Stephen Watt, Joyce, O’Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater (Syracuse 1991)

KEY EXCERPTS: ‘emancipatory nationalism’ [87] .. toppled Victorian stereotypes of Irish nationalists as criminals, effeminate traitors, or inchoate brutes .. Irish drama at the Queen’s offered a mixture of ideological and theatrical pleasures that Dublin popular audiences at the turn of the century could not resist. [PARA] Yes, there was an Irish drama before Yeats ...[88]; [Compared with Hollywood] Irish melodrama .. has never abetted only a conservative project. .. most Irish melodrama, theatrical or filmic, seems to follow a paradoxically conservative and radical projectory at the same time [in] a “double movement of containment and resistance” (Stuart Hall) inherent in pop. cultural forms. [193]

AND SEARCH: My thesis; genius breaking out; Martin Harvey; mass culture; coloni- ; Stage Irishman; cultural forms

NOTE: In the preface, Watt explicitly challenges the notion promulgated by John Wilson Foster and others of the working class as “almost bereft of intellectual heritage”. Gives thanks to Seamus de Burca and Cheryl Herr for providing materials. [xii]

Chp. 1: A Popular Theater

.. interest in Victorian drama and theater is on the rise .. [1]

Hugh Hunt: ‘.. JW Whitbread, Fred Cooke, John Baldwin Buckstone and others, whose names and plays are best forgotten, presented a mythical land of blarney and blather .. Dion Boucicault alone among the hack writers of Irish melodrama can claim a place, if not as a major dramatist, at least as a highly competent one’ (The Abbey: Ireland’s National Theatre 1904-1979 (1979). [2]

ftn. 2: notes that in Irish Drama (1929) AE Malone is inconsistent in his appraisal of Irish drama before the Abbey, remarking both that “it may be boldly said as a fact that all drama in Ireland until the beginning of the 20th c. was English drama”, and that [the Queen’s Irish-topic plays] were Irish in theme and mood .. and almost for the first time gave to Ireland a drama which had some connection with the life and thought of the people. (pp 12, 17) [241].

Interrogating the word literature, Watt refers to Joyce’s Ibsen essay, and speaks of: ‘The search for a truth which is by definition plural, the use of appropriate if not poetical language, the development of meaningful issues from the lives of ordinary people, - these are the attributes of a literary theater that the popular turn-of-the-century theater lacked. [12]

Refers to Eglinton-Yeats dialogue in the Daily Express, in which Eglintion anticipates an argument later used by Stephen about art confronting rather than escaping reality. Eglinton wrote: The poet “who looks too much away from himself and his age does not feel the facts of life enough, but seeks in art an escape from them.” See Literary Ideals in Ireland, John Eglinton, W B. Yeats, AE, and William Larminie (Lon/Dub. Unwin/Daily Express 1899). AND NOTE that this text is quoted substantially by Louis MacNeice in his Poetry of W. B. Yeats. [13 and ftn.] The same dialogue is cited by Cairns and Richards in Writing Ireland, pp. 66, 120]

He discusses the view that the values of ‘original’ art are debased by the injection of capital and a mass-production ethos, which generates repetitions for an atomised, capitalised audience. [13-4]

He quotes George Moore’s preface to The Bending of the Bough (1900): “It is impossible to write plays in England except for money, and all that is done for money is mediocre.” [14]

And Moore, ibid: “The same audience goes everywhere, and the same fare is consequently served everywhere at the same prices.”

Leo Lowenthal, 1961: “We much look to discover the depths to which an art can sink when it is written and produced at the mutual dictation of the gallery boy, who for a shilling demands oblivion of his day’s work, and the stockbroker, who for 10s 6d demands such amusements as will enable him to safely digest his dinner.” This is the condescending view of the popular theatre that Watt reviles.

Joyce would accuse Yeats of succombing to the rabblement. “The Irish Literary Theatre gave out that it was a champion of progress, and proclaimed war against commercialism and vulgarity. It had partly made good its word [ with the production of Martyn’s Heather Field which Joyce admired] and was expelling the old devil, when after its first encounter it surrendered to the popular will .. the popular devil is more dangerous than your vulgar devil.’ (CW 69-70)” [14]

Irish Literary authors ‘nearly all deprecators of popular theater.’ [15]

Having discussed the apparent antinomy between serious and popular drama, Watt remarks: ‘Stephen Dedalus’s playgoing provide one means of exposing the fragility of this polarity. Even though young Joyce, like Stephen, was a “constant god” at the Gaiety Theatre for entertainments as diverting as Grand Operas like Maritana and pantomimes like Turko the Terrible, he is insistent in Stephen Hero about the artist’s obligation not to create worlds of mere wish fulfillment and fantasy. [16]

.. popular theatre often furthered the project of liberation from what Althusser terms the [16] ‘ideological state apparatuses’ of late nineteenth century Dublin, especially the church, school, and family. [17]

DRAMA REFERENCES IN JOYCE: Stephen at the Gaiety: one night in the gallery .. another Belvedere boy .. bore scandalous witness in Stephen’s ear. (SH 35); & Bloom at the old Royal, “a dark sexsmelling theatre” that “unbridles vice” [15:3321-22]. [17]; and cf. Mrs Daedlaus’s idea of art as a temporary escape from real life, and Stephen’s strict reply (SH86) [19]; also Bloom’s vivid recollection of his father’s affection for Augustin Daly’s Leah the Forsaken (1862), an adaptation of SH Mosethal’s Deborah (see Ulysses, 5:197-206). [25]; Bloom remembers where Pat Kinseela ran the now defunct Harp theatre “before Whitbred ran the Queen’s” and all the “Dion Boucicault business” of popular Irish melodramas; also “Corny Kelleher has Harvey Duff in his eye. Like that Peter or Denis of James Carey that blew the gaff on the invincibles (8:441-53) [37]

Watt speaks of the allure of the theatre not as a flight into fantasy but possibly as a deeper investigation of instinctual realities. [18]

Synge’s letter to Stephen McKenna on the Cuchulanoid tendency of Irish drama, cited [18] QRY: is this not also cited in Peter Kavanagh? See Rx.

Watt’s first chapter on popular theatre gathers the depositions of artists and critics and submits that popular art is not as long believed essentially escapist. He quotes Michael Booth to good effect: a supposedly superior world of “shootings, stranglings, hangings, poisonings, drownings .. torture heroines, persecuted heroes and fearsome villains; seems a distinctly odd on to escape into.” [20]

In addition to the historical rationale .. the theoretical reasons for deconstructing the realism/popular drama popularity include not only the allegorizing potential of binaristic logic but also the need for attentiveness to the ways in which what Nelson Goodman describes as “worldmaking” occurs. [Goodman is a phenomenologist.] [21-22]

Addressing the Irish Literary Theatre 26 Mar 1900 Holloway, ever the champion of the Queen’s Royal Theatre (commonly abbrev. as the Queen’s) professed to give a “pittite’s” perspective on modern drama that countered the censures of his more educated contemporaries: “literature must take a back seat to the dramatic effectiveness of the work performed”; “The non-playgoing high-and-mighty literary critics .. pretend to know all about what state work ought to be, and despise all real playgoers like myself, for not agreeing with their estimate.” [22-23] Also, his remarks on Whitbread’s Wolfe tone, quoted fully in Cheryl Herr, For The Land They Loved (1991). Excerpts from ‘Irish Drama and Modern Dublin’, in Irish Playgoer, 12 and 19 Apr. 1900. Holloway became an enthusiastic supporter of the Abbey Theatre. [ftn. 39, p.244] ALSO Joseph Holloway’s Irish Theatre, 3 vols ed. Hogan and Michael J O’Neill (Newark, Del. 1968-70).

Frank Fay during his brief tenure as drama critic for the United Irishman between 1899 and 1902 cast Queen’s melodrama in the role of nonliterary .. [23] See Ftn.: Frank Fay’s Towards A national Theatre, ed. Robt. Hogan (Dolmen 1970), which collects his best reviews from United Irishman. In Aug 1899 Fay reviewed Wolfe Tone in a mildly positive way, although he disagreed with the subtitle ‘A Romantic Irish Drama’. For Fay, Whitebread’s play was really neither more nor less than a well-constructed melodrama with some of the leading incidents of Wolfe Tone’s career ulilised to produce those dramatic situations to which its success is due.” See Towards a National Theatre, pp. 24-26. (Stephen Watts, Joyce, O’Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater, 1991)

The discussion of Augustin Daly’s Leah, which Bloom’s father saw with Miss Kate Bateman, and which comes to town on Bloomsday with Mrs. Bandmann-Palmer, is the first hint of the depth of Watt’s exploration of Joyce’s involvement with popular theatre. [27] See also [25] supra, and also his commentary on A Mother in Dubliners, [24f.]

There exists .. an almost uncanny analogy between modernists’ condemnation of the late Victorian drama and present cynicism about postmodern mass culture. [28]

Patrick Parrinder refers to the way in which Joyce’s work functions as ‘a library or archive which confers permanence on the material deposited in it.’ [28]

Quotes Herr: ‘To distinguish between low and high culture is less than accurate and especially inappropriate to Joyce, who did not discriminate in his works between the value of an allusion to the popular and a reference to a work of higher social status’ (Joyce’s Anatomy of Culture 1986, p. 15). More than the value of allusion is at stake here, however: access to the codes of those cultural discourses, popular or otherwise, which construct subjectivity and sexuality is really the issue. [30]

O’Casey only visited the Abbey twice; before the Abbey, Joyce and O’Casey frequently Dublins Th. Royal, Gaiety Th., and Queen’s Royal theatre, and in O’Casey’s case the inconsistently managed Mechanics Th. on Lr. Abbey St. [30]

The Joyce family at the theatre, as evidenced in MBK [33]. Joyce’s particular admiration for Mrs. Campbell in Sudermann’s Magda, to which Stanislaus likens his later enthusiasm for Ibsen [the lead char., Magda Schwartze, is a “new woman’] (MBK 87) [34]. JF Byrne recalls that he and Joyce “went to ever opera [they] could afford”, including The Bohemian Girl. [34] Stanislaus, in the Dublin Diary, repeats James’s saying that “Music hall, not poetry, is the criticism of life.” [34] Watts calls these ‘libidinal investments which exerted a strong determinative effect on his art’ [35].

‘the king’s treat house’ in FW is the Gaiety on King’s St. A Royal Divorce, by WG Wills, toured successfully by WW Kelly’s and other companies, deals with the continuing loyalty of Josephine even after Napoleon has taken a more politically advantageous wife. Napoleon being popular in Dublin 1890, the play was typically revived twice annually on one-week runs in that decade. In selecting the play as a typology of HC Earwicker, Joyce confirmed the Wake’s rootedness in the discourses on sexuality and nationalism popular in Dublin in that period [35]. And cf. [60]: Calma’s 3-part biog. of Napoleon published in the United Irishman on 10,17, and 24 Nov 1900 concretises the relationships between past and present and between drama and history so prevalent in Dublin at the turn of the century. Plays about Napoleon, especially those romanticising his relation to Ireland, were popular at the Queen’s, incl. Whitbread’s Wolfe Tone and The Irish Dragoon [based on Lever novel, Charles O’Malley, with its stage Irish servant Mickey Rooney]; Frank Thorne’s Napoleon the Great, and Lloyd Osbourne and Austin Strong’s Exile (Oct. 1903). [60]

Watt lists the items in ‘the chronicle of theatre-going’ in Dubliners, Stephen Hero, and A Portrait - a chronicle which continues in Ulysses, culminating in the conventions which dominate Circe. [36-37] Also, Shem and Shaun, chars. in Charles Young’s Jim the Penman (1886), a nickname John Stanislaus frequently visited on his son [38].

Watt summarises the shift in Irish studies, foregrounding the despised popular genres, which reflects a more general shift in cultural studies with the effect of ‘radical contextualising of literature which eliminates the old divisions between literature and its ‘background’, text and context. [39]

.. the indebtednesses of Joyce and O’Casey to their less distinguished antecedents and contemporaries. [40]

Watt takes issue with the Joycean myth of the godlike artist, a power of authorial independence, and questions the relationship between subject and author, resituating Joyce in a sphere where identity is continually making and remaking. He employs the ‘more skeptical understanding of authorial empowerment’ in Foucault, which departs from a conception of the authorial function as being ‘to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within society’ (What is An Author?’, in Language, Counter-Memory, and Practice’, ed. Donald F Bouchard (Ithaca 1977). From Barthes he borrows this: “we know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clas. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumberable centres of culture” (‘Death of the Author’ in Image-Music-Text, ed Stephen Heath, NY 1977) [42]

Jennifer Schiffer Levine makes a reading of Joyce based on the recognition of elements of repetition in his texts, suggesting that we “cannot dismiss” that a writer is a con man and a thief, much like Ralston in Jim the Penman: “If writing is largely quotation, the notion of originality has to be rethought .. total originality given the shared nature of language is impossible.” (PMLA 94; Jan. 1979) [43]

Politics: ... colonist (frequently anticolonial or antihegemonic) ramifications of Irish literature [ 43] Watt quotes Cairns and Richards on the way in which “the making and remaking of the identities of the colonized and colonizer have been inflected’ in the course of Irish writing” [43]

Colonialism led to Dublin’s status as a cultural satellite of the London stage, a status shared by English and Irish provincial towns alike. [45]

Shaw’s Broadbent: “No Irishman ever ever talks like that in Ireland, or ever did, or ever will. But when a thoroughly worthless Irishman comes to England .. he soon learns the antics that take you in. He picks them up at the theatre or the musical hall.” [46]

My thesis is, then, that Joyce and O’Casey .. in crucial respects see and know the world in ways determined by popular dramatic and theatrical conventions of the turn-of-the-century stage, even as these writers in many instances parody or through other means overturn these very conventions .. that these ways of knowing, originating in the popular theater, are put into practice in some of their greatest achievements. [47]

 

Chap. 2: Queen’s and the Politics of Irish Melodrama

Frank Fay: “In these days it is getting a confused question as to what drama is at all. To some it is the lofty expression of noble thoughts or the tragic exposition of keen emotions. To others it is a ten-ton tractor engine with perhaps a boiler exploision for subsidiary effect .. True literary drama is dead, and we are now living under the reign of the triumvirate of actor, scene shifter, and lime-lighter’ (United Irishman, 20 Oct 1900).

Fay characterised Whitbread’s The Irishman, revived in 1899, as a “crude piece of unconvincing conventionalism.” (Towards a National Theatre, p. 27.) Dion Boucicault’s Irish dramas “nowadays used simply to show off the Irish comedian or the Irish character acter” (May 1900).

Shortlived Irish Playgoer and Amusement Record, 1899-1900. James W. Whitbread, manager of Queen’s 1884-1907. Holloway recorded of his management, in 1899: “Now a playgoer is sure to see an exciting well-staged drama, or an Irish play in progress if he drops into the theatre any evening casual like” (Nat. Lib. MS 14,995:2)

Irish political Melodramas: much of the popularity of these plays depends .. on the historical and cultural contexts of their performance, phenomena orthodox theater historians overlook when typically advancing two elements of Boucicauldian success: .. sensational stage techniques and his creation of entertaining Stage Irishmen. .. [which] posits un unchanging or ‘bounded’ text and a universal spectator foreclosing the possibility that the audiences’ construction of the text might dsiffer significantly from one moment to the next, from one locale to another. [52]

Boucicault: “The fire and energy that consists of dancing around the stage in an expletive manner, and indulging in ridiculous capers and extravagancies of language and gesture, form the materials of a clowning character known as the ‘Stage Irishman’ which it has been my vocation to abolish.” (See Robert Hogan, Dion Boucicault, Twayne 1969). [52]

Joyce: “A jester at the court of his master, indulged and disesteemed, winning a clement master’s praise. Why had they all chosen that part?” (Ulysses, 2:43-45). [52]

Quotes Stuart Hall: ‘we tend to think of cultural forms as whole and coherent: either wholly corrupt or wholly authentic. Whereas, they are deeply contradictory; they play on contradictions, especially when they function in the domain of the popular (‘Notes on Deconstructing “The Popular”‘, in People’s History and Socialist Theory, ed. Raphael Samuel (1981), pp.227-40. [53]

The plays of O’Grady, Boucicault, and Whitbread thus constitute chameleon-like responses to the historical situation of colonial rule, possessing elements of both containment and resistance and thereby appealing to audiences of various political sympathies. The opposite of conservatism and nostalgia, in this instance, is the counterhegemonic discourse of anticolonialism to which the Irish drama at the Queen’s contributed mightily. .. many Victorian discourses .. constructed native Irishness in reductively disparaging ways. [53]

Insofar as stereotyping is an essential instrument in colonial discourse, I am especially interested in the methods by which Irish dramatists overturned stereotypes and in the ways in which melodrama taught historical lessons to its audhience, lesson that functioned as rubrics though which Irishmen could interpret contemporary events. .. I construe popular entertainment as an aesthetic confrontationof the domestic, economic, and political predicaments resulting from England’s colonial domination. [55]

History and Melodrama

Irish dramatists found ingenious ways of linking history and melodrama .. Boucicault’s career summits with so-called Irish plays involving his increased awareness of irish history and contemporary political tensions.

A Firesdide Story of Ireland, pamphlet (Lon. and Boston 1881): “While other nations were thus advancing, by experiment and experience, towards a higher state of civilization .. Ireland was not permitted to share in the progress. Her elder sisters of the British family seemed to regard her with indifference and contempt, as one fitted or a sordid life of servitude. . [PARA] thus, like an untutored, neglected Cinderella, she has been confined in the out-house of Great Britain.”

Plates: Hubert O’Grady was conn in Boucicault’s Shaughraun (see cartoon, in Zoz, Ap 1877). Engraving of JW Whitbread, courtesy Seamus de Burca. Photo of John Baldwin Buckstone, courtesy Irish Th. Archive. PJ Bourke, in Waterfront (June 1903), courtesy Seamus de Burca.

Hubert O’Grady: b. Limerick, trained as upholsterer, acted Conn to acclaim in Dublin revival of The Shaughraun, 1876-77, during seven weeks at the Gaiety; remained a Dublin favorite, and d. pneumonia, Liverpool, 19 Dec. 1899. His play The Famine, set in no-rent Ireland; others are The Eviction (1879); Emigration (1880) and The Fenian (1888); also wild Irish Boy (1877?). In his preface to The Fenian, he wrote: “This drama is simply a Romantic Irish Love Story and has nothing to do with Patriotic, Political or Social evils. It takes its title from the fact that the scene is laid in Ireland - and is supposed to take place during the Fenian movement which gives the opportunity for the villain the accuse the hero (Lieut. Tracy) of complicity with the Fenians.” But newspaper reviewers thought that politics were unblushingly mixed with romance an that the whole - as in the notice given to Eviction by the Evening Herald of 22 Dec. 1899 - was ‘a sermon preached from behind the footlights [appealing] to popular feeling in a curiously successful fashion’. [57-58].

The list of his Whitbread’s plays given her includes The Irish Dragoon, Sarsfield, and The French Hussar (all 1906). His comic melodramas, a side line, are Shoulder to Shoulder, The Nationalist, and Willy Reilly [1905]; while Miss Maritana [1890] was burlesque. [58-59] .. His best plays, Wolfe Tone and The Ulster Hero [on Henry Joyce McCracken], advanced a myth of Irish heroism that reigned for decades in the popular imagination. [while] [59]

Michael Davitt condemned in Parliament the Boer War for ‘the meanest and most mercenary of ends and aims which ever prompted conquest or aggression, and it will rank in history as the greatest crime of the 19th c.’ [61]

Watt’s reading of the coverage of the Boer War in the United Irishman demonstrates the effective reversal of the stereotypical roles of civilised and savage accorded to English and Irish respectively in Victorian colonial ideology. [62-63]

Detailed discussion of The Colleen Bawn and Arrah-na-Pogue (as linguistic dramas) [66-67].

Oratorical skill and rhetorical sophistication become encoded later in popular Irish drama as civilizing attributes of both historical heroes like Robert Emmet and Wolfe tone and comic Irismen like Shaun the Post (and also reign as prime topic of debate .. in Aoelus of Ulysses.) [67]

Beamish Mac Coul, the young Irish hero in Arrah-na-Pogue who has returned from America to lead his countrymen against the English, provides the model for the eoloquent patriot of the later melodramas: ‘Oh my land! My own land! Bless every blade of grass upon your green cheeks! The clouds that hang ove ye are the sighs of your exiled children, and your face is always wet with their tears.’ [69]

1 Jan 1876, in what may have been partly a publicity stunt, Boucicault wrote an open letter to PM Nejamin Disraeli demanding the release of Irish political prisoners from British prisons. [72]

Harvey Duff, the police informer in The Shaughraun [70]. The world of The Shaughraun is decidedly more politicised than Arrah [72]. .. Arrah-na-Pogue and Shaughraun contain ideological material and historical perspective that most comic melodrama lacks. [72] Each play is primarily set in the Irish countryside and the association of Irish insurgence with the pastoral values of the ‘green world’ is reinforced throughout both plays. [73]

.. Edmund Falconer’s Peep o’Day (1861) [73] .. continues the flow of pardons for nationalist insurgents, this time awarded at the close of the play by a yet another gracious British officer .. Harry Kavenaugh, the leader of the rebels .. wins not only a pardon but also the hand of Mary Grace because of his ‘noble conduct’ in laying down his arms .. the comic endings .. rely heavily on a resolution of British/Irish opposition. [74]

..underlying [Arrah and Shaughraun] resides the history of Ireland’s struggle and a mythology that Ireland can be unified socially, politically, and religiously. This myth is usually transmitted in plays whose narative posits the peaceful coexistence of England and Ireland - and implicitly asserts the power of humanity and truth to topple national, social, and economic barriers. This myth of optimism and cohersion obviously appealed to an Irish audience that had confronted far too many innsurmountable difficulties outisde of the theater .. [and] offered a nostalgic, in prt politically conservative retreat to Dubliners. The threads of more radical, emancipatory ideology are also visible in such plays ... [75-76]

The Myth of the Historical Hero

NOT Buckstone’s The Green Bushes and Falconer’s Eileen Oge (1871); Robert Johnston’s The Old Land, produced in Easter Week 1903, contained a rowdy pub-scene, and was censured by Irish critics for ‘display[ing] a tendency to follow in the line of the conventional stage Irishman and Irishwoman, a creation never popular among Irish audiences, and now perhaps less so than ever’ (Freeman’s Journal). [77]

In Whitbread’s Irish historical melodramas: .. theatrical excitement, to be sure, usually derived from the same sources as in Boucicault’s dramas, and also a myriad of reasons for nationalist pride, the historical hero’s bravery and self-sacrifice being paramount among these. [78]

A detailed account of Whitebread’s historical melodramas ensures [77-86]

Twenty years later the aristocratic, wealthy Irish hero virtually disappeared from the Dublin stage, most likely because economic conditions in Ireland and labor movements made such a character something less than attractive. [83]

to combine oppressive government policy with such odious personal behaviour in these plays was, in effect, to foster nationalist sympathy and anti-English sentiment. No reconcilation or myth of optimism here. [85]

The closing scene of Ulster Hero elicited reviews which spoke of the negligible change in English conduct towards Ireland and her other gallant foes (meaning the Boers). [86]

Englishman Walter Howard’s The Wearing O’ the Green (1898) had the usual featured parts for the Irish Comic Lead and his female counterpart, following the Boucicault-Whitbread formula with the important addition of a revived Stage Irishman; unlike Whitbread’s plays - produced in UK in Liverpool and Glasgow only - Howard’s appeared in London. [87]. Watt remarks: Because of their concomitant anti-British bias and generally serious tone, Whitbread’s plays, to my knowledge, were not produced in London. [86-87]

That Boucicault’s plays were still popular at this time may attest to the power of the old ‘classic’,to the attractiveness of a trip back into a less complicated past. .. The Octaroon and The Shaughraun ran for a dozen performances each in 1923. [87]

‘emancipatory nationalism’ [87] .. toppled Victorian stereotypes of Irish nationalists as criminals, effeminate traitors, or inchoate brutes .. Irish drama at the Queen’s offered a mixture of ideological and theatrical pleasures that Dublin popular audiences at the turn of the century could not resist. [PARA] Yes, there was an Irish drama before Yeats ...[88]

 

Chp. 3: Joyce: Sexuality, Artistry and the Popular Theater

.. contradiction between romantic displacement of physicality and desire, and a nascent unruly modernism with its more expansive representation of human sexuality .. [89

The obvious parodic dimensions of conflicting styles of narration in Oxen of the sun chapter aside, such a plurality of styles also tends to place frames of perspective within Ulysses under erasure, marking each frame as incomplete and temporary .. [and] this deconstructive process .. forc[es] .. its audience to operate selectively on the representation before it. [92]

.. oppositions such as Joyce as author/Joyce as consumer, Dublin as refelcted reality/Dublin as authorial construct are inevitably placed in tension. [92]

Molly &c.: The theatrical origins of Joyce’s revision of the home

.. Joyce’s trips to the theatre .. he discovered in the drama he viewed a concomitant valorization of a sexuality (and attendant social iconoclasm) he could no longer deny - sexuality as overdetermined symbol for a variety of rebellions for which Joyce had sympathy - and representations of the artistry to which he aspired as above matters of the body. [93]

Stanislaus Joyce: “For my brother the drama has become a thing of supreme importance, what the Mass had been” (MBK 87). [93]

A revolt from the repressive laws of the Church and the tyranny of the father, representations common to Fallen Woman plays and Joyce’s early writings, invariably meant an acceptance of the demands of the body [94]

Watt discusses illustrative dramas such as Sudermann’s Magda, adaptations of Dumas fils’s La Dame aux Camelia, fitch’s adapt. of Daudet’s novel Sapho (1899), Jones’s Mrs Dane’s Defence (1900), and his Case of Rebellious Susan (1894) and The Liars (1897), also Pinero Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith.

Of the Sudermann play, Magda, Joyce told Stanislaus, ‘The subject of the play is genius breaking out in the home and against the home. You needn’t have gone to see it. It’s going to happen in your own house” (MBK 87). [95] And see Stephen Hero: “My mind rejects the whole present social order and Christianity - home, the recognised virtues, classes of life, and religious doctrines. How could I like the idea of home?” [96]

Magda serves as the primary example: she refuses to marry the father of her child, driving her father to violent action and a heart attack. [see 98] All of this flows into Joyce’s critique of the marriage institution.

Magda brought the New Woman theme and character to the Irish stage. Surprisingly, it was better received there than in New York.

In this respect, the relationship between Molly and Magda is most evident. As Molly complains, men can “go and get whatever they like from anything at all with a skirt on it and were not to ask questions”(18:298-99). .. [PARA] Both women .. are no longer girls, and both harbordesires appropriate to their maturity. [101]

Plates: no. 20, Martin Havey as Sydney Carton in Freeman Willand and Frederick Langbridge’s The Only Way. [between 102 & 103].

The Joyce family - and Molly - see Tree’s Trilby, an adaptation of George du Maurier’s novel. [102-103]

.. the Nethersole kiss .. [107]

Joyce’s radicalisation of the home - instanced by Bloom’s asking for breakfast - is in line with his intake from the New Woman plays on the Queen’s stage. [see 109]

Watt traces the opposition home/sexual freedom, ad home/artistic freedom through the stories of Dubliners,and finds it repeated in Ulysses from Nestor - Devorgilla - to Ithaca. [110f.]

Of Molly: she has bridled against a sterile marriage and challenged the repressive institutions whcih in the theatre Dubliners and we) despise. In the process, she has transformed the home, a locus of patriarchal and repressive ideology, into a foreign enough place where Stephen might very well feel at home. [112].

Artist and Spirituality

Molly oocupies some middle ground between The Bath of the Nymph and the smudged pages of Ruby: Pride of the Ring .. between art and crudely melodramatic variety of soft-core pornography .. The ‘great conflict’ in which I am interested is waged between the artist and sexuality .. the ways in which [they] were braided on the late Victorian stage [113]

.. commodification and privatization of forms of culture .. [114]

Joyce: “At those moments the soft speeches of Claude Melnotte rose to his lips and eased his unrest (AP 99)” Stephen’s Claude Melnotte is a character in Bulwer’s Lady of Lyons (1838), constantly revived, and seen by the Joyce family in Dublin, 1897. [116] Vide, Melnotte’s professions of adoration of Pauline.

Watt stresses the opposition of profane/romantic love in A Portrait [116-117], and also in Ulysses, where Bloom searches for the anus of the goddess in a musical ambience of Handel’s Messiah.

.. instauration of polarities .. [118]

Watt argues - with Bonnie Kime Scott et al. - that the young Joyce preferred romantic and the older Joyce sexually realistic women. He considers that this movement was articulated in terms of his taste for and experience of the Edwardian stage. [see 118-119]

When We Dead Awaken, discussed [119]. In his essay, Joyce quotes Rubek reason, expressed to Irene, why he was unable to touch her: “I was still young, then, Irene. I was obsessed with the idea that if I touched you, if I desired you sensually, my mind would be profaned and I would be unable to achieve what I was striging to create. And I still think there is some truth in that.” Irene counters: “the work of art first .. the human being second!”

Joyce and his father saw Eleonora Duse in D’Annunzio’s La Citta Morta (1896) and La Gioconda (1899). Watt notes that both Stanislaus Joyce and Richard Ellmann ‘slightly err’ in recounting the plays he say in London in May 1900. Joyce burnt the poem he dedicated to Duse (MBK 186-87) [122] Joyce’s fascination with Duse in D’Annunzio roles, and his elction of her for Ibsen roles, is typical of his preference for “mystical, spiritual” (Scott) womanhood. [124]

.. La Gioconda, and for that matter, La Citta Morta concern issues very similar to those in Exiles, When We Dead Awaken, Pygmalion and Galatea, Hauptmann’s Michael Kramer, and others. [ 124] .. The struggle between the artist’s feelings of gratitude to his wife and a frenzied passion for his model, a passion inspirational of his greatest art, dominates the action of La Gioconda.

[SUMMARY of La Gioconda follows, delineating the sacrifice of the artist’s wife, Silvia, and her tragic abandonment when her husband returns to his model because he sculpts ‘bodies not souls’125-6]

.. the notion that physicality and artistry are inseparable - and that, if necessary, this inseparability must be sought outisde of marriage or the home if artistic inspiration is endangered- might very well explain Joyce’s abiding interest in D’Annunzio. La Citta Morta deals with similar themes and also with incest .. both La Gionconda and La Cita Morta locate artistry and sexuality as co-present [127]

With Nora he could be simultaneously inside and outside of conventional sexuality .. together they could ascend to Ibsenite heights in an avalanche of both desire and artistic inspiration [127]

Lengthy discussion of Duse’s non-gestural style in Sudermann’s Magda, and her later adaption of a more sculptural style in D’Annunzio’s plays. Watt: It was this distant, beautiful, and pained figure, I believe, that competed successfully with Mrs Campbell’s Magda and Nethersole’s Fanny to provide another representation of women by which the young Joyce was enormously intrigued. Insofar as this representation tended to assert the values of marriage, of wifely self-sacrifice, and of monogramous loyalty .. the immensely talented actess herself, it would seem, neutralised the young playgoer’s growing ideological objections to the very roles [‘womanly woman’] she assumed. [129]

Theatrical Spectatorship, Commodification, and narrative reconstruction in Nausicaa.

.. try to identify the dramatic and theatrical convnetions underlying both viewers’ spectatorship .. delineating the ways in which Bloom nd Gerty refashion each other into theatrical commodities. [130]

The equation of distance with romantic idealization - and proximity with both the everyday and the sensual - appears in much of Joyce’s writing, especially in the representation of love and youthful illusion. [131] With examples from Dubliners, A Portrait, and Giacomo. [132-33]

.. perspective and spatial relations of romantic drama .. iconographic conventions .. [132]

Gerty’s ‘reading’ of Bloom is inflected by her devotion to Martin harvey and the romantic roles he played so successfully in Dublin from 1899 to the end of World War I [see 130: ‘from Nausicaa, ‘she could see at once by his dark eyes and his pale intellectual face that he was a foreigner, the image of the photo she had seen of Martin Harvey, the matinee idol, only for the moustache which she preferred because she wasn’t stagestruck like Winny Rippingham (U 13:415-18)’ Molly has seen Harvey in The Only Way at the Theatre Royal: ‘I thought to myself afterwards it must be real love if a man gives up his life for her that way for nothing I suppose there are a few men like that left ... usually a bit foolish in the head (U 18:1055-61) [134] Harvey also appeared in Dublin in Boucicault’s Brothers, Bulwer’s Eugene Aram, a Napoleonic play, The Exile, and Hamlet in 1904 [135], and acted Sydney Carton in The Only Way a thousand times up to 1921. [136]

Mary C. King - Marxism plus: Bloom = ‘archetypal representation of the commodity world of capitalism .. loves to estimate market value .. &c. King regards the activation of objects in Nighttown as signaling commodity fetishism within Ulysses; moreover, the urban poverty of Circe serves as Joyces ‘evocation of the lumpenproletariat of a colonised city in Britain’s backyard, in which typhus and cholera were endemic and infant mortality exceeded that of the disease and famine-ridden Asiatic cities of her far-flung empires.’ in Benstock, ed. the Augmented Ninth. [133]

Bloom: to possess her - the statuesque female - is to ‘take the starch out of her (U 5:106)’. Here is precisely the paradox of late Victorian representations of the female body .. the motionless, ideal woman is, in her likeness to statuary, both glorified as a figure of perfection and contained, made a subaltern by the very gaze that extols her beauty.

 

4 Chp.: O’Casey’s Negotiations

O’Casey: “Now, on the eve of the New Year of 1962, Eire is going to flood the farms and firesides with rotten sights and sounds slaved from the dustbins of England and the garbage cans of America and call it all Culture!” (Under a Coloured Cap) [186].

Watts defines deconstruction by quoting J. Hillis Miller: ‘Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself.’ The text, then, is a self-consuming cultural artifact whcih moves towards final indeterminacy. .. Each oif O’Casey’s plays systematically topples itself, creating a vast chasm of uncertainty in what was once very solid ideological ground. [177]

Jack Clitheroe, the closest of O’Casey’s characters to Whitbread’s historical heroes, manages finally to die bravely for Ireland, but in the process tarnishes the tradition of historical figures which dominated the Dublin popular stage. [181]

The diminution and the incongruity of the Stage Irishman [Fluther and Joxer] .. O’Casey totally inverts the stereotype of the Wild Irish Boy .. in the green worlds of Irish comic melodrama, the Wild Irish Boy portects innocence, thwarts villains’ malevolence, and possesses wit anf vigor in abundance; in the public house of O’Casey’s Dublin, Fluther’s actions re conspicuously less heroic .. protecting the ‘innocence’ of a woman [Rosie] who conspicuously lacks any .. in carefully planed scheme, O’Casey systematically destroys the myths of comic reconciliation and heroism .. the character types most clearly derivative of 19th c. melodrama have also been denigrated .. mostly significantly the Stge Irishman and the historical hero [182-183]

Unlike popular history plays, O’Casey’s dramas include no Cathleen Ni Houlihans or Anne Devlins - in short no Mother Irelands leading their sons to historical heroism. No male historical heroes emerge either to challenge the pragmatism of Juno Boyle or Nora Clitheroe .. O’Casey finally opts for reality - hence the incompatibility of comic myth with modern Irish life - but also argues vehemently for life over deluded martyrdom. [185]

On Yeats and colleagues: “gods and half-gods .. their sneering, lofty conception of what they called culture .. was but a vain conceit in themselves which they used for their own encouragement in the pitiable welter of a small achievement (Autobiogs., 2:157) [186]

”Is the Ireland that is pouring to the picture houses, to the dance halls, to the football mathces, remembering with tear-dimmed eyes all that Easter Week stands for?” (Letters 1:170-170).

Watt ends with a peroration to the effect that a theatre with a serious social agenda can only succeed if ‘communicated by way of theatrical vehicles sensitive to and invigorated by popular convention’; and he cites Arden and D’Arcy, Friel, Anne Devlin, Van Morrison and the Chieftains (Irish Heartbeat, 1988) as examples. Mar geat. [187]

 

Chp. 5: Inside Popular Theatre

Overturning of peasant stereotypes in comical scenario of Friel’s The Communication Cord (1982). Watt goes on to make a study of Bernard MacLaverty’s Cal as a revision of the historical myth.

But MacLaverty like Friel and the Field Day Company are careful not to endorse the pastoral as an answer to contemporary ‘troubles’; as Cal realises not long after taking up residence in the cottage, people were dying everywhere for an Ireland ‘which never was and never would be.’ [191]

Friel’s Freedom of the City (1973); Anne Devlin’s Ourselves Alone (1985), and her Naming the Names (BBC 1986). [192-93]

[Compared with Hollywood] Irish melodrama .. has never abeted only a conservative project. .. most Irish melodrama, theatrical or filmic, seems to follow a paradoxically conservative and radical projectory at the same time [in] a “double movement of containment and resistance” (Stuart Hall) inherent in pop. cultural forms. [193]

Mike Hodges, A Prayer for the Dying (Goldwyn 1987), adaptation of Jack Higgins novel; John Ford Informer (1935); Carol Reed’s The Odd Man Out (1946); David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970); Cal, filmed by Pat O’Connor (1984)

The plot of A Prayer for the Dying (filmed by with Bob Hoskins and Liam Neeson) is hugely melodramatic.

END

[ back ]
 
[ top ]