Synge and Edwardian Ireland

by Brian Cliff


Synge and Edwardian Ireland | 9780199609888 | Brian Cliff

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Published:01/12/2011 by Oxford University Press


The dramatic career of the Irish playwright J.M. Synge, from his first plays in 1902 to his premature death in 1909, almost exactly coincided with the years of Edward VII’s reign. Those years have long been studied in a British context, but Synge and Edwardian Ireland is the first book to explore the cultural life of Edwardian Ireland as a distinctive period. By emphasizing several less familiar Irish contexts for Synge’s work – including a new sociological
awareness, the rise of a local celebrity culture, an international theatre context, the arts and crafts movement, Irish classical music, and comedic writing by Somerville and Ross – this collection shows how the Revival’s preoccupation with folk culture intersected with the new networks of mass communication
in the late imperial world.

Although Synge is best known as a dramatist, this book concentrates on his prose and the ethnography of his photographs, the work in which his engagement with Edwardian Ireland can be most significantly seen. Often misunderstood as apolitical, Synge’s writings and photography display a romantic resistance to modernity alongside their more accurate observations of contemporary conditions. It is through this ambivalent modernity that his work continued to haunt not just advocates like W.B. Yeats
but even Synge’s critics, including Padraig Pearse and James Joyce, all of whom were forced to come to imaginative terms with Synge through their own work.

This book aims to change readers’ sense of Synge’s significance, and by doing so to illuminate in a quite new way the era of Edwardian Ireland during this period of rapid modernization.