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Excerpt: "A striking feature in Irish culture since at least the late 19th century is an impulse to define what constitutes "Irish," seemingly to establish the qualifications of those who claim to be Irish. It is an impulse that manifests itself in literature as diverse as George Bernard Shaw's play, john Buff's Other Island, James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Seamus Heaney's Station Island. The same impulse is at work in the public lives of figures like Oscar Wilde, who while exiled created a fascinating persona for himself; Patrick O'Brian, who refashioned himself as an Irishman despite no Irish background at all; or Martin McDonagh, who has only summered in Ireland but who represents himself as an Irish playwright writing about Ireland. One's proximity to Ireland, whether through heritage or other association, is used both to embrace identity and to gain distance from it."


Originally published as chapter one of Buffoonery in Irish Drama: Staging Twentieth-Century Post-Colonial Stereotypes. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2009.