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Title: Those swans, remember : Graeco-Celtic relations in the work of J.M. Synge
Author: Currie, Arabella
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The Celts, as a distinct and culturally-unified people, are a social construction as much as an historical reality, endowing Celtic antiquity with a certain availability of outline, and a certain scope. When the Celtic world began to be scrutinised in the eighteenth century, its borders could, therefore, be filled with concepts drawn from other antiquities. Classical antiquity, and particularly its Greek variety, was a vital coordinate in this navigation of the past. This thesis explores the history of these Graeco-Celtic negotiations. Using Reinhart Koselleck's theory of asymmetric counterconcepts, it calculates the precise angles of the relation between Greek and Celt in antiquarianism, comparative mythology and folklore, Classics and Celtic Studies, from the early eighteenth and to the late nineteenth centuries. The thesis then puts forward one particular writer as an original and unique interpreter of the tradition of Graeco-Celtic relations, the Irish playwright J.M. Synge. Through archival research, it demonstrates quite how deeply Synge was immersed in this scholarly tradition; in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first years of the twentieth, he followed a deliberate path of reading in antiquarianism, Classics, Celtic Studies, comparative linguistics, mythology and folklore. It then argues that Synge transformed such Graeco-Celtic scholarship into a formidable authorial strategy, in his prose account of his travels on the Aran Islands and his famous, controversial plays. By identifying this strategy, it reveals how Synge's work exploits the continued presence and power of antiquity. Most studies of the reception of Greek antiquity in Irish literature in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries assume a straightforward, inherent connection between Ireland and Greece. This thesis complicates that connection by identifying the powerful history of Graeco-Celtic relations and, particularly, its transformation at the hands of J.M. Synge. This will allow for scrutiny of what actually happens at the crux between Greece and Ireland in literary texts.
Supervisor: Macintosh, Fiona Sponsor: Wolfson Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of scholarship ; W.B. Yeats ; J.M. Synge ; Classical reception ; Hubert Butler ; Irish Studies ; Intellectual history