'All women are exiles' says the playwright and critic Hélène Cixous. Since James Joyce named exile as one of the conditions of his artistic life it has become associated with Irish writing. The distance exile implies invites an association, in turn, with alienation. However, Seamus Deane argues that while modern Irish literature as a whole 'registers alienation, it is not a literature of alienation'. This comment has a particular resonance for Irish women's writing, and for women playwrights. If women are, as Cixous suggests, already exiles in their own land, how does alienation characterize their work; how might their work be a literature of alienation? The boundaries around Irish women's realities define containment as a form of exile: exile from self-expression, from self-determination. Only the crossing of a boundary makes that boundary visible. How does the work of Teresa Deevy and Marina Carr cross boundaries, and how do those crossings take shape in performance?
Irish plays by women in the 1930s reflect a high register of female alienation which is most thoroughly expressed in the work of Teresa Deevy. Deevy’s plays register alienation; but, in the sense that they form a corpus of work expressive of an occluded reality, kept out of the canon of Irish theatrical history, they are also a dramaturgy of alienation. In contemporary Irish theatre the work of Marina Carr pushes the boundaries of theatrical representation to the limit before crossing them to reveal a passionate enactment of exile and alienation.
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