21.6 x 13.8 cm viii, 209 pp. 1982 Irish Literary Studies series (ISSN 0140-895X) volume 11
J. M. Synge’s plays have often been regarded as folk drama, but this study considers them from a new literary perspective. It stresses the importance of the playwright’s studies with two medievalists at the Sorbonne, Professors Henri d’Arbois de Jubainville and Louis Petit de Julleville, and makes, for the first time, a full examination of the various uses he made of medieval material. This is shown to contain grotesque motifs which accommodate both Synge’s inclusive antithetical vision and the Rabelaisian note in Irish peasant life, as he perceived it. Toni O’Brien Johnson also shows that the use of Hiberno-English language structures reinforces the clash inherent in the grotesque in Synge’s plays.
This book shows the operation of the dramatist’s dualist aesthetic through the copresence in his work of what is repulsive and sublime, cruel and noble, violent and heroic, pitiless and beautiful. It also emphasises the prominent role played by bodily life and the degenerative aspects of old age, death, and decay in Synge’s work.