Book in Focus
Irish Drama and Wars in the Twentieth Century"/>

02nd November 2022

Book in Focus
Irish Drama and Wars in the Twentieth Century

By Wei H. Kao

This book is arguably the first in Irish studies to examine the correlation between dramas and wars, and how playwrights have challenged or questioned the republican, unionist and religious ideologies that have led to not only political gridlocks but also humanitarian crises. By exemplifying a number of plays featuring the Anglo-Irish War, the Irish Civil War, the Easter Rising, the Northern Ireland Troubles and other conflicts, this book will reveal the dynamic mechanism connecting playwrights, performing venues, critics and audience members. As a whole, it will be of interest to Irish studies scholars, theatre practitioners, historians and people who would like to have a systematic understanding of twentieth-century Irish drama, focusing on nation formation, war, revolution and humanity.

It is probably the case that, from the start of the twentieth century, there has been no country to match Ireland in the extent to which political turmoil has transformed the stage into a platform where many playwrights, critics and audiences can exchange their often-antagonistic political views and sentiments. The painful process of Ireland seeking independence and the later Northern Ireland peace process has constantly prompted playwrights of different generations to project the difficult realities they have experienced on a daily basis and to imagine possible solutions to the entangled political dilemmas. In contrast to existing studies that have usually focused on major Irish dramatists of the past few decades, this book delves into how playwrights, whether canonical or less-frequently discussed in the academic sphere, have been critically and creatively engaged with the Anglo-Irish War, the Irish Civil War, the Easter Rising, the Northern Ireland Troubles and other conflicts. It not only approaches their plays—some of which have not been subject to much study—in relevant historical contexts, but also explores how Irish dramatists have observed humanity and resilience in war and given their insights into republican, unionist and denominational divides.

Playwrights discussed in this text include John Arden, Brendan Behan, Margaretta D’Arcy, Anne Devlin, Terry Eagleton, Brian Friel, Denis Johnston, Larry Kirwan, Marie Jones, Martin Lynch, Tom MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, Tom Murphy, Sean O’Casey, Joseph O’Conor, Donal O'Kelly, Christina Reid, Lennox Robinson, Colm Tóibín and William Butler Yeats, among others.

Wei H. Kao is Professor of Irish Literature at National Taiwan University. He is the author of Contemporary Irish Theatre: Transnational Practices (2015) and The Formation of an Irish Literary Canon in the mid-twentieth Century (2007). His articles on Irish writers and culture have appeared in Journal of Beckett Studies, Irish Studies Review, The Theatre of Deirdre Kinahan (2022), The Theatre of Marie Jones (2015), and Irish Women at War (2010), among others. 

Irish Drama and Wars in the Twentieth Century is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter code PROMO25 at checkout to redeem.

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