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Introduction

  • Patricia Laurence
Chapter
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)

Abstract

This biography presents Elizabeth Bowen anew as a public intellectual, spy, cultural ambassador, and propagandist—an independent woman of her time—as well as a writer of fiction. It explodes the myth of Bowen as a reserved, mannered Anglo-Irish writer of “withheld emotion.” It begins by illustrating the rifts in her personality, tracing two paths that divide her. First, Bowen as the inheritor of Anglo-Irish manners and traditions at Bowen’s Court, the family estate in Kildorrery, Ireland; and, secondly, the more fluid, farouche (untamed) aspect of her personality nurtured in her childhood seaside homes in Kent, England. It takes a broader look at the variety of her writing and a bolder stance toward her romantic life, in addition to delving more deeply into her espionage for the British Ministry of Information in Ireland at the beginning of World War II. Multiple views of Bowen as a woman and writer are presented through the conversations of friends, writers, and lovers, spotlighting leading intellectuals like Isaiah Berlin, her lover, Charles Ritchie, and the writers Virginia Woolf, Rosamond Lehman, and Eudora Welty, among others. Observing the changing patterns of Bowen’s kaleidoscopic life will change the way readers read her stories and novels.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Laurence
    • 1
  1. 1.City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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