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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 5 New Blood As in Woman and Scarecrow and The Cordelia Dream, in Marble, boundaries help to move to action. Such was not the case in On Raftery’s Hill, where boundaries preserved abuse and hindered action. Subjectivity, as an effort of boundary setting, guards against unwanted subjects, repressed desires or repulsive entities, that might otherwise request attention from the past and from the protagonist. Marble explores these boundary settings differently. Unlike in The Cordelia Dream, where the dream operates as the dramatic reunion device, or in The Mai, where the dream punctuates the narrative as a site of guilt and as a realm of escape for the characters, in Marble the dramatic narrative is haunted by a dream that grows and becomes more frequent: a dream of a lover figure, silhouettes of here and now, thought not only to be real, but to be the reality itself, obscuring other ‘objects’ in the world of the play and rejecting them. This dream world, itself another boundary, is beyond the everyday boundary wall presented in the play, and is crossed over in Marble. The play engages with traditional dramatic conventions of heteroge- neous notions of gender and stereotypical aspects of domesticity, albeit through the urban landscape of a ‘post Celtic Tiger’. Peadar Kirby has drawn attention to the conditions of the economic successes of the Celtic Tiger in what Karl Polanyi believes are the dangers of ‘reducing the economy to a market system and making the welfare of society dependent on...

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