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Introduction: Shakespeare, Ireland and the Contemporary / Nicholas Taylor-Collins; Stanley van der Ziel

Swansea University Author: Taylor-Collins, Nicholas

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Abstract

The Introduction first establishes the prior work to connect Shakespeare with Irish literature, before outlining the scope and importance of the contributions to the book and the book as a whole. James Joyce is the first port of call, in whose Ulysses there were twin versions of Irish Shakespeare: t...

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Published: 2018
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa40902
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Abstract: The Introduction first establishes the prior work to connect Shakespeare with Irish literature, before outlining the scope and importance of the contributions to the book and the book as a whole. James Joyce is the first port of call, in whose Ulysses there were twin versions of Irish Shakespeare: the one who was co-opted on behalf of unionists such as Edward Dowden to exemplify English greatness, and the one who could be adopted as a Celtic forebear to further the Irish Revivalist cause instead. Most criticism interested in the connections between Shakespeare and Irish literature has hitherto focused on these poles, and included other canonical writers such as Yeats, Synge, O'Casey, Wilde and Shaw. We propose to go beyond these engagements, and instead update the critical intervention to consider contemporary Irish writers. In thinking through the contemporary, we take account of Jan Kott's Shakespeare Our Contemporary, in which Kott explains that Shakespeare can paradoxically be made contemporary by virtue of his non-contemporary nature with current politics, and therefore his atemporality which recommends him to more recent writers. We outline how the volume as a whole addresses the contemporaneity through distinctions between the North and South of Ireland when thinking through Seamus Heaney's, Paul Muldoon's and Brian Friel's writing. For other writers, Shakespeare's work offers a formal or stylistic template, such as in Derek Mahon's concern with lateness, while the artificiality of Shakespeare's dramatic world is examined in John Banville's novels. Shakespeare's familial politics is examined through John McGahern's family dramas and Eavan Boland's matrilineal poetry, while Marina Carr's unsettled relation with Shakespeare as a quasi-father figure is also explored. For Frank McGuinness, it is a question of recognising in Shakespeare a coeval author, alongside and in response to whom McGuinness can construct his own dramatic oeuvre. We acknowledge the gender imbalance of the contributions to the volume, and explain our attempts to recalibrate the imbalance. Nevertheless, in the final analysis we assert that with a focus on contemporaneity comes a concession that time is contingent and this moment is fleeting: the contributions in this volume can only come now, before the new contemporary moment takes hold.
College: College of Arts and Humanities