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Publication Date

2009-06-23

Availability

UM campus only

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2009-05-13

First Committee Member

Patrick A. McCarthy - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Tim Watson - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Frank Palmeri - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

F. C. McGrath - Outside Committee Member

Abstract

My dissertation explores postcolonial implications of performances in Brian Friel's plays. While showing Friel's theatre is performative with its alienation effect and artistic activities of music, songs, dances, and recitations, I demonstrate that Irish self, culture, and history in Friel's plays are performative as well, because they are shown to be socially constructed rather than inherently possessed, constantly contested rather than comfortably settled, in dynamic process of remaking rather than fixed as finished products. Examining performances in Friel's theatre, characters' daily lives, historical narratives, and cultural ceremonies, I argue that those performances also shed light on the (post)colonial situation in Ireland¡ªa split island with mongrel arts, interstitial characters, disparate histories, and mythologized or relegated cultures. Showing that Irish self, history, and culture are not homogenous, linear, or monolithic entities but hybrid, contested constructs, Friel's plays subvert the binaries embedded in British colonialism, Irish nationalism, and developmental historicism. However, as Friel's characters fail to negotiate the symbiotic yet opposing forces such as the north and the south, English and Irish, official history and personal story, national myth and folk culture, tradition and modernity, my dissertation concludes that in Friel's plays to be Irish is to suffer a hybrid yet split and liminal existence, to be framed by official discourses and cultural myths, and to contend for alternative expressions of history and culture. Friel's concern with performance thus culminates in his performative conception of Irish identity¡ªas a heterogeneous composite with ongoing contestation between different selves, historical narratives, and cultural practices, it cannot but remain open to different expressions and constant (re)definitions.

Keywords

Contested Historical Discourses; Alienation Effect; Performance; Dramatical Construct; Brian Friel; Heterogeneity; Liminality; Initiation Rites; Non-modern Culture; Postcolonialism; Divided Yet Hybrid Self

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