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Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939

Gender and Violence on Stage


Cathy Leeney

Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is the first book to examine the plays of five fascinating and creative women, placing their work for theatre in co-relation to suggest a parallel tradition that reframes the development of Irish theatre into the present day.
How these playwrights dramatize violence and its impacts in political, social, and personal life is a central concern of this book. Augusta Gregory, Eva Gore-Booth, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Manning, and Teresa Deevy re-model theatrical form, re-structuring action and narrative, and exploring closure as a way of disrupting audience expectation. Their plays create stage spaces and images that expose relationships of power and authority, and invite the audience to see the performance not as illusion, but as framed by the conventions and limits of theatrical representation.
Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is suitable for courses in Irish theatre, women in theatre, gender and performance, dramaturgy, and Irish drama in the twentieth century as well as for those interested in women’s work in theatre and in Irish theatre in the twentieth century.


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Introduction / 1


Introduction I am writing a woman out of legend. I am thinking how new it is—this story. How hard it will be to tell.1 This book is about five Irish playwrights working in the early decades of the twenti- eth century. They are Augusta Gregory, Eva Gore-Booth, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Manning, and Teresa Deevy. My aim is to re-locate their theatrical contributions, to assess the theatrical values at work in their plays, and to explore how they create images on stage of violence in a gendered world. The work of these five writers tests how women’s experiences and insights might inform theatrical aesthetics, how the woman’s point of view might, or might not be accommodated within theatrical forms and conventions that were available to those creating theatre in that period. On coming into a theatrical and cultural inheritance, how did they alter it, and re-invent it for their own artistic ends? As it turns out, these dramatists found it necessary to challenge that inheritance in a variety of ways, to twist existing forms and create new dramaturgies in order to express their vision. These five women emerged, from amongst many more writing theatre at that time, based on several characteristics they have in common: because each has created a body of work for theatre and was directly engaged with theatre performance; because even if they wrote in other genres as well (and all of them did), the theatre was a special passion for each of them; and because those...

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