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Ireland: Authority and Crisis

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Edited By Carine Berbéri and Martine Pelletier

This volume sets out to investigate how various forms of authority in Irish culture and history have been challenged and transformed by a crisis situation. In literature and the arts, a reappraisal of the authority of canonical authors – and also of traditional forms, paradigms and critical discourses – principally revolves around intertextuality and rewriting, as well as the wider crisis of (authoritative) representation. What is the authority of an author, of a text, of literature itself? How do works of fiction represent, generate or resolve crises on their own aesthetic, stylistic and representational terms?
The Irish Republic has faced a number of serious crises and challenges since it came into existence. In recent years, the collapse of the Celtic Tiger has acted as a catalyst for change, revealing various structures of political, religious and economic authority giving way under pressure. In Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement has led to major developments as new authorities endowed with legislative and executive powers have been set up. In its focus on the subject of authority and crisis in Ireland, this book opens up a rich and varied field of investigation.
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Virginie Girel-Pietka - Looking for Oneself in Denis Johnston’s Plays: Authorities in Crisis and Self-Authorship

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VIRGINIE GIREL-PIETKA

Looking for Oneself in Denis Johnston’s Plays: Authorities in Crisis and Self-Authorship

ABSTRACT

Denis Johnston’s plays all stage characters challenging authority, disowning the collective images put forward by the communities they belong to, and undoing canonical stage characters. As he wrote from the first decade of the Irish Free State up until the aftermath of World War II, Johnston was concerned about authority, laws, national policies and traditions as both conditions and threats to individual freedom and self-expression. The purpose of this chapter is to show that challenging authority is a way for his characters to shape their identity. It focuses on two plays which stage wars or rebellions, denouncing as nonsense some stifling attempts at creating collective identities, and granting the characters to create meaning for themselves. Self-authorship is presented as a way out of the crisis of identity which is triggered by authorities in crisis. Johnston’s work also asserts the authority of the art of theatre to stage man’s predicament.

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