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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 2 Queer Nation: Homosexual Representations of Irish Identity in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme and Dolly West’s Kitchen 54


CHAPTER 2 ‘Queer Nation’ Homosexual Representations of Irish Identity in Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme and Dolly West’s Kitchen he previous chapter illustrates how McGuinness’s drama queers histori- cal personages outside of the politics of Irish identity. However, his drama also directly addresses the specificity of Irish identity and challenges the project of shaping national identity through the Irish theatrical tradition in his plays Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (1985) and Dolly West’s Kitchen (1999). Contemporary Irish theatre, from its foun- dations in the Irish Literary Theatre, has been tied together with the project of forging national identity in post-colonial Ireland. By exploring the factors that influenced the type of theatre that has been popular in twentieth-century Ireland, and some of the cultural and political ideas which have influenced these preferences, McGuinness’s unique position as a specifically Irish writer is made clearer. His innovative dramaturgy, his performed physicalisations of sexual diversity and homosexuality, and the critical response to what is distinctive in his work from within the tradition itself gives way to the dis- tinctions which mark him as an innovator in theatre and advocate for social and cultural modernization. In The Feast of Famine: The Plays of Frank McGuinness Eamonn Jordan writes the following description of the thematic content found in McGuinness’s drama: In his writing the playwright deals with the constitution of the male mind, the role of women in Irish society, the homosexual imagination, the function of art in...

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