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Provost's Imagine Fund for Arts and Humanities

Jane Bonnell's Letters: Research at the National Library of Ireland

In my current book project on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women’s life writing in the Irish context, I examine many letters by women. One of these letter writers is the prolific Jane Bonnell, wife and later widow of James Bonnell, accountant general of Ireland in the late seventeenth century. Jane’s letters to Archbishop William King (which I have studied at Trinity College Dublin) are incredibly bold in their demands for a biography of her husband that will do justice to his pious life and work, thus offering an excellent example of a woman working through the genre of life writing to assure her spouse’s legacy. However, some of Bonnell’s letters are also housed at the National Library of Ireland, as are many others written to her by both men and women. In order to do justice to Bonnell’s epistolary efforts on her late husband’s behalf, as well as to continue building a clear picture of women’s epistolary networks in Ireland, it essential that I consult these letters in addition to those I have already seen at Trinity. This research—intended for next summer—will complement two weeks of Imagine Fund-funded research at the Bodleian in Oxford; both trips will fill significant gaps in my ongoing project, in which I place Irish- and Englishwomen's auto/biographical voices in dialogue with one another in order to develop a more accurate understanding of how Ireland and Irish experience influenced women's textual conception of self during the colonial period. Bonnell’s example is key to my study.

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English Language & Literature