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Domestic Troubles: Tragedy and the Northern Ireland Conflict
Cleary, Joe
Domestic tragedy, conventionally associated with the sensibility of the emergent metropolitan middle classes, has never been held in very high esteem by Marxian critics. In recent times, many critics on the Left have tended to regard the whole genre of tragedy, with its supposedly elitist sensibility and leanings toward an apocalyptic conception of history, in a rather dim light. It was not always so, of course. Marx shared the enthusiasm of his age and class for classical Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, and some of the greatest Marxist cultural critics of this century, such as Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, and Raymond Williams, have written about tragedy in quite positive terms. Here, I want to look at three dramas, all of a tragic character or design, that deal with the conflict in Northern Ireland: St. John Ervine’s Mixed Marriage (1911), which can be considered a domestic tragedy; Sam Thompson’s Over the Bridge (1960), which, although set in the more “masculine” space of the Belfast shipyards, tells a story about the way sectarianism impedes the development of class politics in Northern Ireland that is quite similar to Ervine’s; and The Riot Act: [End Page 501] A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone (1984) by Tom Paulin, which adapts one of the great Greek tragedies to the Northern situation. When considered in conjunction with each other, these plays demonstrate some of the different ways in which various types of tragic drama utilize the family and the distinction between public and private spheres as well as, more generally, suggesting some of the ways in which different types of tragic narrative structure our broad perceptions of class and sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.
Keyword(s): English, Media & Theatre Studies; Domestic Troubles; Tragedy; Northern Ireland; Conflict
Publication Date:
Type: Journal article
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Institution: Maynooth University
Citation(s): Cleary, Joe (1999) Domestic Troubles: Tragedy and the Northern Ireland Conflict. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 98 (3). pp. 501-537. ISSN 0038-2876
Publisher(s): Duke University Press
File Format(s): other
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First Indexed: 2020-01-31 06:40:31 Last Updated: 2020-04-02 07:12:39