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Bloody Living

The Loss of Selfhood in the Plays of Marina Carr

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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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chapter 2 Coagulated Blood, Congealed Blood and Mixed Blood 95

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Chapter 2 Coagulated Blood, Congealed Blood and Mixed Blood The Mai (1994), Portia Coughlan (1996) and By the Bog of Cats (1998), known as ‘Carr’s Trilogy’, mark a shift towards the conscious struggle with individual and collective subjectivity that requires the delineation of bor- ders between the ‘self ’ and ‘other’. These plays’ obsession with loss and the manifestation of suicide evokes a process of cultural formation that is similar to Kristeva’s conception of signification and cultural production. The representational dynamics of the plays relate closely to the significatory tensions Kristeva outlines. Kristeva maintains that the struggle for cultural and individual identification is marked by attempts to establish borders between what is acceptable, identified positively as attributes of the self, and what is unacceptable or abject, identified negatively as separate from the self. Equally important is Kristeva’s assertion that the abject preserves what was abjected in the significatory process, remaining an essential part of the dialectical semiosis through which culture and the individual iden- tify themselves. Carr’s characters, conscious of the historical and cultural forces that shape and act upon them, reflect both individual and cultural attempts to position the self between the ‘positive identifying’ and the ‘negative abject’, specifically manifested in resistances towards the sym- bolic representation of the subordination of woman and her relegation to the domestic role. Kristeva also maintains that cultural formations are based on patriarchal rejections or sublimations of the generative power of the feminine and that the role of the mother in the production...

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