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Bloody Living

The Loss of Selfhood in the Plays of Marina Carr


Rhona Trench

This book deals with the process of negotiation with the past in the present through the plays of Marina Carr. The title frames the work, connoting the path towards destruction and the sense of lethargy acquired along the way. The book offers an in-depth and extensive reading of Carr’s plays. In doing so, it surveys some of the destructive issues represented in the works and provides a series of social and cultural contexts to which the concerns in the works are related.
Carr is best known for her trilogy, The Mai, Portia Coughlan and By the Bog of Cats…, and more recently Woman and Scarecrow, The Cordelia Dream and Marble. The plays are regularly concerned with notions of identity in the context of self-destruction, self-estrangement and displacement. This book applies Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection to Carr’s plays in an effort to structure the loss the author identifies in the works. Themes of memory, history and myth are examined in the context of these concerns in provocative and confrontational ways.


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Introduction 1


1 holds untapped energies and unused potentials, which may be released in the present.’20 He observes the thin veil that cloaked modernity and thus convinced ‘the outside world that we were more addicted to the past than was really the case.’21 While tradition and the past are explored in Carr’s plays of the 1990s, her narratives demonstrate that we are not merely pas- sive prisoners of our past, but rather that the past is the fruit of power and self-knowledge, and its analysis is always necessary. Significant aspects of Carr’s childhood echo throughout her plays with connections to the sense of loss that pervades the works. Lakes, bogs, animals, nature and wildlife are important signifiers that reflect issues of loss, marginalisation, oppressions and repression, revealed through painful processes of personal, familial and cultural identity. The bogscape where she grew up, known as Gortnamona, is literally called ‘turf-field’, from the Gaelic and is close to Pallas Lake, which was located near the family house. The setting of By the Bog of Cats is a boggy landscape which literally and metaphorically reflects the unstable ground on which the characters tread. The presentation of the protagonist Hester at her home on the bog is central to the story. Owl Lake and Cuura Lake, in The Mai and Ariel respectively are sites which draw upon issues of suicide and murder, sig- nifying Carr’s concern with destructive pasts that continue to haunt the present in harmful ways. The Belmont River in Portia Coughlan is the...

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