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Frank McGuinness’s Dramaturgy of Difference and the Irish Theatre


David Cregan

This book is the broad application of queer theories to the original plays of the contemporary Irish dramatist Frank McGuinness, the only author in Ireland to consistently utilize gay and lesbian themes in his writing. McGuinness continually represents sexual difference in his character development in a way that previous Irish authors have not. In particular McGuinness portrays homosexual protagonists in his dramas, allowing the queer the narrative prerogative, not merely a secondary role in the formation of theatrical perspective. Often it is the homosexual who tells the story or alters the plot through his or her alternative perspective.
This book not only analyzes the queer in McGuinness’s work, but also contributes to a widening of the conversation and criticism on Irish theatre in general. Its implementation of the internationally recognized paradigm of analysis, queer theory, is cutting-edge in its contribution to the general field of Irish studies as well. As a result of its two-fold agenda of theatrical and cultural analysis, this book not only brings together theories of the queer and the theatre of McGuinness, but it also maps the way in which this queer dramaturgy intersects with contemporary Irish society as it faces a new era of cultural re-invention.


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Chapter 1 Defective Histories: Re-presenting History in Innocence, Mary and Lizzie, and Mutabilitie 19


CHAPTER 1 Defective Histories Re-presenting History in Innocence, Mary and Lizzie, and Mutabilitie any of Frank McGuinness’s dramatic fictionalisations focus on precise moments of history such as World War I and World War II in Observe the Sons and Dolly West’s Kitchen, and Bloody Sunday in Carthaginians. Additionally, his plays are concerned with bringing to life historical figures whose real lives nostalgically inhabit the modern Irish secular and religious psyche, as in Gates of Gold or The Gospel According to Judas. This chapter explores how McGuinness reaches back into history in order to retrieve his- torical celebrities and breathe new imaginative life into these personages in order to create fresh visions of the past, which, in turn, have the potential to influence the present. In Innocence McGuinness explores the life of the Ital- ian painter Caravaggio. In Mary and Lizzie he considers the lives of Mary and Lizzie Burns, two Irish sisters who were the lovers of the English Marx- ist author Frederick Engels. In Mutabilitie the persons of Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare. McGuinness creates queer fictional accounts of various historical persons in order to trouble traditional understandings of the relationships between issues as diverse as faith, gender, sexuality and poli- tics. Consequently, this chapter focuses on historiography, or the way that history is written, and the theatre’s influence on interpreting the past. In defiance of dominant canonical historical narratives Innocence, Mary and Lizzie, and Mutabilitie each create ‘defective’ versions of historical biog- raphy; versions of history which confront...

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