After History: Famine Plays of an Gorta Mór and the Holodomor.
Abstract: The extraordinarily divisive nature of famine has inspired few plays
that respond to these devastating crises. Drawing on text and performance analysis as well
as personal interviews, this dissertation examines plays that represent Ireland's
an Gorta Mór and Ukraine's
Holodomor. This dissertation addresses the following
questions: How does drama contribute to or challenge current ... read morenotions of the efficacy of
famine narratives? How can the famine play expand our ecological awareness of famine in a
non-metaphorical sense, in terms of place and food systems? Chapter One establishes context
for the relative absence of dramatic responses to an Gorta
Mór. An analysis of the melodramatic tensions throughout the production of
popular dramatist Hubert O'Grady's The Famine demonstrates a
characteristic ambiguity in Famine representation. An analysis of W.B. Yeats's
The Countess Cathleen follows, exploring dramaturgical
concerns relative to the materiality of the crisis. Chapter Two considers the development
of the modern famine play in tandem with growing historiographical interest in the event,
especially its agricultural context. Famine by Tom Murphy is a
powerful counterpoint to the argument that the Famine defies representation. Chapter Three
explores educational and ecological theatre pieces within contemporary Ireland, such as
schoolteacher Jim Minogue's play The Flight to Grosses Île and
Deirdre Hines' environmentally apocalyptic Ghost Acreage at Vixen
Time. In Chapter Four, I assert the importance of an urgent field of study,
drama of the Holodomor. The Ukrainian "terror famine"
historiography's dependence on oral testimony is analyzed in light of the Ukraine's
historically metatheatrical relationship with food in particular. After considering the
controversial productions of early Soviet Ukrainian drama, this chapter examines two plays,
Bohdan Boychuk's Holod and Natal'ia Vorozhbit's Royal
Shakespeare Company-commissioned play, The Grain Store,
highlighting their overt depiction of the effects of starvation on communities and
individuals. Theatrical representation of famine is innovative, problematic, and
unequivocally ambitious. Ultimately, this analysis of representative plays from the late
nineteenth to the early twenty-first century not only extends the documentation of the
plays of Irish and Ukrainian playwrights heretofore overlooked, but also determines the
ecological significance and dramaturgical potential of the "famine play."
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Downing Cless.
Committee: Laurence Senelick, Barbara Grossman, and Marjorie Howes.
Keywords: Theater, Modern history, and Agriculture.read less