Performative and Textual Imaging of Women on the Irish Stage, 1820-1920: M.A. Kelley to J.M. Synge and the Allgoods

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This book explores the way women, specifically women perceived or presented as Irish, were represented on the Dublin stage by playwrights and actors from the 1820s to the 1920s. Yet, rather than being a feminist reading of modern Irish theatre, this book presents a nationalist and socialist reading of the theatre in its cultural and historical contexts. Arguably, the developmental process that Ireland and its theatre experienced from the eve of Catholic Emancipation to the radical idealism of the 1916 Easter Rising was one of national and social advancement. The radical agitators near the end of this period, including those in the theatre, sought self-determination for Ireland and, more importantly, self-determination for all of the Irish regardless of gender, class, or religion. This book’s argument is that as the stage image of the Irish woman modernized from the early nineteenth century into the twentieth, it mirrored the modernization of Ireland.


“Dr. Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel has designed a fascinating and valuable study of Irish theatre. He examines the treatment of women in both text and performance from the period of Catholic Emancipation to the works of Sean O’Casey ... By concentrating most of his focus on the works of Synge, he offers another layer to the peasant realism of the plays and raises genuine interest in the parallel development of the modern Irish woman and the modern Irish state.” – (from the Foreword) Sr. Marie Hubert Kealy, Immaculata University

“Dr. Ritschel’s book is a major contribution to our understanding of the ways in which Irish women, both actual and fictive, came to be seen in the pivotal century before independence ... Dr. Ritschel provides those new to the field of Irish Studies as well as veteran scholars the means to see how contested images of women made a national theatre and a new nation possible.” – Professor Gary A. Richardson, Mercer University

“Dr. Ritschel has rapidly emerged as one of the most innovative and original Irish theatre scholars ... Eschewing orthodox viewpoints, he challenges many previously accepted ideas and offers in their place thought-provoking and, to many no doubt, controversial interpretations that should lead to an overdue rethinking of Irish theatre and the role of women in that context.” – Don B. Wilmeth, Emeritus Professor, Brown University

" . . .Ritschel contributes fresh perspectives on how the stage image of the Irish woman functions in the formation of Ireland's national theatre and nation. He not only engages with but also revises or furthers previous studies of scholars such as Nicholas Grene, Declan Kiberd and Christopher Murray . . ."Karen O'Brien, Univrsity of Califormia, Irvine, for Theatre Research International

Table of Contents

Foreword by Sr. Marie Hubert Kealy Acknowledgements
1. The Imaging Begins
2. Enter Yeats, Gonne, Mrs. Pat: Institutionalizing a People’s Image
3. Synge, Fay, Nic Shiubhlaigh, Laird: Rejecting Female Victimization
4. Synge, the Allgoods: Ireland of the Western World
5. The Allgoods, Synge, and O’Casey: The Quest for a Modern Ireland
Works Cited

Other Irish & Ireland: All Subjects Books