ABSTRACT. This essay aims at demonstrating that Brian Friel’s play Translations (1980) focuses on the palimpsestic nature of mapping a conquered territory. In the play cartography is intrinsically connected to the multilayered relationship between language and identity as well as to that between the colonizer and the colonized. The play is set in 1833, when the English government was strengthening its domination of Ireland through various measures, focusing on the moment when several English officers are sent to remap a small rural area and have to find new English placenames for the geographic formations there. The local community is represented in the play by the master of a hedge-school and his adult students. The interactions between the two groups, the English officers, on the one hand, and the local Irish people, on the other hand, illustrate Irish-English negotiations that have relevance for the twentieth century Irish Troubles, pointing to the clash between nationalists and loyalists. Viewed as a text that illuminates the theme of language dispossession, the play also insists on education and its (de)colonizing effects.

Keywords: Brian Friel; Irish drama; palimpsest; cartography; language dispossession; colonization

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Ovidius University, Faculty of Letters,
Constanta, Romania

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