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REDEFINING FAMILY IN JENNIFER JOHNSTON'S FOOLISH MORTALS.

To date, Irish writer Jennifer Johnston (1930-) has published eighteen novels and written numerous stage and radio plays. She has won prizes such as the prestigious Whitbread Award, and her book Shadows on Our Skin (1977) was short-listed for the Booker Prize. In 2012, her literary achievements were recognized by the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards, which honored her with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award. Beginning with her first novel, The Captains and the Kings (1972), Johnston has explored the effects of Irish nationalism and politics on individuals. In Foolish Mortals (2007), Johnston focuses on the issue of family at both a personal and political level in order to reveal and inspire transformations in domestic relationships and gender roles in twenty-first-century Ireland. This book signifies a change in Johnston's depiction of family relationships. These relationships may begin as difficult, as in her earlier work, but end in reconciliation. In addition, the family structure is redefined and reconfigured to include more types of families. Patricia Craig (2007) recognizes Johnston's perspicacity about contemporary Irish society and notes that "Part of the author's achievement here is to undermine... conventional ideas about family relations and activities." The questions that Ciara, the daughter in Foolish Mortals asks--"What, anyway, is a happy family?" (Johnston 2007, 148) and "What's normal?" (172)--are among the central concerns of the text and part of the political discussions happening in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century Ireland. By addressing who constitutes a family, Foolish Mortals participates in the debates about homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and the Irish family that were in the foreground in the 1980s and were still taking place at the time of the book's publication. These changing attitudes about families and relationships can be seen in the characters' negotiations of structural changes to their families. The novel documents the shift from idealizing the nuclear family to recognizing and accepting a multiplicity of families including two gay couples, a divorced mother and her daughter, an older woman and her caregivers, and the large family these smaller units compose.

Memory is crucial to this renegotiation of relationships. This attention to the past, as many critics argue, is a prominent feature in Johnston's fiction. (1) Yulia Pushkarevskaya contends: "Like many other Irish writers, Jennifer Johnston exhibits a particular fascination with memory....However, rather than the past itself, it is the interpretation of the past...that assumes a particular significance in Johnston's oeuvre" (2007, 73). In keeping with Pushkarevskaya's observation, the characters in Foolish Mortals must not only uncover the past but also must reinterpret it. The novel offers a complex look at memory and shows that both actively dealing with the past as well as the seemingly contradictory need to forget some of it (in this case through amnesia or dementia) are necessary to facilitate positive changes to the Irish family structure.

Foolish Mortals also expands the focus on mother-daughter relationships to look at other familial relationships. Anne Fogarty (2002), Heather Ingman (2007), and Ann Owens Weekes (2000) argue that a shift takes place in the late 1980s and 1990s in relation to mother-daughter narratives: in earlier Irish novels, the daughter's story is foregrounded; in later Irish novels, the mother's story begins to be told. In this context, part of what differentiates Foolish Mortals is that Johnston gives both mother and daughter a voice, privileging neither of their stories. Other characters in the text also get a voice, which expands this subject position even further and heightens the novel's themes of tolerance, inclusion, and the need to understand disparate perspectives.

I begin with a brief discussion of some of the contemporary political battles about family and gay rights in Ireland. I then address how Johnston uses moments of fissure--breaks in memory, in the privilege of the heteronormative family, in marital stability (infidelity, divorce, attempted murder), and in maternal expectations (wanting a career, not wanting children)--as opportunities for change to family structures, gender roles, and belief systems. In these moments, characters realize that they do not have to reproduce the same relationships, social structures, and individual identities.

The legalization of divorce, the decriminalization of homosexual acts, and the legalization of gay marriage all challenged the Irish Constitution's definition of family (an institution at the heart of the nation's identity). Although Johnston does not cite specific legal cases in Foolish Mortals, the family structures depicted in the novel reflect the climate of change in Irish attitudes toward divorce and gay marriage and anticipate the unprecedented vote on gay marriage in May 2015. In the 1980s, activists attempted to overturn Article 41.3.2 of the 1937 Constitution, which banned divorce. (2) Despite early public support for legalizing divorce, the 1986 Referendum failed and there would not be another vote on the issue until 1995. This time the Amendment passed and was put into effect in 1997. The right to divorce and people's subsequent ability to remarry dramatically changed the family landscape for some, including the characters in Foolish Mortals. (3) A trend toward cohabitation, greater access to contraception, and advances in reproductive technologies also have affected family relations in the past few decades.

The movement toward more open homosexual relationships gained ground in the 1980s when Mary Robinson represented activist and scholar David Norris in his challenge to an 1861 law that made homosexual acts illegal. Norris argued that this law was unconstitutional because it violated his right to privacy. The High Court ruled against Norris on the grounds that "nullify[ing] laws 'prohibiting unnatural sexual conduct which Christian teaching held to be gravely sinful'" would go against the Constitution that "identifies Ireland as a Christian state" (Finnegan and McCarron 2000, 273). Norris's appeal to the Irish Supreme Court was also unsuccessful. However, in 1988 he won his case in the European Court of Human Rights, (4) and in 1993 the Irish government decriminalized "homosexual behavior between consenting persons over the age of seventeen" (273).

Subsequently, gay rights activists shifted their attention to equal economic, legal, and marital rights for homosexual couples. The 2004 Civil Registration Act prohibited gay marriage on the grounds that "there is an impediment to the marriage" if "both parties are of the same sex" (9, 10). The year before Foolish Mortals was published, the courts came to the same verdict about the definition of marriage in the KAL case. In Zappone v. Revenue Commissioners (2006), Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan appealed to the High Court to extend the definition of marriage to same-sex couples. (5) The High Court ruled against them, but legal scholar Jonathan Ennis argues that the case "transform[ed] the [same-sex marriage] debate from a contemporary academic subject to a real constitutional issue" (2010, 29). The Civil Partnership Act (2010) and a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would legalize same-sex marriage (2012) signaled an increase in public support for partnership rights for gay couples and for changing the definition of marriage. On May 22, 2015, Irish citizens voted by a large majority to legalize same-sex marriage.

The publication of Foolish Mortals predates this more recent legislation; however, Johnston's depiction of a range of non-nuclear families and her implicit argument in the text that families need not be predicated on heteronormative or traditional relationships is part of this discussion about the definition of family in Ireland. In his work on the function of families, Tom Inglis argues that the family "socializ[es] each new generation into the culture in which it exists" and helps children "create identities and a sense of bonding and belonging," but it "also reproduces existing forms of domination, particularly in relation to social class, patriarchy and other structures of power" (2015, 70). Consequently, disrupting the family structure, as Johnston does in Foolish Mortals, affects the ways in which "meanings, relationships and identities are constructed, reproduced and developed" (70). This familial change also has the potential to dismantle gender inequalities in subsequent generations.

The traditional families in the novel include Stephanie, Henry, and their two children, Ciara and Donough; Henry and his new wife, Charlotte; and Tash and her sons, Henry and George. Although each of these relationships has already been dismantled before the novel begins through divorce, death, or distance, their specter of normalcy remain in the form of characters' expectations that these family configurations will automatically bring happiness to each family member. Ciara, for example, initially thinks of happiness only in terms of the reformed nuclear family. Her parents, Stephanie and Henry, have divorced and Henry has remarried, but Ciara still believes that "One day we will be a happy family again" (Johnston 2007, 148). It is precisely because of the ways in which, as Inglis delineates, family helps to foster identity and create a sense of belonging that Ciara is so committed to the traditional two-parent family on which she bases her identity. Yet Johnston shows that Ciara's belief in the power of normative familial structures is just a fantasy and a potentially destructive one. By the end of the novel, Ciara's family does become a happy family again, just not, as I will address in this article, in the traditional sense that Ciara's words imply, which would mean going back to old relationships and family structures. Instead, Johnston depicts a diversity of love relationships that lead to new forms of family life. Through her portrayal of a range of positive domestic relationships and extended definition of family to include ties of affection and same-sex relationships, Johnston disrupts Ciara's expectation that only conventional relationships inherently confer happiness and insure familial and national stability.

Johnston's challenges in Foolish Mortals to idealistic notions about heteronormativity and the nuclear family are in contradistinction to the more conservative social values embedded in the pre-2015 Irish Constitution. As Richard B. Finnegan and Edward T. Mc-Carron note, the Constitution defends "the right, and in fact the duty, of the family to provide for the intellectual, moral, physical, social, and religious education of the children," which gives "the family... priority over the rights of the individual" (2000, 164). The familial reconstruction Johnston advocates is based on individuals prioritizing their rights, breaking free from social pressures, and achieving tolerance for one another's choices and lifestyles. Through her disruption of the traditional family structure, Johnston also challenges "the fixed concepts of gender" that Ingman argues early on "became institutionalized in [Ireland's] juridical structure" (2007, 336).

Families and familial relationships have been a primary concern in much of Johnston's work. Johnston's novels that precede Foolish Mortals depict few happy families and an abundance of complicated parent-child relationships, problems that are exacerbated by characters' adherence to conventional political structures or traditionally defined relationships. The closest Johnston comes to depicting an ideal nuclear family is in The Railway Station Man. In this book, there is a glimpse of peace and happiness as Roger, Helen, and Damian walk arm in arm from Helen's studio toward her house (Johnston 1999, 189). Significantly, this threesome is not a traditional family unit; it is based neither on marriage nor biology but rather on ties of affection. Roger and Helen, although attracted to one another, are unmarried, and Damian is a boy from the village who, as Rachael Sealy Lynch has argued, acts as a kind of "spiritual and surrogate son" to Helen (2000, 255). Moreover, the peaceful moment between Roger, Helen, and Damian does not last. Soon after this scene, Roger falls victim to Ireland's political violence. This same novel also includes a difficult and distant relationship between Helen and her biological son. In Johnston's subsequent novels such as The Invisible Worm (1991), The Illusionist (1995), Two Moons (1998), and Grace and Truth (2005) where mother-daughter relationships are foregrounded, parent-child relationships remain similarly problematic. (6) At the start, Foolish Mortals appears to fit this same pattern of fraught family life that characterizes much of her work. However, by the end of the book there are enough happy families and healthy parent-child relationships to represent a departure from Johnston's earlier fiction. The characters in Foolish Mortals achieve domestic happiness by choosing their families rather than relying on "natural" family ties to bring them together and by recognizing, respecting, and accepting each others' desires.

Even if they define it differently, the characters in Foolish Mortals know what happiness means to them, and each knows for certain that he or she was happy in the past. In the present moment, however, happiness seems to be more of a dream than a reality. Ciara describes it as "an uncertainty" (Johnston 2007, 149), and Stephanie wonders if it is real. "I just want my kids to be happy," she admits, "and then I think, what's happy but a terrible illusion? And we keep pushing them towards this thing that barely exists" (17). Yet, even if happy "barely exists," it remains a goal for the characters, and this quest motivates many of them. Heinz Kosok's description of the desire for happiness in The Christmas Tree applies to Foolish Mortals as well: "whatever happiness is attainable is fleeting at best, and it has to be paid for at a terrible price, yet it is worth paying the price, for only when one's defences are down is it possible to experience life" (1986, 107). In Foolish Mortals, trying to achieve happiness is the catalyst for the book's action--Jeremy tells his twin sister, Charlotte, that he and her husband, Henry, are in love--but it comes at a price. Charlotte tries to preserve the illusion of a happy marriage and avoid the public disintegration of her relationship with Henry when she, consciously or not, causes a fatal car accident. After Henry leaves her, Stephanie also goes to extreme lengths to preserve the illusion of the happy family and to preserve her pride: "I had to show them that I could live without their father, that we could continue to be a happy family" (2007, 31). However, unlike Charlotte, Stephanie comes to realize the futility of her performance.

Although Charlotte's act is the most physically destructive manifestation of love in the text, the title and Shakespearean refrain "what fools these mortals be" emphasize the excessive things all of the characters do for and because of love. In an interview with Eleanor Wachtel, Johnston discusses this crazy love and contends that it either cements or destroys relationships. She also explains how conventional expectations about relationships play a deciding role in this outcome:
The expectation that two people will get married and live happily ever
after can be founded on lies, and then these lies become things that
are expected to turn into truths. When the expectations begin to
splinter, that is the moment when the relationship suddenly has to turn
into real love, not just that crazy sort of love that overtakes us all.
The crazy love can come along several times during our lifetimes...
and we go down paths we never would in our normal senses. Sometimes
this is a good thing, but far more often it is a disaster. (Johnston
1997, 327)


In Foolish Mortals, crazy love has these paradoxical effects. It is responsible for a disastrous car accident, but it also leads to reconciled families, real love, and greater compassion.

Foolish Mortals opens in the aftermath of the car crash that leaves Charlotte dead and Henry suffering from partial amnesia. As the car's driver, Charlotte causes the major event in the book that prompts the other characters to act or to change. Yet Charlotte herself fades away at the moment of impact, physically and in Henry's memory. Henry does not remember the details of the accident, the fight with Charlotte that preceded it, or his four-year marriage to her. Henry also does not remember his new romantic relationship with Jeremy, and his complicated relationship with the children from his first marriage to Stephanie. What Henry does remember about the accident is nightmarish but vague. He recalls "the grinding sound of metal and the engine's squeal... and then a voice crying Noooo, which was probably his voice" (Johnston 2007, 249-50). Henry also remembers fear, but in his amnesiac state he moves successfully into the future with some of his past erased and questions that remain unanswered.

Henry's psychological position is a departure from Johnston's recent novels in which the protagonists must fully come to terms with their memories of personal and/or national pasts if they are to move forward. (7) In Foolish Mortals, Johnston continues to show that remembering the past is important, but she also suggests that people can achieve happiness only if they are not overwhelmed by it. (8) On the one hand, memories allow Henry to become "a man with a past, a real person, not just a forlorn patient" (Johnston 2007, 46), and he recognizes that "our patterns [the past] are important" (225). On the other hand, Henry considers: "How great it would be if you could only remember the good bits, the spiritual bits, the noble thoughts, the generosity" (90). This idealistic description of memories and personal history is echoed in the book's references to The Wizard of Oz and the place "over the rainbow" where happiness is certain (148). Henry's desire contains an element of fantasy; however, to a certain extent, his wish holds true. Henry's memories of his family and his lover come back, and although these memories are not all positive, he never remembers the most painful ones that are associated with Charlotte. "I cannot remember her," Henry explains to Jeremy. "Nothing about her at all. Her hair, her smell, her voice. Did she really exist ... There is a hole in my mind as far as she is concerned" (217). (9) Charlotte's existence for Henry becomes predicated on other people's memories of and opinions about her, and none of these depictions are positive. Jeremy portrays Charlotte as manipulative and emphasizes Charlotte's active role in destroying Henry's marriage: "She wooed you. ... You looked so settled at that party, so glued to matrimony. I touched your face with my hand and whispered to myself, I am touching the face of a married man who I know I could love. She had no such scruples. She went for you. I went back to Oz" (142). (10) Implicit in this description is the idea that sexually aggressive women are immoral. Further undermining Charlotte's character, Jeremy believes that Charlotte tried to murder Henry. Stephanie, too, implies Charlotte's murderous intentions when she contrasts her reaction to Henry leaving with Charlotte's: "I never tried to kill him; such a thought never entered my mind. I was too busy crying, feeling sorry for myself and at the same time trying to show the world how brave and strong I was" (31). Both Jeremy's and Stephanie's descriptions of Charlotte rely on gender stereotypes about good and bad women that cast Charlotte as the bad woman.

The void in Henry's memory about Charlotte is intriguing and troubling as is her depiction by the people who do remember her. Henry's amnesia may help him cope with the unfathomable fact that she tried to murder him. However, that Charlotte is demonized by those around her and dehumanized through her complete eradication in Henry's memory suggests that she represents something dangerous, a femme fatale. Charlotte is portrayed as the one at fault for the dissolution of Henry and Stephanie's marriage (even though Henry, of course, is also culpable). Therefore, through her affair with Henry, Charlotte threatens the stable family Charlotte also is a threat because of her symbolic role in the text. She comes to represent the heteronormative family, and her marriage to Henry is an unconscious recreation of this family pattern. Charlotte is sacrificed both physically and mentally (killed off and forgotten) in order to disrupt this family structure and to make change possible.

Despite the problematic implications of Charlotte's death as liberatory, Henry's partial amnesia facilitates his move into the future, because it frees him from some of his past and defamiliarizes emotions like love. Both of these effects allow Henry to throw out conventional models for relationships and privilege what he actually feels rather than what he is supposed to feel. As a result, Henry can redefine his family and love relationships in a more positive way. In his marriages, first to Stephanie and then to Charlotte, Henry suppresses his homosexual desires. I am not suggesting that Henry does not love either woman but rather these relationships appeal to him in part because of their conventionality. Henry's amnesia, therefore, allows for his chosen desires to take precedence over conventional ones and helps him develop new types of relationships rather than recreate old patterns. Memory, then, is both necessary--it is inextricably linked to identity--and problematic--it can perpetuate too rigid of an identity. The process of "reanimat{ing] typicality: to break free of truism into truth" that Anthony "Winner (1996, 124) describes in relation to Johnston's The Christmas Tree is precisely what Johnston documents in Foolish Mortals through Henry in regard to love and relationships. After the accident, Henry cannot remember what love feels like. "I can't say to you [I love you], because I don't know," he explains to Jeremy "I'll have to learn all over again. I cannot remember what I felt when I loved someone" (Johnston 2007, 178-79). This emotional tabula rasa frees Henry to come up with his own definition of love that does not rely on traditional expectations. That Henry must suffer from amnesia in order to break his relationship patterns suggests how personally and culturally entrenched they are. A clean emotional slate is particularly important because his relationship with Jeremy is triply taboo in terms of the heterosexual nuclear family; it is a homosexual relationship between brothers-in-law, and before Charlotte's death is also adulterous. Henry's new perspective allows him to engage more fully in the relationship so that it becomes one based on real love rather than on cliched language and emotions.

Henry's earlier relationships with Charlotte and Jeremy further reveal his internal conflict between whom he thinks he should love and whom he actually loves. Johnston's depiction of Henry as romantically torn between the two siblings queers sexual relations. His desire for both Charlotte and Jeremy deconstructs the monogamous, heterosexual ideal on which the nuclear family is predicated, and in this way Johnston "points to norms, resists them, and opens up a space in which things might be done differently" (Ball 2016, 35). Henry meets the twins at a party while they are cross-dressed. He remembers meeting a woman with a low voice "almost like a man," who smiles and says: "I've come to say goodbye" (Johnston 2007, 7). Henry responds: "You have to say hello first" (7). Henry believes that the person who intrigues him at the party is Charlotte. It is only after the accident that Henry learns from Jeremy that the person who "comets] to say goodbye" was not Charlotte but a cross-dressed Jeremy. The revelation allows Henry to understand that the shadowy figure in his dreams who keeps saying: "I've come to say goodbye" (7) is Henry's first memory of Jeremy rather than a ghostly Charlotte. The new information may clear up that mystery, but it makes Henry feel emotionally confused. Especially because he currently cannot remember Charlotte, this cross-dressing element complicates Henry's understanding of the past and raises questions about his desires. "Who was I supposed to fall in love with?" he wonders (142). Although Henry's unconscious desire is for Jeremy, he marries (and loves) Charlotte, an indication, I would argue, of Henry's attraction to the conventional marital relationship.

The accident allows Henry's homosexual desires to be foregrounded. The opening words of the novel, "He's coming out" (Johnston 2007, 1), may indicate that Henry has regained consciousness, but in a novel that emphasizes sexuality, they also signify a greater openness about Henry's sexual orientation. Although Henry's amnesia means that he must learn to love Jeremy again, this time he can negotiate these feelings without guilt about Charlotte. He cannot hurt a person who is dead, and he cannot feel guilty about someone he does not remember. As the book progresses, Henry finds out more about his past and his relationship with Charlotte, but significantly, he cannot remember her on his own, and this detail changes his experience of the past. He no longer retains the lived experience of the relationship. Instead, his history is mediated through someone else's words and therefore has less of an impact. Henry's engagement with people in the present moment takes precedence, and this temporal focus allows him to develop healthier, less fraught relationships. The effects of Henry's ability to refocus his attention on the present is in line with the ideas of nineteenth-century psychologist Pierre Janet, whose work addressed not only the benefit of remembering trauma but also the positive effects for some patients of forgetting or changing the memory to make it less emotionally powerful, the "deelaboration" of memory (Roth 2012, 80)." The latter is one way of "lessening the potency of the trauma, reducing the disturbance from the past, since, 'after the disappearance of the idee fixe, the unity of the spirit is reconstituted'" (81). Similarly, Henry's loss of memory in regard to Charlotte allows him to reduce the trauma of the accident and achieve better psychological balance.

Henry's accident also becomes a catalyst for positive change in the other characters, including his ex-wife and their children. Stephanie learns new details about Henry's past, and these details allow her to better understand Henry, herself, and both of their desires. In particular, Stephanie learns about Henry's boyhood homosexuality and his current relationship with Jeremy. Stephanie's initial reaction to this latter relationship is one of shock and dismay, which is evident in the "broken to pieces omelet" (Johnston 2007, 138) that she serves Ciara after she finds out. However, Stephanie's subsequent reaction to Henry's homosexuality demonstrates the strength of their relationship. Even with her new knowledge about Henry's sexual orientation, she neither regrets her past affection for Henry nor believes it would have altered her desire to marry him. Her unchanged love for Henry differs from the depiction of homosexuality in Johnston's Two Moons, which presents a similar marital situation. In that novel, Benjamin suppresses his homosexual desires in his marriage to Mimi. Anne Fogarty argues that Mimi's response to Benjamin's confession emphasizes the "unbridgeable gap between the past and the present and between the repressive and rigid world in which the heroine grew up and the world she now inhabits. ... Mimi, even though ready to forgive her husband in the present, recognizes that in the past she would probably have shunned him" (2000, 76). In contrast to the stark divide between past and present attitudes about homosexuality represented in Two Moons, Foolish Mortals depicts the "chang[ed] moral views in modern Ireland" (76). Reflecting a new historical moment, Stephanie not only can forgive Henry in the present but also insist that her love for Henry would have remained the same in the past. Stephanie's constant feelings for Henry bridge the gap between past and present and act as the foundation for their current relationship.

The tenacity of her feelings for Henry is further emphasized when Stephanie contends that even if she had discovered Henry's sexual secret, she would not have shifted her affections to Henry's straight brother, George, who was and continues to be in love with Stephanie. When Stephanie contemplates a current relationship with George, she concludes: "I won't even marry him now, not even when I'm facing into old age" (Johnston 2007, 220). For Stephanie, the prospect of growing older alone is less frightening than the loss of her newfound independence. Her decision accords with what Christina Hunt Mahony notices about Johnston's heroines more generally: "[they] struggle to achieve freedom, either from oppressive male characters, especially husbands or fathers, or from familial and social constraints placed upon them" (1998, 224). Fogarty echoes this idea in her discussion of Two Moons when she notes: "Women's traditional caretaking and maternal responsibilities are shown to be especially at odds with their search for personal fulfillment and individuation" (2000, 74). In this regard, Stephanie is no different. Her marital and maternal duties have been in conflict with her desire for independence, and in Johnston's texts to date, these gender roles cannot be reconciled with a woman's freedom.

Stephanie's transformation in regard to traditional domestic roles occurs when the marital pattern is broken through divorce (not, as with Henry, because of amnesia). After this disruption to her conventional marital role, Stephanie can finally see that more roles and relationships are possible. Stephanie's desire for freedom becomes even clearer when George asks if she wants Henry back, and she realizes consciously for the first time that she does not. "Heavens, no," she insists. "I've got sublimely used to living without a man constantly around. I love that freedom" (Johnston 2007, 44). Until the accident, Stephanie has given little thought to getting back together with Henry, because his marriage to Charlotte made that impossible. Stephanie could only react to Henry's decision to leave rather than choose what she wanted. Now, even before she knows about Henry's relationship with Jeremy, she recognizes her true desires and chooses not to return to a marital relationship. In a similar way to Margot Gayle Backus's argument about the end of The Invisible Worm, Stephanie's "gesture [not to remarry] asserts her continued determination to resist the dominion of the past through her refusal to reconstitute its forms" (1999, 235). Stephanie, like the other characters in the novel, moves from relying on the promise that traditional relationships will bring her happiness to an understanding that meaningful relationships are not necessarily conventional.

Accordingly, Stephanie's identity as Henry's wife remains in the past. "I was his wife for over twenty years," Stephanie explains to Henry's doctor (Johnston 2007, 12, emphasis added). She defines her present identity as "the person who cares" and "the mother of his children" (12). Stephanie's descriptions illustrate her refusal to go back to a fixed domestic relationship. While Ciara hopes for her parents' reconciliation, Stephanie insists on redefining family and renegotiating her relationship with Henry. "We can be friends... and parents," she tells him (99). Even though the traditional family structure has been dismantled through divorce, Stephanie allows Henry a place in her life and in the lives of their children.

However, it is not easy to maintain this redefined family connection. Since the divorce from Stephanie, Henry's relationship with his children has been strained. The two were angry with their father for leaving their mother for another woman. When Stephanie tells Ciara, "Your father is still unconscious," Ciara's response "Should we care?" epitomizes the high degree of tension between father and daughter (Johnston 2007, 6). Ciara also vividly recalls snubbing her father and Charlotte. She sees them on the street but ignores her father's greeting and walks by (147-48). Despite her feelings of animosity, the near loss of her father and the realization that life is uncertain prompts Ciara to rebuild her distant relationship with him. As part of the reconciliation process, Ciara acknowledges her conflicted emotions about her father: love, loss, and anger. She confesses to him: "I feel so rotten. ... I didn't want to come and see you. Mum made me and now... I've missed you so much. I never said it to anyone. Never let on but..." (96). By giving voice to all of her feelings, rather than trying to confine her emotions to what she thinks she should feel, Ciara redefines her relationship with her father on a basis of honesty and love. Later, she offers more honesty when she tells her father: "I don't mind you being with a bloke, it was the woman I really objected to. Now, at last there is truth. Truth counts" (149). Ciara's observation suggests a link between her strong emotional response and her investment in a traditional family structure. However, once the heterosexual family structure is disrupted--her father is with a man rather than another woman--Ciara no longer feels the need to defend it.

Revisiting the past in order to make amends for previous mistakes also "counts" for Ciara. This active reconciliation is crucial for strengthening Ciara's relationship with her father. She consciously tries to revise the past when she writes a new letter to her father "to counterbalance" a "terrible" one she sent him before the accident (Johnston 2007, 150). Although Henry cannot remember the unkind first letter, Ciara's act is important. It assuages her guilt, remakes the past, and represents a new way of having her father in her life that is predicated on acceptance of his imperfections rather than resentment of his past actions.

Ciara's brother, Donough, goes through a similar reconciliation process with Henry. Donough's previous interaction with his father occurs almost two years earlier on the night of his graduation, and it is hostile. Donough recounts: "You brought a bottle of champagne ... and you handed it to me and said, 'Congratulations, son.' And I said we don't want your bloody champagne, so fuck off.... I would like to say here and now that not a day has passed since then without me wishing that I had never said it" (Johnston 2007, 21). Because Henry cannot remember his son's harsh words, it is Donough's active attempt to make amends for the past that is of primary importance. By revisiting the past Donough can resolve the problems he had with his father, lessen his regret, and improve their current relationship. (12)

Ciara's and Donough's actions demonstrate that fixing relationships means rectifying mistakes, rather than ignoring them and that stronger relationships and cultural change are possible when people directly confront problems rather than burying them or being buried by them. In Foolish Mortals, conciliatory acts mend a number of relationships: Ciara and Donough are reconciled with their father; Henry and Jeremy's relationship develops into true love; Stephanie comes to terms with her divorce from Henry; and Stephanie sincerely accepts her son's relationship with Brendan. A satisfying resolution is possible in all of these cases because the characters actively deal with the past, which allows them to fully engage with the present.

This approach differs from the paths chosen by many characters in Johnston's earlier novels. Christine St. Peter argues that in these works, Johnston's protagonists often choose to avoid their problems. "Flight," St. Peter contends, "is the most prominent response Johnston offers to the intransigent Irish 'Troubles.' Yet what makes this movement striking... is the tension the characters feel about choosing flight instead of engagement" (1991, 124). In contrast to this non-confrontational strategy, Johnston's characters in Foolish Mortals choose engagement over flight, and this decision allows them freedom from pursuing a futile idea of happiness and freedom from adhering to conventional social roles and relationships.

Similarly, the family units may be nontraditional, but they work well because they are chosen. In this way, Johnston queers the family; she "reconfigur[es] it in a way that defie[s] conventional claims about what a family is and of whom it is composed" (Oswald, Libby, and Marks 2005, 148). When Ciara's uncle George remarks: "How splendidly dysfunctional you've all become" (Johnston 2007, 168), he does not necessarily mean it as a compliment. Yet in the novel, "dysfunction" is a marker of success. It represents breaking rules about conventional relationships that the characters feel bound to uphold, even when these rules are onerous and outdated. These closely held beliefs about traditional families often prove more difficult to deconstruct than the families themselves. Ciara accurately notes: "Grownups are so daft; they keep piling on these rules, what you can do, what you can be, what you can say" (147). Jeremy also articulates this idea when he admonishes Henry: "You spent too long locked in your little rat-run, doing the things your parents did and Steph and her parents" (173). Rules and tradition, as Ciara and Jeremy suggest, are detrimental when they encourage people to recreate old patterns without thinking consciously about them.

This unthinking adherence to a belief system is precisely the problem with Stephanie's insistence that Ciara "be normal" (Johnston 2007, 172). When Ciara counters: "What's normal?" Stephanie knows that her definition no longer works--"I thought I knew. But I was wrong"--yet she still offers Ciara a traditional definition: "You must get married and have babies and live in a neat house" (172). Although Stephanie chooses not to remarry, she has more difficulty letting go of traditional relationship expectations for her children. She hopes that both Ciara and Donough will marry and have children. Ciara, however, rejects this picture of normality; not only does it sounds like a "prison sentence," but, she explains, "nobody lives like that any more" (172). Her different generational understanding of gender roles, one that is not predicated on a heteronormative view of family, facilitates greater openness about who constitutes a family.

The move away from convention does not mean that traditional relationships need to be abandoned and as the demographics show, the two-parent family structure in Ireland remains the most prevalent. (13) Rather, positive relationships--traditional or otherwise--should be predicated on people being cognizant of their desires, tolerant of others' needs, and able to empathize. Ciara articulates this position when she argues: "Shouldn't we all have dreams, not just decide to be normal?" (Johnston 2007, 173). Whether or not Stephanie fully accepts the proposition, she agrees to "drink to each one's dreams" (173). This discussion prompts a new relationship between mother and daughter based on love, understanding, and communication.

Stephanie also builds a new relationship with her son and her son's boyfriend by better respecting their dreams and desires. Although she tries not to mind when Donough declares, "I prefer boys to girls, men to women," she wishes he were like everyone else (Johnston 2007, 26). Later she admits to Brendan, "I don't have any views about people being gay. ... I just wish it wasn't him" (93). Stephanie's regret has several sources. First, she feels that Donough's homosexuality is somehow her fault. Second, Donough's homosexual desires challenge her beliefs about families and relationships. She is particularly disconcerted when Donough moves in with Brendan, because it signifies permanence rather than a phase. She admits as much to Brendan, who accurately voices Stephanie's secret hope that Donough will "meet some nice girl and everything would be all right" (93). As this wish indicates, Stephanie's difficulty with the relationship has to do with her traditional expectations about marriage and children and her trouble envisioning family outside of a heterosexual relationship. Through Stephanie's conversations with Ciara and Brendan, Johnston shows that Stephanie's rigid ideas about family are outdated, and she opens up a space for envisioning new ideas about family.

Stephanie and Brendan work through some of these issues about families and relationships when they prepare dinner together. As they cook, Brendan tells Stephanie about coming out to his parents and his subsequent suicide attempt. Brendan has not even shared his suicide attempt with Donough. Contrary to Brendan's belief that coming out would give him freedom and peace (Johnston 2007, 107), his confession throws his life into greater turmoil. Brendan's father refuses to accept that Brendan is gay and insists that his homosexuality is just a phase. When Brendan explains it is not, his father offers Brendan "treatment" in England, but Brendan refuses. "I am not ill," he tells his father. "I am a gay man" (109). Rather than accepting Brendan's sexual orientation, his father rejects him and throws him out of the house. Brendan's revelation to his father may not bring him peace, but his candor with Stephanie does because it helps reconcile Stephanie to his place in her family.

Brendan's story also forces her to reconsider her response to Donough's homosexuality. Stephanie cannot deny that Brendan is right when he describes her reaction to homosexuality as "not-inmy-patch" (Johnston 2007, 108), but she tries to make amends for her feelings by opening wine, a symbolic gesture of drinking to Brendan and Donough's dreams. Stephanie's greater awareness of her own feelings and insight into Brendan as an individual are the catalysts for negotiating a new relationship with Brendan and strengthening the one she has with Donough. Ultimately, this new connection is more important than the meal that initiates it. "The dinner was going to be ruined," Stephanie thinks while Brendan is talking (111), but she is unwilling to interrupt the conversation in order to save the meal. The ruined meal is a metaphor for disrupting traditional social structures and accepting new ones. Later when Ciara wants to know why dinner is taking so long and what Stephanie and Brendan are doing in the kitchen, Stephanie's reply, "sorting out the world" (114), further emphasizes the significance of the conversation. In his description of the focus of Johnston's oeuvre, Linden Peach (2004) argues that sorting out the world is about "achieving [and I would add letting others achieve] a sense of identity, disentangled from the determinism of the socially constructed and gendered linguistic and cultural environment" (105). This shift in worldview, as the conversation between Stephanie and Brendan highlights, starts at home and with personal relationships. By showing Stephanie becoming aware of her preconceptions about gender, sexuality, and family, Johnston offers readers a model for rethinking their own closely-held beliefs.

Through Stephanie's and Tash's relationships with their children, Johnston also emphasizes the need to challenge entrenched ideas about women's maternal roles, roles that are an integral part of the heteronormative family. Mothers in Johnston's work are another group who must disentangle their identities from social and cultural expectations, particularly in regard to the "national idealization... that motherhood should be the goal of every Irish woman" (Weekes 2000, 100). Tash is one of Johnston's disconnected mother/artist figures; her work isolates her from her children, Henry and George. (14) Thinking about his childhood, Henry recalls his mother's unpredictability: "Sometimes she had been so loving and kind. ... Other times we wouldn't see her for weeks; she would shut herself in her studio and if she caught sight of us she would turn the other way" (Johnston 2007, 83). There may be love in this relationship, but the instability makes it dangerous as well. Emphasizing the latter, Henry thinks of his mother as a predator and a cannibal: "She is a scorpion, a gorilla, an angry Indian tiger looking for prey. I don't want to be eaten by my own mother" (54, emphasis in original). As these descriptions of Tash demonstrate, there is a difference between loving her children and being a good mother.

Significantly, Johnston does not condemn Tash for her lack of maternal instinct or for her desire to work, and in this way challenges what Weekes describes as the Irish nation's "patriarchal assumption that a woman's main role should be that of homemaker and child-bearer" (2000, 103). The sympathetic portrayal of Tash accords with Weekes's further argument that "the powerlessness of the mother in contemporary portraits... suggests a need to redress society rather than condemn mothers' failures" (121). Johnston's emphasis on Tash's love for her children and her description of Tash's struggle to maintain her identity as an artist helps mitigate the reader's reaction to her inconsistent mothering.

Furthermore, Tash's recognition of her own faults makes her a more sympathetic figure capable of redemption. She has spent her life fiercely protecting her identity as an artist, but she is dissatisfied with her current relationship with her children. "Why do you all hate me so much?" she asks. "I was a terrible mother. I know. I knew at the time. I was not born to be a mother. I am an artist. ... I love my children, nobody can argue with that, but I never... never let them stand between me and my work" (Johnston 2007, 59). Although Tash has created this distant relationship over decades, her advancing age and the onset of dementia make her discontent with this self-constructed isolation, and she feels a sense of loss and confusion about her sons.

Most of what Tash remembers has to do with family, which suggests the tenacity of these relationships and the strong connection among family, memory, and identity. Tash's dementia acts in much the same way as Henry's amnesia. It is a catalyst for change. It prompts Tash to reevaluate (as much as she is able to) her relationships with her children and gives her children an opportunity to reconstruct their relationships with her. Despite Tash's odd and at times questionable behavior, her family tries to protect her when they realize how frail she has become. Henry may have felt unsafe around his mother, but he wants her to feel secure. By focusing on Tash's present comfort rather than their memories of past discomfort, her family puts their feelings of hurt to rest and rebuilds the relationship. Forgiveness is also crucial in creating these new relationships; it helps disrupt "prior dynamics of domination and exploitation" (Backus 1999, 238) and, as a result, changes personal and cultural patterns. Psychologists Saima Noreen, Raynette N. Bierman, and Malcolm D. MacLeod also suggest that forgiveness is important for social change (2014, 1296). Their study of the relationship between forgiveness and forgetting shows that "once an individual has forgiven a transgressor, the forgiver becomes more successful at suppressing the details concerned with the offense." The further implication that "the ability to forget such upsetting memories may... provide an effective coping strategy that ultimately enables people to move on with their lives" (1300) has important ramifications for the characters in Foolish Mortals. Tash's family's forgiveness disrupts Tash's ability to dominate their emotions and desires and produces healthier, more egalitarian familial relationships based on empathy.

Safety, nurturing, and empathy are also the foundation of Tash's other support system, a family based on ties of affection rather than on blood. This family is composed of Tash's driver and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Cook, and Tash's neighbors, Mavis and Derry. Out of kindness, the aptly named Cooks provide meals for Tash and go well beyond their paid duties to ensure that she feels safe and comfortable. Mavis explains the routine to Henry: "Mrs. Cook... comes every evening. She brings her food and tucks her up for the night. He sits outside in the car and reads the paper. He's there if she needs him" (Johnston 2007, 213). This schedule calms Tash's dementia-induced anxieties and makes her feel protected. Tash proudly describes this bond to George: "They [the Cooks] understand me. ... Not even you, my love, understand me as they do" (233). Tash's feeling of connection is not one-sided. The Cooks also feel close to Tash. "We know her ways" (204), Mr. Cook gently assures Stephanie when she expresses concern about Tash's erratic behavior.

The Cooks may be paid for their services, but this monetary exchange does not define their relationship. They genuinely care for Tash. Mr. Cook's gentleness and attentiveness to Tash's immediate needs confirms the depth of this relationship. For example, when Tash becomes confused and agitated during one of her visits to Stephanie's house and wants to leave, Mr. Cook is there. He has been "outside, sitting in his car, waiting patiently," and when he hears Tash's distress, he is immediately at the door, ready to take her home (Johnston 2007, 236). His presence calms Tash, and she leaves peacefully. The Cooks facilitate Tash's mobility, respect her desires, and allow her to feel independent, even as she is losing that ability. Tash has spent her life fighting for independence, and the Cooks recognize how essential this feeling is to Tash's well-being.

Derry and Mavis also understand Tash's need to be self-sufficient. By letting Henry know that it would be detrimental to move Tash away from her house and studio, Mavis ensures that Tash remains independent and that her medical wishes--no doctors--are honored:
"She won't have the doctor in the place... that's just a warning in
case you think of bringing him round. ... We just try to keep an eye on
her." At the door she stopped. "You wouldn't be thinking of putting her
into a home, would you?. ... Because I think that would kill her. So if
you want to kill her do that. Otherwise, I think we can manage with
things as they are." (Johnston 2007, 214)


Significantly, in her articulation of Tash's wishes about doctors and homes, Mavis does not suggest that Tash's biological family should take on a home-caregiving role. Instead, she makes it clear to Henry that she and the Cooks are willing to assume this familial role and care for Tash in the manner that she desires. This sympathetic gesture emphasizes that the neighbors, the Cooks, and Tash have formed a family based on compassion. This family and her biological one make Tash's last days happier.

Tash's death occurs at the family Christmas party that Stephanie hosts. Stephanie has invited Henry, Jeremy, Brendan, Donough, George, and Tash to celebrate "a real family Christmas" with her and Ciara (Johnston 2007, 186). The group, which includes Stephanie's ex-husband and his (male) lover, brother, and mother, may not be the traditional configuration for the family Christmas, nor is it the narrowly defined happy one that Ciara hopes for at the beginning, but it is in its own way a happy family. By cheerfully coming together, the "dysfunctional" family gracefully replaces the "traditional" one. Inglis notes that "family [is] actively maintained and reinvented by the way members think about and imagine each other in the present, by planning holidays, celebrations and other shared activities, and through the construction of the past as collective memory" (2015, 73). The Christmas party in Foolish Mortals works in just this way. It "maintain[s] and reinvent[s]" the family, "creates a sense of bonding and belonging" (72), and generates personal and social meaning. The extended non-heteronormative family encourages more fluid relationships that are connected through shared moments, but, significantly, these relationships can continually be redefined.

Stephanie's change in attitude about tradition is evident in the larger gesture of getting the whole family together and in her smaller attempts to order the world through lists. She does make her usual lists for the Christmas dinner, but then tears them up (Johnston 2007, 199). This act represents Stephanie's willingness to engage with the people and world around her in a more receptive way. She can act and react based on individualized situations rather than on preconceived notions. Later, Stephanie's decision to postpone the Christmas dinner also suggests that she is able to adapt to change without it being a disaster.

In another example of divergence from tradition and in a nod to the Wizard of Oz's status as an iconographic gay cultural text, the family sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" rather than the usual Christmas carols. (15) Tash, in her larger-than-life-style, steals the spotlight when she takes over the song. She croons:
"If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh why..."
She was the diva. They all stood and watched her with awe, waiting for
the high note.
"... can't..."
She stopped and looked round, keeping them in suspense. For a split
section she looked puzzled. "I?"
She fell backwards, sending the stacked parcels flying. (Johnston 2007,
245-46)


Although this description is not the conventional picture of easeful death, Tash dies surrounded by her family and singing about a place of guaranteed happiness. She literally and figuratively ends on a high note as she flies beyond the rainbow where "the dreams that you dare to dream / really do come true." On one level, Tash's death may represent a send off to these unrealistic ideals. However, Johnston also insists that dreams are crucial to facilitating changes in identity and perspective, and it is that sense of hopefulness and survival associated with The Wizard of Oz that Foolish Mortals retains.

Albeit less dramatically, the other characters also end on high notes. Stephanie comes to a sense of peace about life because she knows that despite the difficulties and challenges, it continues to move forward: "It was going to be all right. Christmas would pass, decisions would be made, life would go on" (Johnston 2007, 245). Stephanie recognizes that life may not be perfect, but it can be happy. This formulation opens up the possibility for multiple moments of joy rather a single, final happiness that may or may not happen. Johnston's depiction of happy moments in all of her texts, even the ones in which there are not happy endings, suggests it is important to appreciate the joyful moments along the way. Accordingly, the ending of Foolish Mortals is not unequivocally happy, but happiness is possible.

The novel ends with a return to Henry's fragmented memory of the accident, the accident that prompts the redefinition of family. Within the confines of the text, Henry never remembers his relationship with Charlotte or specific details about the accident. However, the end suggests that Henry's memory may return. With this prospect, Johnston hints at the uncertainty of happiness not only for Henry but also for those around him. Robert F. Garratt argues that "characters in Johnston's fiction persist in their attempts to overcome their painful past by exploring it, hopeful that their attempts will lead to some cathartic understanding," but if they fail, "the traumatic past will remain 'unclaimed' experience, causing ongoing suffering and remorse" (2011, 71). In Foolish Mortals, Henry's experience of trauma both adheres to this model--the accident remains a source of potential and ongoing suffering because he cannot remember it--and challenges it through the positive changes that his amnesia facilitates. Henry's memory loss allows him to reconnect with his lover and his family in new ways, but the situation remains precarious. There remains the possibility that he will remember things that will affect these present relationships and sabotage the mutual understanding that has been realized. Despite this uncertainty, Henry does not allow the unknown past to overwhelm his present happiness. He and the other characters "dare to dream," and this focus offers them all the chance for peace and happiness. The final toast "To all of us poor foolish mortals" (Johnston 2007, 250) emphasizes this point. These words capture an appreciation for family members' love, understanding, and frailties. Valuing these qualities, as Johnston shows, is essential for creating happy families in whatever configuration these families exist, and the new, tolerant, and structurally flexible families in the novel help redefine the Irish family in the twenty-first century.

NOTES

(1) For more on Johnston's use of memory and its relationship to personal and national pasts, see Kreilkamp (1998), Lanters (1989), and Rosslyn (2004). Their work also contributes to critical perspectives about the effect of political violence on individual relationships in Johnston's fiction, which has been a major concern in her novels and in the criticism about them. Women's identity and mother-daughter relationships have also been the focus of many critics. In Foolish Mortals, as in her other novels, Johnston addresses the relationship between politics and personal life, but the context shifts from national issues about violence and the past to national issues about family, sexuality, and identity

(2) Article 41.3.2 of the 1937 Irish Constitution proclaims: "No law shall be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of marriage."

(3) Despite this legal change, "Ireland has maintained the lowest divorce rates in Europe" (Connolly 2015, 24). The low divorce rate may partially be due to the continued difficulty of obtaining a divorce. The amendment requires several conditions to be met before a divorce is granted: "(i) at the date of the institution of the proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to, at least four years during the previous five years, (ii) there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation between the spouses, (iii) such provision as the Court considers proper having regard to the circumstances exists or will be made for the spouses, any children of either or both of them and any other person prescribed by law, and (iv) any further conditions prescribed by law are complied with."

(4) The European Court of Human Rights "first recognized [a homosexual's right to privacy] in its 1981 judgment, Dudgeon v. United Kingdom" (Heifer 1990, 1044). In Norris v. Ireland, the Court "renewed its commitment to protecting consensual adult homosexual relationships from the criminal sanctions of European governments" (1044). The Court determined that the Irish Supreme Court's verdict in the Norris case violated human rights, and it mandated that the law be changed.

(5) Although Zappone and Gilligan were married in Canada, the case challenged marriage (and tax) laws within Ireland. Zappone and Gilligan's case went before the Supreme Court in 2012 but was unsuccessful.

(6) In The Invisible Worm, not only does Laura's mother break the connection with her daughter through her suicide, but Laura also regards her mother as complicit in the incestuous rape that she suffers. In The Illusionist, Stella hopes for reconciliation with her daughter; however, it does not come to fruition. Grace andTruth (2005) features difficult mother-daughter relationships on an even grander scale; it focuses on three generations of mothers and daughters whose "problems remain unresolved" (Reisman 2014, 77). A positive relationship between mothers and daughters is finally-achieved in Two Moons, but only very briefly In Truth or Fiction (2009), published after Foolish Mortals, the relationships between parents and children also remain fraught.

(7) The exception to this pattern in Johnston's more recent novels is Fool's Sanctuary in which Miranda cannot come to terms with the past so attempts, unsuccessfully, to bury it in her mind. This cultivated indifference destroys her ability "to feel passion, pity, rage" (Johnston 1999, 152). In Johnston's earlier novels such as How Many Miles to Babylon and The Old Jest, the relationship between personal pasts and political presents complicate the characters' ability to put the past to rest. However, on some level, the characters in these novels come to terms with their involvement in the political violence, because they accept that the rules of war do not always follow a personal logic.

(8) Because of her life in the North, Johnston knows well the historical difficulty of redressing the past.

(9) Charlotte's only substance is as a nightmare--a dream rather than a memory--in which Henry imagines her encouraging his death.

(10) This nickname for Australia and that Oz is the site of Jeremy's relationship with another man is one of several references in Foolish Mortals that links gay culture to The Wizard of Oz.

(11) Janet's work continues to be important to contemporary trauma studies. For more on Janet's influence, see Garratt (2011) and Leys (1996).

(12) George makes amends in the same way. He revisits his last fight with Henry in order to put the memory to rest (Johnston 2007, 47).

(13) In a 2007-2008 survey of nine-year-old children in Ireland, "the data show the continuing dominance of what in broad structural terms might be called the traditional two-parent family" with 76.1 percent of children living in this type of household (Fahey 2015, 56).

(14) Tash is not unusual in this regard. As Mahony points out, "Few of Johnston's heroines are mothers, and those who are (Helen in The Railway Station Man and Stella in The Illusionist) become estranged from their children in their process of self-discovery" (1998, 221).

(15) Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin describe a number of reasons why The Wizard of Oz attracted queer viewers: the focus on "social outsiders" (2005, 67); the "utopian escapism" of the musical genre (72); and the representation of a "land where difference and deviation from the norm are the norm" (68). Corey K. Creekmur and Alexander Doty emphasize that: "The Wizard of Oz is a story in which everyone lives in two very different worlds, and in which most of its characters live two very different lives" (1995, 3). They also argue that many of the excesses and camp elements can be read as queer. In addition to queer readings of the film, Judy Garland became emblematic of gay culture and her name became a code, "friend of Dorothy," for being gay

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MARA REISMAN is an associate professor of British literature and women's literature at Northern Arizona University. She has published articles on Fay Weldon, Jeanette Winterson, Stella Gibbons, Charlotte Bronte, Jennifer Johnston, Joan Schenkar, and Patrick McGrath and has guest edited a special issue of LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory on contemporary British women writers. She is currently working on a book-length project on moral ambiguity in contemporary British fiction.
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