An Afternoon Spent in the Dublin Writers Museum: What I Learned About Dublin’s Literary History


I’d passed it twice every day on the way to and from campus before I decided to finally visit the Dublin Writers Museum. I could practically feel its eyes on me, hear it mocking my lack of visitation while making ticking noises as I scurried past with my backpack. I think we even had a staring contest once. I wasn’t sure why it took me so long to get into the darn place, but the reason must have gradually surfaced from the back of my subconscious as I stepped through the door, paid the six Euro fee, and pressed the play button on the audio guide.

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen sat idly in a glass case next to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which laid across from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and a bust of Oscar Wilde surveyed it all from the corner. I was surrounded by work from male writers, and though undeniably talented and accomplished male writers, I had seen a very minuscule mention of women in the information panels narrating Irish literary history. That is, aside from Yeats’ alleged muse, Maude Gonne, and in the next room, a case dedicated to a female writer, Kate O’Brien, which housed a brief biography of the writer, a first-edition copy of her novel, Without My Cloak, and a typewriter. That was all. This was what I’d been subconsciously avoiding: the clearly visible image of a cluster of male figures dominating the literary world.

When I reached the last room of the tour, I noticed the topic of the museum’s in-progress exhibition. ‘The Women’s Room: Ireland’s Other Writers’. (“Other” echoed in my mind.) But the feminist fire brewing inside of me began to extinguish itself when I realized the museum’s clear effort to illuminate noteworthy female authors. My journey from the rooms dedicated to historical male literary figures, to the present efforts to recognize these deserving women shifted my perspective from a sort of bitterness to understanding. They couldn’t change the past, but they could influence the future.

If I hadn’t gone into that museum, I would’ve left the city of literature resenting myself for not going, the building for not beckoning me loudly enough, and probably even a bit of history itself. But visiting the museum basically laid out in front of me the revolutionary potential of future gender equality in literature, but also for the country as a whole. While we may not have the ability to move time, we do have the ability to let time move us. And Ireland’s clearly progressive social identity is allowing time to move it toward a stronger sense of gender equality. So, as I sip coffee from the mug I bought in the gift shop, I’ll be thinking of those female writers as I myself write to become a part of literary history.

Gabriella Bancheri is a student at the Stockton University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Dublin, Ireland.

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