Representations of cultural identity influenced by historical conditions in Brian Friels Translations.

Essay by 20501797College, UndergraduateA-, September 2009

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With reference to Translations discuss how the representations of a cultural identity are influenced by the historical conditions in which they are produced.

Brian Friel is an Irish playwright and a founding member of the Field Day Theatre Company. Friel's plays most often centre around colonial relations between Ireland and Britain, and although his plays are of significant artistic value, it is Friel's approach to dealing with the volatile political and cultural history of Ireland that has over the years drawn intense debate and received considerable praise (the former being closer to the object of the Field Day Company). The Field Day Theatre Company began as a collaboration between Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea, and worked to create what was termed a 'fifth province' by Irish journal The Crane Bag; that is, 'a cultural space from which a new discourse of unity might emerge'. Translations is possibly the most prominent of Friel's works, published in 1980 in the midst of violent sectarian conflicts known as 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland.

The play is set in Donegal in 1833, at a time when the British were beginning to make deeper inroads into the country as part of the Ordnance Survey. It uses the theme of 'translations', in terms of language, culture and identity, as a means of considering the ability of a people to move with the times, whilst still retaining a sense of themselves. The audience is urged to reflect on their ideas of language and culture and the consequences of change in terms of the Irish identity. Friel explicitly links his representation of the Irish in the early 1800s to the present day (1980s) Ireland. As a result Translations is a play in which context is not only a feature but of central importance, and the motivations...