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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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chapter 3 The One Blood 161


Chapter 3 The One Blood This chapter examines the fragile borders of subjectivity in On Raftery’s Hill and Meat and Salt, plays responding to the collapse of social and patriarchal values, which no longer offer meaning, so that the characters need to draw on their capacity to create boundaries, draw lines, affirm differences in order to both create and maintain some kind of order. The binaries which underlie this boundary-making activity, by which order is demarcated from disorder, dirt from clean, pleasure from pain and so on, are ambiguous. What lies along or between the spectrum of the binary – the irregular, anomalous, or unnatural – still exists but may not be selected as acceptable for how humans experience their existence. Therefore the threat to existence in terms of ‘order’, ‘the proper’ and ‘the clean’ for example, gives potential power to its binary other and to what lies along and between the spectrum – in the context of ‘disorder’, ‘the improper’ and ‘the unclean’. This chapter examines the conditions and the nature of individual and cultural boundaries in terms of abjection in On Raftery’s Hill and Meat and Salt, showing how the processes of abusive power relationships are built around individually appropriated value systems and revealing the destructiveness of abjection. On Raftery’s Hill is the most explicit of all of Carr’s works and unlike most of her other plays, it lacks any mythic framework which might tender some sense of hope or accountability for the tragic and traumatic events dramatised in the world...

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