Misrepresentation and Female Experience: Lady Gregory's Critique of the Irish Literary Revival



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Lady Gregory is often read as a significant figure and proponent of the Irish Literary Revival. However, this thesis analyzes eight of Lady Gregory’s plays for the Abbey Theatre and examines the ways she critiques the Revival and anticolonial mainstream Irish nationalism. Chapter One analyzes Hyacinth Halvey, Spreading the News, and The Rising of the Moon. This chapter argues that Lady Gregory critiques the Catholic Church and colonial law’s distortion of reality through the ideologies that they perpetuate. Lady Gregory also demonstrates the problems with harnessing Ireland’s folk traditions and mythological past for political purposes. Chapter Two examines the plays Cathleen ni Houlihan and The Gaol Gate, which explore the ways that the Revival misrepresents and overlooks the narratives of Irish peasant women in order to promote a specific political agenda. In The Gaol Gate, Lady Gregory asserts the importance of representing peasant women’s material histories fairly and explores keening as a possibility for alternative female expression. Chapter Three investigates Lady Gregory’s representation of women in Grania, Kincora, and Dervorgilla and the ways that these plays represent the past. Using the theories of Eve Sedgwick, this chapter examines ways that Lady Gregory explores possibilities for Irish women to defy gender expectations. These plays also resist the Revival’s practice of idealizing women, instead recording the prioritization of the personal over the political. Ultimately, this thesis proposes that while Lady Gregory participated in the Irish Literary Revival and the Abbey Theatre’s nationalist agenda, she was critical of reviving a past that depended on misrepresenting and oppressing women.



Irish Drama, Gregory, Isabella Augusta, 20th century, feminism, nationalism, Abbey Theatre, Irish Literary Revival, Ideology