The bardic imperative in the drama of Marina Carr and Conor McPherson

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Ryan, Owen Thomas
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BA (Hons) in Film, Literature and Drama
Dublin Business School
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The purpose of this Final Year Project is to demonstrate the formative impact of Ireland’s bardic narrative tradition on modern Irish drama and to show how elements of this bardic discourse, particularly in relation to the satire and the elegy, have a continuing impact upon the dramaturgy of Conor McPherson and Marina Carr. In chapter one the Gaelic Literary Revival’s efforts to rehabilitate a form of ‘musical speech’ is examined in a line from Yeats and Synge through to Carr and McPherson. A brief history of Irish bardism is presented alongside a demonstration on how the craft was adapted into the broader folk culture. Finally the role of the bardic reciter is exposed in the work of both playwrights. Chapter two examines the plays of Marina Carr for the use of a procedure T. S. Eliot referred to as the ‘mythical method’. It is shown that Carr’s juxtaposition of myth and modernity disrupts realist procedures and accords with the bard’s elegiac disposition in terms of exposing the failure of modern materialist society to account for the spiritual life of the individual. In chapter three a parallel is drawn between bardic discourse and Bakhtin’s theories on popular folk customs and the European carnival tradition. Elements of Bakhtinian carnival are exposed in Carr and McPherson and it is demonstrated that the rejection of the finality of death, the celebration of the body and the recourse to laughter as a communal bind in the context of the carnival is appropriate to both playwrights. Chapter four examines the parallel between bardism and post-colonial theories on hybridity and Fanonian cultural dialectics. Chapter five concludes by showing a correlation between the legacy of bardic elegy and the absence of a realist tradition in modern Irish drama.