Forthcoming…Modernity, Community, and Place in Brian Friel’s Drama

Richard Rankin Russell

Cloth $39.95s    |    978-0-8156-3331-0    |    2013

ebook 978-0-8156-5234-2

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“A deeply thoughtful, comprehensively informed study of the greatest living playwright of the English-speaking world. From now on, anyone who wants to write about Brian Friel will need to take this book into account.”

—Terry Teachout, drama critic, the Wall Street Journal


“Modernity, Community, and Place in Brian Friel’s Drama is written by a scholar with keen insight into contemporary Irish and Northern Irish culture. . . . His evocative readings of such plays as Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Faith Healer, and The Freedom of the City have significantly revised my understanding of this distinguished body of drama. Simply put, it’s a terrific book.”

—Stephen Watt, author of Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing


Modernity, Community, and Place in Brian Friel’s Drama shows how the leading Irish playwright explores a series of dynamic physical and intellectual environments, charting the impact of modernity on rural culture and on the imagined communities he strives to create between readers and script, actors and audience. While many critics have noted in passing his affinity for local culture and community, criticism of Friel has largely failed to examine the profound implications of his varying environments—ranging from rural and urban places, to public, built spaces, to the personal spaces of the body and mind—and to integrate that interest with a comprehensive theory of his drama. Drawing on the work of thinkers such as the phenomenologist Edward Casey and the environmental and literary critic Wendell Berry, successive chapters analyze Friel’s five best-known and most critically acclaimed major plays across roughly a quarter-century—Philadelphia, Here I Come!, The Freedom of the City, Faith Healer, Translations, and Dancing at Lughnasa—in the context of his place-centered drama.


1.         Introduction

2.         Mediascape, Harvest, Crash:  Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Gar O’Donnell’s Modernity

3.         “Placing the Dead of the Troubles:  The Imagined Ghostly Community of The Freedom of the City

4.         Faith Healer:  From the Geopathic Shudder to the Embrace of Ritualized, Performative Place

5.         Translations:  Lamenting and Accepting Modernity

6.         Dancing at Lughnasa:  Placing and Recreating Memory

7.         Conclusion