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Book cover of "A Man who does not exist": The Irish Peasant in the Work of W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge

"A Man who does not exist": The Irish Peasant in the Work of W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge

by Deborah Fleming

Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Pages: 240
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780472105816






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Overview of "A Man who does not exist": The Irish Peasant in the Work of W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge

"A man who does not exist" is about just that- the Irish peasant as an imaginative construct. Yeats and Synge were two of the writers who established the terms of an argument that has affected all subsequent Irish politics as well as literature. The Revivalists' task was to counter English stereotypes- the cavorting, drunken "Paddy" who, while entertaining and colorful, was not to be trusted to govern himself- and to provide a cultural context for the foundation of a new country. To write about "peasants" was to give life to old stories and thus to create a new national consciousness.

Drawing from Irish folklore, Yeats created lyrical, romantic peasant figures, while Synge recreated the language he heard on the Aran Islands and in County Wicklow in order to develop his comic and tragic characters. Although of different political convictions, both turned to Irish folk culture in order to find a tradition, almost a religion, upon which to build a new literary movement.

In "A man who does not exist" Deborah Fleming examines from a postcolonial perspective the cultural, historical, and literary contexts in which Yeats and Synge developed their peasant characters. By showing that both Yeats and Synge presented the dark side of rural life along with the lyrical, she defends them against the charge that their portraits are mere idealizations. Further, her analysis demonstrates the historical, anthropological, and political relevance of the two writers' works. An appendix contains additional information about the history of agrarian Ireland.

This book contributes to the ongoing cultural and political discourse about Irish national identity. It will have wide appeal among those who study Ireland and its literature and will also interest scholars of postcolonial literature more generally.

Deborah Fleming is Assistant Professor of English, Ashland University.

Synopsis of "A Man who does not exist": The Irish Peasant in the Work of W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge

A unique perspective on Yeats's and Synge's contributions to the literature of revolutionary Ireland

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