Tinkers: Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller

Hardcover | August 16, 2009

byMary Burke

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The history of Irish Travellers is not analogous to that of the 'tinker', a Europe-wide underworld fantasy created by sixteenth-century British and continental Rogue Literature that came to be seen as an Irish character alone as English became dominant in Ireland. By the Revival, the tinkerrepresented bohemian, pre-Celtic aboriginality, functioning as the cultural nationalist counter to the Victorian Gypsy mania. Long misunderstood as a portrayal of actual Travellers, J.M. Synge's influential The Tinker's Wedding was pivotal to this 'Irishing' of the tinker, even as it acknowledgedthat figure's cosmopolitan textual roots. Synge's empathetic depiction is closely examined, as are the many subsequent representations that looked to him as a model to subvert or emulate. In contrast to their Revival-era romanticization, post-independence writing portrayed tinkers as alieninterlopers, while contemporaneous Unionists labelled them a contaminant from the hostile South. However, after Travellers politicized in the 1960s, more even-handed depictions heralded a querying of the 'tinker' fantasy that has shaped contemporary screen and literary representations of Travellersand has prompted Traveller writers to transubstantiate Otherness into the empowering rhetoric of ethnic difference. Though its Irish equivalent has oscillated between idealization and demonization, US racial history facilitates the cinematic figuring of the Irish-American Traveler as lovable 'whitetrash' rogue. This process is informed by the mythology of a population with whom Travelers are allied in the white American imagination, the Scots-Irish (Ulster-Scots). In short, the 'tinker' is much more central to Irish, Northern Irish and even Irish-American identity than is currentlyrecognised.

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The history of Irish Travellers is not analogous to that of the 'tinker', a Europe-wide underworld fantasy created by sixteenth-century British and continental Rogue Literature that came to be seen as an Irish character alone as English became dominant in Ireland. By the Revival, the tinkerrepresented bohemian, pre-Celtic aboriginality...

Mary Burke is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and Queen's University Belfast, and was the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Keough-Naughton Fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2003-04. She joined the University of Connecticut as an Assistant Professor of English i...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.1 inPublished:August 16, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199566461

ISBN - 13:9780199566464

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Irish and British literary antecedents of the Revival tinker2. Synge's negotiation of constructs of the tinker3. Playboys of the Eastern World: Synge's bohemian tinkers and pre-Celtic Islanders4. Reaffirming sedentary values: The tinker in post-Revival drama and prose5. The end of the 'tinker': Irish writing after Traveller politicization6. Screening the Travel(l)erConclusionBibliographyBiographical notesGlossary of termsIndex