“That’s a grand story:” Reading J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World as a postnational allegory

Creative Commons License

Çimen R. , Ünlü Çimen E.

RumeliDE Dil ve Edebiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi, no.28, pp.508-521, 2022 (Refereed Journals of Other Institutions)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.29000/rumelide.1132593
  • Title of Journal : RumeliDE Dil ve Edebiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi
  • Page Numbers: pp.508-521


The concept of “national allegory” formulated in Fredric Jameson’s work on the third-world literatures has been the subject of much critical debate, especially in the context of postcolonial studies. The dispute surrounding the term is closely tied to Jameson’s controversial suggestions such as the view that “all” third-world literary texts inevitably fall into the category of “national allegory”. The “nation” in this sense provides the main conceptual framework out of which literary texts imbued with “allegorical resonances” develop by specifically addressing the nation state. Jameson’s formulation acquires further significance when it is reciprocally held with his concept of the “political unconscious”, which refers to the implicit political aspect behind creative works. Jameson suggests that artistic works are the products of unconsciously felt political and cultural conditions laid out by latent historical and economic realities. J.M Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World lends itself to a Jamesonian reading in that the Irish efforts to achieve independence from British rule are transmuted into the dramatic world of the play in the form of an Oedipal tension between a father and a son. However, the play does not put forward a simplistic allegory of the nation since the text itself avoids reproducing a picture of a clear-cut nationhood. This essay argues that Synge’s play addresses a “postnational” condition transcending the militant nationalist ideologies and produces a “postnational allegory” in which the suggestive background points at a new rationale for defining the nation with a call for imagining a nomadic “beyond”.