Conflicting Counter-Hegemonies?: The Dramaturgy of James Connolly and Sean O' Casey

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/

Abstract

This paper examines the radicalism of James Connolly through the optic of theatre and performance. In particular, I test his only extant play-script—written shortly before his death—against the hostile critique of the dramatist Seán O’Casey. Despite the biographical similarities between these two men, O’Casey expressed deep disappointment with the climax of Connolly’s career as a labor agitator, organizer and revolutionary socialist, criticizing him for having travelled from socialism to nationalism, a journey which O’Casey had seemingly made in reverse. I offer a rereading of Connolly’s play to show that the situation is more complex than that envisaged by O’Casey. Although his dramaturgy is indebted to the nationalism of Yeats and Gregory, Connolly is eager to distance his play from the economic and social ordering endorsed by those Abbey Theatre directors. Furthermore, this essay subjects O’Casey’s own critique to revision in the light of his own later playwriting. By examining his little-known Oak Leaves and Lavender I show that O’Casey was—like Connolly—ready to endorse military action in the name of nationalism, if such action provided the hope of ultimately advancing the cause of the left. The paper concludes with some reflections on O’Casey’s late endorsement of English and Welsh nationalisms, by considering how the expression of socialism in colonized Ireland (1890-1916) might contrast with the expression of socialism among expatriate or secondgeneration Irish men and women in wartime/post-war Britain (1939 onwards). I therefore finish by examining the work of the Connolly Association, the plays of Margaretta D’Arcy and John Arden, and genesis of The Dubliners’ 1970 LP, Revolution, to show how—as the twentieth century continued—the expression of Irish socialism may have continued to develop through contact with very different kinds of national sentiment.

Keywords

James Connolly, Seán O’Casey, theatre/performance, socialism, nationalism

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)