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This is Whose Story? A Re-evaluation of John Millington Synge's Primitivism in The Aran Islands


This is Whose Story? A Re-evaluation of John Millington Synge's Primitivism in The Aran Islands

Rayburn, Geoffrey (2011) This is Whose Story? A Re-evaluation of John Millington Synge's Primitivism in The Aran Islands. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis considers how the Anglo-Irish writer John Millington Synge idealizes primitive life in his seminal work and travelogue, The Aran Islands. I discuss how Synge's representation of the Aran Islands – three islands off the west coast of Ireland, widely considered a repository of ancient Irish culture – finds its model in both a pastoral conception of primitive cultures found in classical and Revivalist literature, and in the evolutionist thinking of late nineteenth century anthropology. The result is a hybrid cultural representation of a specific Irish culture area that at once idealizes the primitive, and at the same time raises alarms to its inconsistency. Chapter one discusses Aran primitivism – or, the idealization of the primitive life Synge envisioned on the islands – as a genre of literature as well as a practice of anthropology, in a summation of the historical, literary, scientific and political influences behind Synge's propensity to empathize with the Aran community's pre-modern sociocultural values. I also show how Synge's primitivism has influenced other representations of Aran written by islanders themselves. In chapter two, my analysis of The Aran Islands illustrates how weather and gender determine Synge's representation of Aran as either a pastoral culture area of community and environmental congeniality, or as what I call a prototypical culture area where the savage elements of Aran life are depicted. In chapter three, I argue that Synge's primitivism ultimately begins to unravel when he transcribes the islanders' stories and letters into The Aran Islands, thereby giving the islanders opportunities to negotiate the production of their own culture with the Revivalist author.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > English
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Rayburn, Geoffrey
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Date:12 January 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Kenneally, Michael
Keywords:Aran Islands Synge Anglo-Irish Revival J.M. Synge Yeats W.B. Yeats Grania Emily Lawless Lady Gregory
ID Code:7050
Deposited On:09 Jun 2011 15:05
Last Modified:04 Nov 2016 23:36

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