Spaces of Confinement: Hebdomadal contractions in Teresa Deevy's Wife to James Whelan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Written in the early 1940s, when the church and state had ideologically confined women within the home and outlined their primary role as mothers, Wife to James Whelan, and Kate’s remark of being ‘older than she should be by right’ in particular, provides the inspiration for my paper this afternoon.
This reading of Wife to James Whelan contends that the characters of Nan, Kate and, to a lesser extent, Nora, resist the contracting spaces imposed upon them by the legislative confines of the Irish Free State and suggests that the play dramatizes differing modes of resistance against coercion into a psychological post-menopausal state. The paper contends that Deevy refers to a hebdomadal life cycle theory and, through this, suggests a devastating contraction within the lives of women who chose not to ally themselves with a male relative and particularly a husband. In closing I suggest that, when allied with iconic costume choices directly associated with female bereavement, Wife to James Whelan can be read as a depiction of contracted female life experience that both critiqued and transcended national iconography and relevance.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Publication statusUnpublished - 08 Jun 2017
EventIrish Women Playwrights & Theatre Makers Conference
- Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 08 Jun 201710 Jun 2017


ConferenceIrish Women Playwrights & Theatre Makers Conference
Internet address


  • Irish Women Playwrights
  • Teresa Deevy
  • Irish Theatre


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