Teresa Deevy: A Quiet Subversive

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


The title of this public lecture attempts to reflect the fact that Teresa Deevy was a woman who made no claim to greatness nor did she make any display of her own achievements. She made no claim to being a political radical, a feminist or a social revolutionary: and yet she was all of these things. Her plays, particularly those written for the Abbey in the 1930s, imagine into life a cast of female characters who must negotiate and survive, often with great difficulty and distress, the ever decreasing freedoms available to women in 1930s Ireland. To subvert is to undermine the power and authority of an established system or institution and this is what Deevy’s plays do. By revealing the impact of ever increasing limitations imposed on women’s lives and critiquing the accepted systems at play in Irish society, Deevy's plays challenge these systems.

Deevy, as Frank O’Connor, astutely noted in a letter to her, exhibited in this exhibition, shunned the overtly theatrical, she also shunned the overtly emotional: hers is a theatre of subtext, of subtle demonstrations of attitudes rather than proclamations and declarations. Emotion and action is not absent from Deevy’s work but rather it is contained in the way that emotions and actions are often contained and revealed, in understatement and restraint. When Deevy's characters move beyond understatment and restraint they begin to express attitudes and ways of being that are registered by those around them as unacceptable. The articulation of emotion in Deevy’s work is often quiet because sometimes, oftentimes to avoid trouble, women reign in their aspirations, their sense of injustice and disappointment so as to appear reasonable, objective and rational. We may not agree with systems in place in society but our survival depends on our ability to fit into such systems and to attempt to subvert them from within. This is negotation is what Deevy explores.
Period05 Apr 2016
Event titleTeresa Deevy Public Lecture Series
Event typeOther
LocationWaterford, IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal


  • Teresa Deevy
  • Theatre
  • Theater
  • Irish
  • Drama
  • Feminist
  • Arts
  • playwright