From trauma to transformation, death and identity in the plays of Frank McGuinness

Johnny Burton

    Research output: Types of ThesisMaster's Thesis

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    This thesis is a consideration of the representations of death in six of Frank McGuinness’s original dramatic works. The objective is to evaluate the connection between these dramatic representations and the social, political and cultural contexts of the plays’ first performances. The main contention is that the connection between these representations and their contexts serves to deepen an understanding of both. While McGuinness has produced original plays since 1982, the plays considered cover the period from 1985 to 1999. His plays are complex responses to the conditions of contemporary Ireland, particularly the conflict in Northern Ireland. By looking at these conditions through a variety of perspectives, particularly those of “outsiders,” the plays emphasise the need for the acceptance of a broad understanding of identity. These characters articulate their perspectives most clearly in their confrontation with the possibility and reality of death. In these plays, the characters confront death during periods of conflict from Irish and world history. Facing the dangers of these conflicts, the characters confront the possibility and reality of death collectively, guided and encouraged, for the most part, by “outsider” characters. Their collective bonds allow them to better deal with death’s complex, paradoxical power. The thesis has three main body chapters, each of which concentrates on two of McGuinness’s plays. Chapter One considers the connection between death and community, and concentrates on the paradox within the demands of both community and individual identity. Chapter Two examines the connection between death and constructions of “Otherness” and focuses on how definitions of Otherness both defend and jeopardise the individual in relation to their Others. Chapter Three explores the connection between death and family relations and looks at how individuals might escape a damaging, haunting legacy by embracing a wider, more inclusive perspective.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Kealy, Una, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


    • McGuinness Frank, Plays


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