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Paganism and Dance(s) as instruments of Bakhtinian Carnivalesque as reflected in Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa.

Brian Friel's 1990 play, Dancing at Lughnasa, is, in fact, reflective of socio-cultural status of women in 1936 Ireland. It is a clear indication of social and religious conservatism of the country and the repressive impact of Catholicism particularly on women in the 1930s. These socio-cultural facts are represented either directly or indirectly by means of symbolic representations and Irish folklore. They are also presented via a flow of conflicts between the liberating and instinctively shaped primitive religion intrinsic to pre-Christian paganism and the norms of Christianity which are associated with civilisation, order and discipline. It may be observed that paganism defies the determinism of Christianity. In this sense, that the play takes place in a short period of Lughnasa, a Celtic festival celebrated in the honour of one of the greatest gods, Lugh, is not a coincidence. By means of this festival, reflective of Irish folklore and metaphorically a Bakhtinian carnivalesque atmosphere, Friel questions and criticises the hegemony, norms and so-called fixed order of Catholicism which suppresses women and represses their feelings in the 1930s.

Actually, as means of liberation, all festivities are times when people act as they wish without the restrictions of the Establishment/ the status quo, and particularly carnivals, in Bakhtin's words, create a "second life" (9) in which they feel a sense of temporary relief from the burdens of the maintenance of the status quo. In Dancing at Lughnasa which is embroidered with the characteristics of carnivalesque, this relief is enabled through dances that coincide with Lughnasa. The play as a whole may be regarded as the narrator Michael's memoir of dances which create this "second life", a dream world for his aunts: "When I remember it, I think of it as dancing. Dancing with eyes half closed because to open them would break the spell" (DL 71). If/when the whole play is analysed as Michael's memoir of the temporary relief of his mother and four aunts from the heavy burden of Christianity throughout Lughnasa, Lughnasa, and instances of dances observed in the play may be said to be reflecting the characteristics of Bakhtinian carnivalesque. In the light of all these arguments, this paper aims at arguing that paganism and dances bring a Bakhtinian carnivalesque atmosphere of laughter, joy and relief to the boring and suffocating lives of the sisters shaped by the Church. In this respect, paganism and dances may be regarded as instruments of temporary relief from the burdens and temporary distortion of "facts" in society. They bring the sisters the chance of writing and acting their own "script" through denying the roles determined by the Church.

In fact, Dancing at Lughnasa is about a historical period in Ireland, the 1930s, a decade shortly after Ireland was declared as a Free State in 1922. This decade is of great significance particularly for Irish women because the 1937 Constitution which determined the status of women in society was formed in this period. Actually, "[d]espite some tensions between the Church and militant republicans, the new Irish State after 1922 was closely and continually influenced by Catholic thinking" (Hussey 381). The Irish Free State, which gained independence from England in 1922, continued its strict link with the Catholic Church. In the 1930s Eamonn de Valera, who was a leading political figure in Irish politics, "worked closely with the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid" (Hussey 382). As a result of this close contact, de Valera created a new Constitution in 1937 which began to be formed in 1936 (Girvin 140), and which "was explicitly religious in its overtones and some of its provisions" (Hussey 382). According to this constitution, "[w]omen were placed in the home: 'In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved' (Article 41.2.I)" (Hussey 382). Coinciding with this period, Dancing at Lughnasa may be considered as a play which mirrors the conservative Catholic society's great impact upon women in the post-colonial period. As McMullan argues, the play
   articulates the lack of social and economic agency and mobility
   available to Irish women such as the Mundy sisters on the eve of
   Ireland's 1937 Constitution, which endorsed contemporary Catholic
   doctrine on the primary domestic role of women as wives and
   mothers. The play therefore critiques the inequalities and
   conservatism of post-independence Ireland, and offers an antidote
   to nostalgic and insular images of Irish history. (214)


It is obvious that the status of women was never equal to that of men in the 30s. Women were tried to be silenced by keeping them within the borders of their houses. A woman at home would not be a dangerous or rebellious figure in society. As Karen Steele accentuates, "in the decades after 1921, the voices of [...] dissident women were silenced by the now partially Irish Free State, which worked assiduously [...] to restrict women to the home, as wives and mothers-and to suppress their role as authors of the revolution" (199). Victimised by the hegemonic control of the powerful State, Church and the patriarchy, women, in this way, gradually were pushed into the otherisation process. In relation to all these discussions, it may be stated that the experiences of the Mundy sisters in the small town Ballybeg represent in microcosm

what is happening in the country as a whole in the 1930s. Thought in relation to the restrictions of Catholicism, the setting of Dancing at Lughnasa, Ballybeg is significant in terms of the meaning it signifies. It is "a mythical town in Donegal invented by Friel", and, "[i]n Gaelic, it is baile beag, and literally means small town" (Gussow 204). On the one hand, the name denotes the physical characteristic of the town as a small place. On the other hand, it symbolises the suffocating nature of the restrictions in the society. The town is small but its impact on people, particularly on women is profound. It indicates the sisters' entrapment within the borders of this small town surrounded by the repressive rules of Catholicism from which there is no escape as Catholicism has fixed meanings.

The authority of the Church is felt throughout the play, even in the microcosmic world of the Mundies. All the sisters act the gender roles determined by the Church, which is directly related to Judith Butler's "performativity" idea. According to Butler, members of society perform their roles in accordance with the constructed discourses of the powerful: "That the gendered body is performative [...] suggests that if that reality is fabricated as an interior essence, that very interiority is an effect and function of a decidedly public and social discourse, the public regulation of fantasy through the surface politics of the body, the gender border control" (185). By means of this discursive "regulation", disciplining women and exercising control over them are guaranteed. As a consequence, submissive bodies that serve the powerful with consent are created, which is exemplified by the Mundies whose activities are regulated by the Church. Especially Kate's job is significant in this sense. Unlike her sisters who are symbolically imprisoned in the cottage, Kate is the one who has close contact with the outside world. She is a teacher in a parish school. This position, however, does not make her a free individual. She is still a subject, and may be regarded as a pseudo-individual since she is an agent of the Church and her job is a kind of ideological Church apparatus which is under the control of the Church, and she serves it through teaching the doctrines of the Church. She preaches the doctrines of the Church not only at the parish school to her students but also at home to her sisters. Her function might be regarded as "the repressive force of Christianity" (Andrews 232). She would be irritated by any action taken against the laws and norms of the Church. The Mundy sisters are always reminded by Kate of the fact that they are "in a Christian home, a Catholic home" (DL 29) and that "this is Father Jack's home-[they] must never forget that-ever" (DL 25).

Similarly, all the other sisters are occupied with something that the Church would be content with. In this sense, it may be suggestive to accentuate the role of "repetition" in constructing gender roles. As Judith Butler puts forth, "[t]he rules that are partially structured along matrices of gender hierarchy [...] operate through repetition" (199). She also points out that "the very injunction to be a given gender takes place through discursive routes: to be a good mother, to be a heterosexually desirable object, to be a fit worker, in sum, to signify a multiplicity of guarantees in response to a variety of different demands all at once" (199). Women learn and internalise the discursive forms and roles imposed by the hegemonic power, and act and re-act these imposed roles. This brings repetition. The "discursive routes" that maintain the "gender hierarchy" are exemplified by the sisters' repetitive acts of knitting and housekeeping in Dancing at Lughnasa. Rose and Agnes, for example, always knit gloves at home through which they earn some money. As knitting is associated with womanhood, there is nothing wrong with their occupation. Maggie is dealing with house work as a housekeeper as expected from a woman in a house. Rose, Maggie and Agnes are depicted as wearing the "aprons of the time" (DL 5). Chris helps her sisters doing the house work. It may be deduced from the behaviours and occupations of the sisters that "[t]hough Bellybeg's priest never appears onstage, he is evidently authoritarian and cruel" (Lojek 87). The authoritarian Church is the centre of their life, and this centre is the dominating factor in all their acts. Women are expected to be obedient to the priest. Hence, they cannot express themselves properly in society. It is clear that "[l]ife did not grant the women a level of freedom or subjectivity" (Jordan xlvi). They are tools or puppets in the hands of the Church authorities.

Moreover, the fact that they are the sisters of a priest, Jack, pressurises them, and they try their best to represent the responsibilities and requirements of Christianity in the best way. Getting used to these obligations, they can never be aware of the fact that they are actually suffocated by all the rules and regulations and the burden of civilisation brought by religion. Especially Kate, "the guardian of Christian value" (Andrews 226), is so much dominated by the doctrines of the Church that she gets very angry when the sisters get very enthusiastic about the idea of going to Lughnasa, a pagan festival which lasts for fifteen days (Andrews 226). She says angrily: "Look at yourselves, will you! Just look at yourselves! Dancing at our time of day? That's for young people with no duties and no responsibilities and nothing in their heads but pleasure" (DL 24). Kate even "panics" when Rose "does the first steps of a bizarre and abandoned dance" (DL 24). The word, "panic", as explained by Andrews,
   is derived from 'Pan,' the personification of deity displayed in
   creation and pervading all things. Pan was the god of flocks and
   herds, of the woods and all material substances. Part goat, part
   man, he was renowned for his lustful nature. In reacting to the
   dancing as she does, Kate is reacting to the id, to the assertion
   of the spermatic principle, the free imagination, the buried
   impulse. She represents the repressive force of Christianity
   inhabiting full and free embracement of this primitive, pagan,
   secret life of Pan. (223-4)


The desires and libidinous feelings of the sisters are tried to be repressed by Kate, the agent of the Church. Representative of the superego, Kate, who feels on her shoulders the burdens of responsibility towards the status quo as the sister of a priest, cannot tolerate even the implication of the id by her sisters. She feels responsible for instructing her sisters to know what is "right" and to behave accordingly.

However, the authority of the superego is subverted by the influence of Celtic festival Lughnasa, celebrated in the honour of Lugh, the god of harvest associated with the Sun. Lughnasa, "pronounced LOO-na-sa, as in lunacy" (Gussow 203), brings an inevitable clash between the head and the body, between "Apollonian world of rational order" (McGrath 235) and "Dionysian impulse" (McGrath 246), between order, reason represented by Christianity and momentary release of feelings, the id and crazy bodily movements as observed during the dance scene of the sisters. "Luna" means "moon", and "moon" connotes a dream world, and is also associated with temporary madness. Under the influence of "LOO-na-sa", or lunacy, the sisters lose their control and reason and behave as if they were "lunatics" and they were reacting against the restrictions of the norms of the Church. The sisters including Kate are exposed to Lughnasa's magical or hypnotic impact, and the authority of the Church and the hierarchical order are shaken and inverted. The first instance of this subversion is enabled by Marconi, the Italian inventor of the radio. Marconi, in a way, indirectly presents a traditional Irish song to the sisters on one of the days in Lughnasa via the Marconi, the wireless set at the cottage, named after Marconi. Already filled with the desire to dance, with "the sheer magic of that radio" (DL 35), they find themselves dancing grotesquely and crazily as if they are emptying their souls repressed and suppressed by the Church for years:

The music, at first scarcely audible, is Irish dance music-'The Mason's Apron,' played by a ceili band. Very fast; very heavy beat; a raucous sound. At first we are aware of the beat only. Then, as the volume increases slowly, we hear the melody. [...]. Then Maggie turns round. [...]. She is breathing deeply, rapidly. Now her features become animated by a look of defiance, of aggression; a crude mask of happiness. [...]. Now she spreads her fingers (which are covered with flour), pushes her hair back from her face, pulls her hands down her cheeks and patterns her face with an instant mask. At the same time she opens her mouth and emits a wild, raucous 'Yaaaah!'--and immediately begins to dance, arms, legs, hair, long bootlaces flying. [...]. Chris, who has been folding Jack's surplice, tosses it quickly over her head and joins in the dance. [...]. Agnes and Rose, Chris and Maggie, are now all doing a dance that is almost recognisable. [...]. They form a circle and wheel round and round. But the movements seem caricatured; and the sound is too loud; and the beat is too fast; and the almost recognisable dance is made grotesque because--for example--instead of holding hands, they have their arms tightly around one another's neck, one another's waist. Finally Kate, who has been watching the scene with unease, with alarm, suddenly leaps to her feet, flings her head back, and emits a loud ' Yaaaah! ' (DL 35-6).

This "moment of fierce pagan joy" (Lahr 214) brought by the dance which connotes a carnivalesque atmosphere totally shakes and violates the "'normal' reality" (Andrews 223), which helps the sisters find the opportunity of refreshing their souls which have been overloaded with the pressures brought by the socio-cultural realities of their time. This relief brought by Marconi also brings "temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established social order" (Bakhtin 10).

Moreover, Chris's putting Father Jack's surplice on her head functions as a costume worn in carnivals to parody the ones who are at the top of the hierarchical order such as religious figures. Now, everything sacred is totally subverted, parodied and even caricaturised as can be observed in carnivals. This is a way of questioning and criticising the norms of the Church. The Mundy sisters celebrate the moment just like the ancient Celts or the Ryangans who are pagans. By acting against the norms of the Church, the sisters have already taken a "defiant" (DL 37) step towards the Church. Moreover, the flour mask on Maggie's face and the "mask of happiness" on the face of all the sisters not only function as tools for concealing the problems of the sisters lying beneath the appearance but also represent the grotesque costume imagery dominant in festivities used as an instrument of parody. Similar to Michael's kites with "primitively drawn""crude, cruel, grinning face[s]" (DL 106), "the mask of happiness" on the faces of the sisters, their grinning faces symbolise subversion of the hierarchical order of the Church.

This dance, in Andrews' words, "represents a break in the acknowledged order, an irruption of the inadmissible within the usual routine, a ritualised suspension of everyday law and order" (223), which is expressed by Friel himself in the stage directions as well: "With this too loud music, this pounding beat, this shouting-calling-singing, this parodic reel, there is a sense of order being consciously subverted, of the women consciously and crudely caricaturing themselves, indeed of near-hysteria being induced" (DL 37). In this respect, Dancing at Lughnasa signifies "carnivalized writing, that is, writing which has taken the carnival spirit into itself and thus reproduces, within its own structures and by its own practice, the characteristic inversions, parodies and discrownings of carnival proper" (Dentith 63). The Mundy sisters, during this short break from the realities of painful and restrictive life feel that they are here as they are with their body, "the carn", and with "gay, triumphant" (Bakhtin 11) laughter and feel as individuals, one of the rare moments in their lives. This laughter signifies a grotesque reaction to the serious Establishment. With their eccentric movements, with "the images of material bodily lower stratum" (Bakhtin 275), they gain carnivalesque spirit and they, in a way, send a "defiant" (DL 37) message to the Establishment by their being metaphorically crowned as "queens" for a short moment through subversion and "uncrowning" (Bakhtin 275) the authoritative figures. This carnivalesque nature, as a result, "build[s] a second world and a second life outside officialdom" (Bakhtin 6), and now the ones at the top and at the bottom are equal to each other.

Moreover, it will also be suggestive to state that in the 1930s, the dance music was "subject in the Ireland of that time to much ecclesiastical censure" (Brown 198). As Andrews points out, "[i]n the repressive climate of the 1930s, dancing was regarded with some suspicion as representing a species of moral decadence and a threat to the morals of the nation's youth" (Andrews 223). That the protest of the sisters is with a music type which is exposed to prohibitions from time to time by the Church is meaningful. They defy the Church with something censored as a way of protest. As a result, all the hierarchies are completely distorted, and the Mundy sisters symbolically vomit their repressed anger towards Catholic doctrines to their own society whose boundaries are determined according to the firmly fixed strict laws of Catholicism. As Michael says,it was "as if language had surrendered to movement-as if this ritual, this wordless ceremony was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with some otherness[...]. Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary" (DL 107-8).

It should also be underlined that the circle the sisters create while dancing is symbolic, and it reflects the unity they create not only with themselves, but also with the Sun god, Lugh. In this new unity with the pagan religion for a short time, they get liberated. The circle, as Nozedar points out, "represents the spirit and the cosmos" and "the circle unifies spirit and matter" (xiii). Nozedar also states that "the perfect circle has no beginning and no end; it is unassailable. [...]. The magic circle creates a fortress of psychic protection, a physical and spiritual safe haven where unwanted or uninvited entities cannot enter". She also emphasises that one of the most significant circles is observed in the Sun and the Sun as "the circle is a symbol of the passage of time". Lastly, she states that "the circle has no divisions and no sides, it is also a symbol of equality" (xiv). This circle is the reflection of the inner world of the sisters who desire to live in a world of equality, liberation from repression and suppression. The play, in this sense, may be regarded as a "critique of the institutional authority of the Catholic Church and the lack of gender and economic equality in Irish women's lives" (McMullan 220). They are very happy in their newly created utopian world/ circle into which an intrusion of the "unwanted", in the case of the sisters the influence of the Church, is impossible at that moment. They feel one with Lugh, the Sun by means of their circle. In this sense, the symbolic circle is very functional in the liberating effect of Lughnasa through which "the instincts are given free expression" (Andrews 227).

Another influential figure in Dancing at Lughnasa in contributing to the creation of a carnivalesque atmosphere by helping the intrusion of the magic of Lughnasa into the house of the Mundies is Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack has an intermediary role between the Apollonian order of the Mundies and Dionysian world of the ones living in the back hills and of the Ryangan. Father Jack, who has been under the influence of pagan Ryangan religion and who has "[g]one native" (DL 62) is now like a pagan dancer. "Pagan" Jack, already filled with pagan energy in Uganda where he served as a colonial priest and with the values related to "ancestral spirits" (DL 61) and dedicated to "offer[ing] sacrifice to Obi, [their] great Goddess of the Earth" (DL 73), comes back home as "a new man" (DL 79), as a total disillusionment to his sisters since he is no longer the "hero and saint" (DL 17) they have dreamed so far. The transformed Jack continuously talks about the "dancing and incantations" and "a ceremony" (DL 62) in Ryangan tribes: "We light fires round the periphery of the circle; and we paint our faces with coloured powders; and we sing local songs; and we drink palm wine. And then we dance-and dance-children, men, women [...]--dancing, believe it or not, for days on end! It is the most wonderful sight you have ever seen'" (DL 74). He is also seen while dancing like Ryangans "[w]ith his body slightly bent over, his eyes on the ground, his feet moving rhythmically. As he dances--shuffles, he mutters--sings, makes occasional sounds that are incomprehensible and almost inaudible" (DL 65). Totally enchanted by the rituals and dances of the natives in Uganda, Father Jack may be thought as an intermediary character between the back hills or Ryangans representing paganism and the cottage of the Mundies which may be thought as the microcosmic representation of civilisation and Christianity. His enchantment influences the sisters, even conservative Kate. In short, as an intermediary figure who goes to the hills where Lughnasa is celebrated with great joy, Uncle Jack breaks the walls between the back hills and the cottage. In this way, the dream world created by Lughnasa enters the house of the Mundies.

Now, with the help of the Marconi, "a presiding whimsical deity" (Brown 201) and Uncle Jack, but more significantly, with the influence of Lughnasa, Christians and pagans, the ones in the centre like the Christian Mundies and the ones in the peripheries living in the back hills called "savages" (DL 29) and even the Ryangan are bridged and united. This condition makes Bakhtinian polyglossia possible because, now, the voices of different groups of people or individuals can be heard at the same level. The Catholic Mundies experience a temporary moment of equality with the ones in the hills celebrating Lughnasa, which is enabled by Marconi. Now "[t[he pagan forces [...] seem to possess the sisters" (McMullan 214). Throughout the dance, which lasts a few minutes, Kate's actions clash with her beliefs as previously she has always been heard saying: "And they're savages! I know those people from the back hills' I've taught them! Savages-that's what they are! And what pagan practices they have are no concern of ours-none whatever!" (DL 29). She always reminds her sisters that there is a tension, a never bridgeable gap between the primitive religion and the civilised Christianity. Now, however, she seems to be enchanted or hypnotised by the magical atmosphere of Lughnasa celebrations which reflects "the Dionysiac side of even the most religious and outwardly repressed people" (Gussow 204). By means of "Marconi's magical invention" (Brown 200), the dream world turns out to be "a second life of the people who for a time entered the utopian realm of community, freedom, equality and abundance" (Bakhtin 9). Moreover, as Dentith accentuates, during the "second life" created by the carnival, "the very language that people speak is altered, to allow a familiarity and fraternisation impermissible at other times" (74). Now, they are "in touch with some otherness" (DL 108), which makes them more liberated, enables them to think freely and individually. This primitiveness brings liberation to them. In a way, Marconi, the "lord of misrule" (Brown 200) and Uncle Jack help the Mundy sisters defy the rules of civilisation which suppresses and controls them. As Kate expresses, Marconi has "[k]illed all Christian conversation in this country" (DL 100), and ironically, now the Mundy sisters act like a "female tribe" (Sternlicht 125), they become like the ones they have criticised.

As a result of "a temporary suspension of the entire official system with all its prohibitions and hierarchic boundaries" (Bakhtin 89), women's repressed libidinous feelings arouse as well. As Andrews states, "Lughnasa is traditionally associated with sexual awakening, rebirth, continuance and it is significant that the date, 1 August, is exactly nine months, the normal period of gestation, before the great feast of Beltaine which celebrated the beginning of summer. These motifs of sexual awakening and magical transformation are central to Friel's play" (227). In a similar strand, during the carnivals, the id is in the foreground and the superego is defied and silenced by the id and "Dionysian impulses" (McGrath 246) throughout the celebrations. As according to the Celtic belief, "the August of the year" is "the point at which the cycle of the seasons is beginning to turn" (O'Toole 203), with the influence of this transformation, the moods of the women have changed as well. This transformation from the position of repressed women into expressive ones whose primitive feelings are on the foreground now contradicts the norms of the Church which never allows free will and liberation of feelings. In the real and so-called "normal" world, as Freud argues, in fact, "[c]ontrol is exercised by the higher physical control" (20), and in the case of Dancing at Lughnasa, by the Church. In their dream world, however, they become the rulers and controllers of their own lives. Rose, for example, "was wearing her good shoes","her blue cardigan and her good skirt" (DL 85) to meet Danny Bradley from the back hills and to go to "Lough Anna" (DL 85) together with him where they experience romantic moments, which is totally against the doctrines of the Church; Maggie begins to long for Brian McGuinnes that she loved when she was sixteen (DL 34). Moreover, already hypnotised by Lughnasa and full of libidinous energy due to the hypnotising agents of Lughnasa, the Marconi and Father Jack, the sisters' ids reach their peak when Gerry, Michael's father and a ballroom dancer, comes to the Mundies' to visit Chris. Gerry "provides a means of entry for the Dionysian into the lives of the sisters" (McGrath 238). Sisters' desire for man is always foregrounded by Maggie, who smokes cigarette as a compensation for her desire: "Wonderful Wild Woodbine. Next best thing to a wonderful, wild man" (DL 38). When Gerry appears, "Agnes picks up her knitting and works with excessive concentration. Rose and Maggie change their footwear. Everybody dashes about in confusion-peering into the tiny mirror, bumping into one another, peeping out the window, combing hair" (DL 40). Moreover, "Chris now rushes to the mirror and adroitly adjusts her hair and her clothes" (DL 42), and when he comes, Chris "laughs all the time with him" (DL 50). "Suddenly he takes her in his arms and dances" (DL 52), which makes her very happy and even her manners begin to change: "She laughs, pirouettes flirtatiously [...] and dance[s]" (DL 58). They "once more danced together [...]. And this time it was a dance without music; just there, in ritual circles round and round that square and then down the lane and back up again; slowly, formally, with easy deliberation" (DL 65). Later, however, he does the same flirtatiously to Agnes (DL 97) and later, to Maggie (DL 99). "Gerry is an urban outsider (he speaks with an English accent) to the small, parochial world of the sisters [...]. Gerry offers to a repressed community the opportunity of release from routine, the experience of romance" (Andrews 229). The behaviours exhibited by the women are totally "against stereotypical notions of' (Llewelleyn-Jones 37) pure and obedient womanhood. Dancing, for a short time, satisfies the needs of the sisters and "has healing power" (Andrews 225). When the radio stops working, their "second life" becomes Gerry, who helps the women experience a carpe diem (seize the day) moment and to understand that there is another life beyond the boundaries of Christianity. His effort to repair the radio and fix the aerial may symbolise his effort to revive the repressed feelings of the sisters and keep their libidinous feelings alive. As a result, he shakes the repressive order and brings an expressive order, which brings the chance for women to express themselves.

In relation to all these arguments, and, in conclusion, Dancing at Lughnasa may be regarded as a play which questions the socio-cultural condition of women in the 1930s. The play "explores the undercurrents and contradictions of conventional social mores" (McGrath 246) and may be regarded as the song of "ordinary unsung women [...] of his [Friel's] nation" (Sternlicht 125). The play offers an alternative world to the real world characterised by the restrictive norms of the Church due to which women cannot express themselves. As Jordan points out, "[t]he temporary, wild, exuberant and excessive energy of carnival [is] a temporary inversion of order [...]. Dancing, although grounded in the real, moves to the level of fantasy and will-fulfilment" (xlv), albeit momentarily. Dance enables women to evade performing the repetitive roles determined for them. The play, actually, does not bring solutions to sexist, hence, problematic representation of women in a Church-dominated society. However, it at least helps the reader question and subvert the internalised and falsely constructed representation of women, in Simone de Beauvoir's terms, as the "second sex". As Butler argues, "[i]f the inner truth of gender is a fabrication and if a true gender is a fantasy instituted and inscribed on the surface of bodies, then it seems that genders can be neither true nor false, but are only produced as the truth effects of a discourse of primary and stable identity" (186). Gender is, in fact, a constructed and learned idea which is later internalised by the members of society, either male or female, and according to the discourse of the powerful (in the case of Dancing at Lughnasa, the Church) to guarantee or maintain the secondary position of women. By means of the dance, however, the play helps to check once more the constructed hegemony of the Church. In a way, Friel is accentuating the urgent need for Irish women to have their own voices, to reconstruct and rebuild the representation of women and to have the chance of writing their own scripts and playing their own roles not momentarily, but continuously.

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Author:Yelmis, Imran
Publication:Interactions
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Mar 22, 2015
Words:5717
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