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TLRH | SCARF | The construction of the Disenfranchised Woman in Irish Theatre

Monday, 7 February 2022, 10 – 11am

TLRH | SCARF | The construction of the Disenfranchised Woman in Irish Theatre

''Not in Flesh’: The Construction of the Disenfranchised Woman in Irish Theatre' a talk by Dr Salomé Paul (TCD) as part of the School of Creative Arts Research Forum, in association with the Trinity Long Room Hub.

This paper investigates the construction of the figure of the underprivileged woman in the Irish dramatic canon during the Revival movement through the examination of J.M. Synge’s theatre and its legacy on the contemporary stage.

Synge’s plays are considered among the most canonical plays in Irish theatre because they have outlined the constitutive features of archetypal characters still populating the contemporary stage. My analysis will focus on two figures of particular interest to the dramatist, the woman and the disenfranchised, and will examine their intersection through the characterisation of poor women developed in The Shadow of the Glen (1903), Riders to the Sea (1904) and The Tinker’s Wedding (1908). In these plays, the representation of this identity appears disconnected from the reality experienced by indigent women in rural Ireland. Indeed, as a middle-class Protestant man, Synge created the figure of the disfranchised woman to support and endorse his Anglo-Irish political vision of Irishness. Yet, relying on the concept of horizon of expectation coined by Hans Robert Jauss in Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (1978), I will demonstrate that this highly fictional portrayal has grown into a topos of Irish theatre still in use on the contemporary stage. The characterisation of underprivileged women in Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats… (1998) and Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996) appears as a re-enactment of the figure of the disenfranchised woman and problematically addresses Irishness through the lens of rural poverty and womanhood for middle-class urban audiences. In doing so, contemporary Irish theatre produced in influential venues perpetuates the romanticisation of this identity, dismissing the reality and the implications of being a poor woman in Ireland.


Bio: Dr Salomé Paul is a current Postdoctoral Fellow in Drama funded by the Irish Council. Her research investigates the transformation of Greek tragedy in Marina Carr’s theatre. She is also working in collaboration with Clara Mallon (NUIG) on the edition of a collection of essays examining representation and authorship of working-class women in Irish theatre.

The School of Creative Arts Research Forum meets fortnightly at 10am on Mondays during term and is led by the School's doctoral students. The aim of the Forum is to give a space for School researchers, both staff and postgraduate students, to share their ideas in a supportive environment. It is also an opportunity for the School to hear about the research of colleagues both from within TCD and outside who share our research interests. In line with the research agenda of the School, talks will encompass traditional research and practice-based research and will be followed by Q&A.

Please indicate if you have any access requirements, such as ISL/English interpreting, so that we can facilitate you in attending this event. Contact:

Campus LocationTrinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Accessibility: Yes
Event Category: Lectures and Seminars
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: Free but registration is required
Contact Name: Courtney Grile

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