Forefront of research Miki Iwata

From Yeats and Synge to Sheridan Father-and-Son
Research on Irish Drama

Ireland, Dublin, Abbey Theatre

In July, 2012 the Olympic Games were held in London. This was the third Olympic Games in London, following the London Olympic Games in 1908 and 1948. Japan was not a participating nation in London in the 1908 Olympic Games (Japan’s first participation was in Stockholm at the 1912 Olympic Games) and, in 1948, Japan was not allowed to make an Olympic appearance because of being a defeated nation. It was at the 2012 Olympic Games where Japan’s athletes competed for the first time in London. A great many people must have visited England and London from Japan.

Using this opportunity, let’s look at Ireland, a neighboring nation of England to the west across the Irish Sea.

As for Ireland, Japanese people may think of writers such as Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) who wrote “Gulliver’s Travels,” Oscar Wild (1854-1900) who wrote “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) who wrote “Pygmalion,” William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) who wrote “The Celtic Twilight,” James Joyce (1882-1941) who wrote “Ulysses” and “Dubliners,” etc.

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), who emigrated to France and wrote “En Attendant Godot,” is also one of these Irish writers. Yeats, Shaw and Beckett were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923, 1925 and 1969, respectively.

The nation’s name of Ireland comes from the English language, but, in Irish language, its name is written “Eire” with the national motto of “Eire go deo (Ireland forever).”

The Celts arrived in Ireland around 265 B.C. and dominated the island. Originally, they spoke Gaelic (the Celtic language) and literature written in vernacular Gaelic progressed in the 9-12 centuries.

However, the Norman invasion of Ireland began in the latter 12th century and, by 1171, Ireland became controlled by Henry II. In 1541, Henry VIII was declared King of Ireland, and the number of the settlers from England increased. In 1652, Cromwell colonized Ireland, and, in 1801, it was annexed by England.

It was in the 20th century when Ireland began to become independent from England. In 1922, the 26 southern counties seceded and established the Irish Free State. In 1937, a new constitution came into force, Ireland was renamed Eire, and it became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1949, Eire withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations and declared itself as the Republic of Ireland.

It is about a one and a half hour flight from the capital city of Dublin to London. There is no passport check for entry or departure. Dublin is a city with a flavor of literature and was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. There are many historical theaters, such as Gaiety Theatre, Abbey Theatre, and Gate Theatre within walking distance.

Associate Professor Miki Iwata is focusing on Irish-English literature, and in particular, on drama. And within the context that Ireland was a British colony over a long time, she has been studying how Irish playwrights handed down English, the language they were compelled to use for cultural assimilation, on the stage.