Representing Éire : the transmission of the Deirdre legend from the Middle Ages to 1910
This thesis analyses the transmission of the Deirdre legend in adaptations from the earliest written sources to the versions of the writers of the early twentieth century Irish Literary Revival. Its aim is to trace the way that the refashioning of the story is informed by the cultural and political contexts within which each writer was working, as well as the more personal and aesthetic motivations behind the various adaptations. The texts chosen for close study represent key moments in the transmission process, both for their treatment of the legend and for the specific context to which this treatment responds. After an introduction dealing with the medieval versions, the thesis is divided into six chapters which chart these key moments in chronological order, ending with J. M. Synge's play Deirdre of the Sorrows, published in 1910. Part of the conclusion is given over to tracing the legend's fate in adaptations since the advent of Irish independence. The chronological framework adopted allows a new perspective to emerge which reveals that the Deirdre legend provided a means of reflecting on the various cultural and political conflicts in which Irish identity has been implicated. The thesis demonstrates that the ancient Irish material was used to valorise the writers' contemporary Irish or Scottish culture at times when this culture was under threat, and that following independence the connection between Deirdre and Eire largely disappeared. The particular use to which the legend was put therefore depended on two factors: the specific conflicts with which each writer was engaging and the various connections which they perceived between the present and the mythical past.