might imagine that these are the sort of candles that, before the 1970s, contained a “lead core” and so were potentially lethal. See Marianne McDermott, “Lead in Candle Wicks,” in The Journal of the American Medical Association 284, no. 17 (November 1, 2000): 2189-2190.

[60] O’Flaherty, “The Pedlar’s Revenge,” 298.

[61] Ibid., 299.

[62] Ibid. (emphasis added)

[63] Ibid., 298.

[64] In his article of the same period, Jim MacLaughlin notes that although they clearly lived within Irish society, Travellers were progressively perceived as apart from it, as social “pariahs” and “parasites” who “marauded” on settled society and committed a whole range of petty crimes against it. Having constructed “tinkers” as near “savage[s],” or uncivilized subjects, it was only a matter of time before “settled” Ireland would depict them as “expendable.” He goes on to argue that, with the rise of the modern Irish State, a new “geography of power” has decreased the amount of available space for contemporary Travellers: “it is now widely believed that they literally have to go because they do not belong in Celtic Tiger Ireland” (original emphasis). See Jim MacLaughlin, “Nation-Building, Social Closure and Anti-Traveller Racism in Ireland,” in Sociology, 33, no. 1 (February 1999): 137-141.

Ni Dhubhne’s story was written right at the beginning of that era (1997). A whole new chapter known as “post-Celtic Tiger” Ireland is currently being written; Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz (2011) and Claire Kilroy’s The Devil I Know (2012) both sound the death-knell of the Celtic Tiger economic boom.

[65] See Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 55.

[66] More recently, Caitriona Moloney insists that the story “uses the Great Potato Famine of 1845 to dramatize how histories are falsified in times of great stress and how, in such times, women can collude in their own erasure from history.” See Caitriona Moloney, “Reimagining Women’s History in the Fiction of Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Anne Enright, and Kate O’Riordan,” in Postcolonial Text 3, no. 3 (2007): 3. While this “erasure” is evident later on when the narrator lies about her own family’s “famine” tragedy, I argue that this “lie” is, like the falsifications in nomadic societies, a contingent plan of survival and also a way of garnering hospitality.

[67] Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 46.

[68] Lanters notes that the “Ladies,” mentioned in George Borrow’s Wild Wales (1862), were Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, members of the Anglo-Irish Ascendency; they were mythologized as going about “dressed like men.” See Lanters, The “Tinkers” in Irish Literature, 157-58.  In a 2003 interview, Ní Dhuibhne confirms that the story was inspired in part by the Borrow book. See “Éilís Ní Dhuibhne,” in Irish Women Writers Speak Out: Voices from the Field, interview by Caitriona Moloney (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003), 109-110.

[69] Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 52.

[70] Ibid., 51(emphasis added).

[71] Ibid., 57.

[72] Ibid., 55.

[73] Moloney argues that the sisters’ “cover story,” which is “a form of Famine-denial […,] conciliates their audience.” Further, the Llangollen Ladies’ “interrogation of the girls demonstrates how fictions about the famine were mutually constructed.”

[74] De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 29.

[75] Ní Dhuibhne, Summer Pudding,” 53.

[76] Lanters, The “Tinkers” in Irish Literature, 159.

[77] Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 57.

[78] Moloney argues along similar lines: “This concoction of decay contrasts sharply with the summer pudding of the title, a rich dessert made in the kitchen of the ladies, indicating two (at least) radically different versions of the Famine.” See Moloney, “Reimagining Women’s History,” 4.

[79] Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 57.

[80] Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 53.

[81] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan. Forward by Réda Bensmaïa (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 18.

[82] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 275-76.

[83] See Elaine Showalter’s interrogation of this psychoanalytic strategy in “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism,” in Criticism: Major Statements, ed. Charles Kaplan and William Anderson (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), 695-97.

[84] The title character in “Gweedore Girl,” also included in the collection The Inland Ice and Other Stories, describes her relationship with Elliot, the butcher’s boy: “I could not bear being without him—even though I knew that tomorrow I might see him again and in a week I would lie in the grass with him again, and taste his mouth and his skin, and draw his heat and his strength into me.” See Ní Dhuibhne, The Inland Ice, 17. Recall the very similar passage in “Summer Pudding,” where the narrator in this story draws a man’s “heat and his man’s smells […] right into” her. See Ní Dhuibhne, “Summer Pudding,” 53. The female protagonists in both cases view men as contingent energy sources rather than their essential reason for being.