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Stage Irishman, stereotype, performance: A Perspective on Irish Drama and Theater of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century

Shea, Daniel Patrick

German Title: Der Bühnenire: Eine Perspektive auf das irische Drama und Theater der zweiten Hälfte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts

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Abstract

Mine is the first study devoted to the Stage Irish of the twentieth century. I apply to the dramatic figure concepts and findings from performance theory in order to break with the previous research and its standard of a realistically styled, psychologically deep, socially representative dramatic figure. I think we will better our understanding of the Stage Irish (1) if we accept imitation as a process of signification vital to both literature and performance, (2) if we acknowledge the audience’s part in all Stage Irishry, and (3) if we recognize the stage as one possible meaning of Irish. These three matters, therefore, I make focuses of my interpretations in the following chapters. More than a study of one particular aspect of Irish literature, my thoughts and interpretations are immediately relevant to any study of drama or theater because they address the relationships between playwrights, performers, and audiences as well as the relations between dramatic text, stage, and everyday life. My chapter “Imitations” shows how a Stage-Irish figure comes to be through performance and considers the consequences for interpretations of the figure. Working with the concepts of performativity (Judith Butler), the theater image (Alan Read), stage adaptation, and the intertextuality of literature, “Imitations” (as the title announces) is about the ways Louis D’Alton’s This Other Eden, the 1967 stage production of Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy, and Declan Hughes’s adaptation of George Farquhar’s Love and a Bottle repeat and adapt earlier pieces or performances in order to show again how Irish is made to mean onstage. Contrary to the bias of previous research, I do not understand the Stage-Irish figure as the author’s mouthpiece for satire, social criticism, or racist caricature. In three plays seeming to welcome biographical criticism, I re-interpret authorial intention as the performance either of a writer composing a piece or of an actor playing that piece. On the role of the performer as played by the Stage Irish I write in the tandem chapters “Entertainers” and “Turncoats.” Since the Stage Irish are dramatic figures, these two chapters focus on the main figures of the six plays interpreted in order to show how a great number of the roles a Stage Irish might play are played from behind the two opposing masks entertainer and turncoat. I derive the masks entertainer and turncoat from other researchers’ distinctions, respectively, between the footman or servant and the kern or braggart soldier; but my entertainer and turncoat also derive from two fundamental positions which any performer, becoming a performer by stepping onstage, may take up in relation to his audience. The power relationship between an English audience and any performer making a claim to Irishness puts the choice to that performer, either he flatters the English sense of superiority to become an entertaining, because accommodating figure or he intrudes on their sense of superiority to become a threatening, because untrustworthy figure. With Heavenly Bodies, Clowns, and Faith Healer in “Entertainers” and Cries from Casement As His Bones Are Brought to Dublin, Double Cross, and Mutabilitie in “Turncoats” I emphasize how the performance itself can always tip the presentation of the genial Stage-Irish performer over to something sinister, and vice versa. Examining, thus, the Stage Irish for what is performative in Irishness and not what is Irish in the performance puts necessary questions to the conclusions I draw from my interpretations in chapters 2, 3, and 4: “Why, then, Stage Irish at all? Why no just Stage —?” In chapter 5, entitled “Irish,” I argue that “Stage —” would answer one polarized perspective with the other and so be no more accurate an account of the Irish of the stage than has been the Stage Irishman as characterized, categorized, and classified by the research. It is bad method in deconstructive interpretation only to reverse the accepted view of things and not to return one’s findings to this same hierarchy in order, then, to qualify even these. By way of conclusion, I try to rectify my findings from the earlier chapters through my interpretations of the endings of The Weir, Someone Who’ll Watch over Me, and Stones in His Pockets.

Translation of abstract (German)

In dieser Studie des Bühneniren von ca. 1950 bis ca. 2000 wird eine Forschungsrichtung eingeschlagen, die sich stark von der Forschungsrichtung der bisherigen Studien über den Bühneniren sowie über Bühnencharaktere überhaupt hervorhebt. In ausführlichen Interpretationen von zwölf Bühnen- bzw. Hörspielen werden Theorien und Methoden aus der Stereotypen-, Performanz-, Kultur- und Literaturforschung angewandt, um Schlüsse über irische Identität, über Theaterpraktiken sowie über Literaturkritik zu ziehen. Die zwölf zu behandelnden Stücke sind: This Other Eden, eine Inszenierung von Brendan Behans Borstal Boy, Declan Hughes' Nachbearbeitung von George Farquhars Love and a Bottle, Stewart Parkers Heavenly Bodies, Christina Reids Clowns, Brian Friels Faith Healer, David Rudkins Cries from Casement As His Bones Are Brought to Dublin, Thomas Kilroys Double Cross, Frank McGuinness' Mutabilitie, Conor McPhersons The Weir, Frank McGuinness' Someone Who'll Watch Over Me und Marie Jones' Stones in His Pockets. In einem Anhang werden die Produktionsdaten zusammengetragen und die seit 1890 geschriebenen Artikeln und Monographien über den Bühneniren aufgelistet.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Schnierer, Prof. Dr. Peter Paul
Date of thesis defense: 3. March 2009
Date Deposited: 25. Sep 2009 10:10
Date: 2007
Faculties / Institutes: Neuphilologische Fakultät > Anglistisches Seminar
Subjects: 820 English and Old English literatures
Controlled Keywords: Nordirland <Motiv>, Iren, Iren <Motiv>, Dublin / Abbey Theatre, Stereotyp, Stereotyp <Motiv>, Theater <Motiv>, Theaters
Uncontrolled Keywords: Friel, Brian , Behan, Brendan , Parker, Stewart , McGuinness, Frank , Kilroy, ThomasFriel, Brian , Behan, Brendan , Parker, Stewart , McGuinness, Frank , Kilroy, Thomas
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