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Title: J.M. Synge, modernism, and political protest
Author: Hewitt, S. E.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the works of the Irish writer J.M. Synge (1871-1909). By first seeking to define and examine the tenets of Synge’s artistic, spiritual and political value system, and by considering his works in a broadly chronological order, this research shows that Synge’s writings (and his trajectory into modernism) were a reaction to both literary and social modernity. Over the course of his career, Synge’s foundational value system, or ‘creed’, was subjected to a number of shocks by his encounters with the modernisation of rural Ireland and the political climate of the cultural Revival, which led him to a continuous literary experimentation. Ultimately, this thesis argues that Synge’s work, as it moves towards an increasingly modernist aesthetic, can be understood as an act of both literary and political protest. One of the main innovations of this thesis is its methodology. Throughout, archival materials are used in order to uncover the processes of authorial revision undertaken prior to the publication of Synge’s texts, showing how he edited, glossed, and subverted his previous work in line with his changing views on modernisation and on his earlier, more overt Romanticism. In addition to this, each chapter of this thesis explores Synge’s composition alongside his contemporary reading materials, showing the influence of various writers and broader discourses on the works discussed. In doing so, the thesis uncovers Synge’s interest in occultism, his engagement with various socialist works, his reading in evolutionary theory, and his later reaction against early eugenic nationalisms, and demonstrates the close relationship between his published and performed works and these discourses. Furthermore, in showing the importance of socialist politics to Synge’s literary development, this thesis demonstrates how several concerns typical of modernism (such as occult spirituality, degeneration, and eugenics) are approached by a leftist writer, and how left-wing politics manifest in early modernist literature. By tracing Synge’s ongoing reaction to modernisation, and his trajectory into literary modernism, this thesis explores in detail the contested relationship between Revivalism and modernism in the Irish context, and thus, through a study of one of Ireland’s major dramatists, lays the groundwork for further scholarly exploration of the interplay between these two movements. Finally, by exploring Synge’s afterlife in modernist writings, both as a modernising impulse and as a figure of modernist protest, this thesis suggests ways in which the work of later modernists might be reassessed in light of Synge’s work.
Supervisor: Arrington, L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral