The Five Word Thesis

‘I remember being at a noisy party in Australia and an acquaintance asking me what I was working on. When I responded “Irish women’s writing”, he looked surprised and said “I didn’t think they had any”. It turned out that, in the noise, he thought I had said “Irish women’s rights” but ultimately decided that the same answer applied in both cases.’

Rebecca Pelan, Two Irelands: Literary Feminisms North and South (Syrcacuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), p.xiii.

‘The Five Word Thesis’ is the short description you tell to people you meet at parties who may or may not be particularly interested in your thesis – just enough information to be specific without going on at length. Mine is ‘contemporary Northern Irish women’s poetry’.

I’ve been surprised on a number of occasions on how people’s responses often unknowingly reinforce the very point of the thesis. My responses are usually ‘I didn’t know there was any contemporary Northern Irish women’s poetry’, or they totally disregard ‘women’s’ and eagerly nod, saying ‘Like Seamus Heaney?’.

Seamus Heaney - Famous Contemporary Northern Irish 'Woman' Poet

Seamus Heaney - Famous Contemporary Northern Irish 'Woman' Poet

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