Revival: traditional medicine in the works of W. B. Yeats, Augusta Gregory, and J. M. Synge

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Walker-Dunseith, Holly May
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University College Cork
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This thesis is an investigation of the representations of traditional medicine and healing practices in Revival-era literature, with a specific concentration on the works of three authors: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Lady Augusta Gregory (1852- 1932), and John Millington Synge (1871-1909). Looking at the Revival period (c.1889-1922) from a medical perspective, this study links writing concerning healing and healers to the wider historical, political and social forces at work in Irish society. Folk medicine and cures, both as image and metaphor, are central to the literature of what has become known as the Revival period in Ireland. As indigenous methods of healing, folk medical practices have a metaphorical significance as well. The Irish Literary Revival can be seen as a resuscitation of sorts: a cultural process that was framed in explicitly medical terms, which sought to breathe new life into the country’s past. Traditional medicine was a distinctive area of Irish life and practice that could be woven into Irish prose, drama, and poetry as part of a project to bring to light the country’s overlooked folk ways. The deployment of folk medicine, healers, and cures as an image, though, had a wider metaphorical significance that is inextricable from the political tensions at work in Ireland in the decades before the foundation of the Free State. Literature that represents traditional medicine at times gestures towards the possibility of a culture and nation in the act of healing itself from illness, and at times questions these nationalist discourses.
Irish revival , Traditional medicine , W. B. Yeats , Augusta Gregory , J. M. Synge , Biddy Early , Bridget Ruane
Walker-Dunseith, H. M. 2023. Revival: traditional medicine in the works of W. B. Yeats, Augusta Gregory, and J. M. Synge. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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