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Since Carl Jung's theory of archetypes and Joseph Campbell's application of such ideas to the journey of the hero, scholars have noted treatments of the journey myth in a wealth of texts. Lady Augusta Gregory, a writer well acquainted with myth and its uses, peopled her plays with women on journeys. Because Gregory steeped herself in Celtic folklore, collecting and translating from Irish to English the stories recounted by local Irish people, we may certainly expect that she would understand the way in which myth uses patterns and touches the universal. However, some feminist critics question whether myth can ever function positively for the female writer or character. These critics argue that it is a closed patriarchal construction and that women must turn to fiction to write the female life adventure or journey. Certainly Gregory twisted folktales and myth to suit her purposes, placing her work in the fictional realm that certain feminists claim as more productive for telling the life stories of women. However, perhaps it is time to challenge the facile notion that the journey of the hero archetype is strictly male and that the feminine journey is essentially different and cannot follow the myth. In this essay, I shall explore the ways in which Gregory confirms and challenges both the universal archetypal journey of the hero and the feminist critique. By focusing on three texts that represent different styles in which she worked, I hope to suggest that they establish what is her pattern for the feminine journey. I will focus on the following three plays: the folk drama, The Gaol Gate with the mother and young wife (both named Mary) of the off-stage prisoner; the Celtic myth play Grania with its titular noble woman; and the Christian myth drama The Story Brought by Brigit with its saintly Brigit. Each play contains a real death and symbolic hell; each requires that the women journey. However, their reasons, as well as their individual gains, suggest the particularity of the feminine journey. Ultimately, I argue that Lady Gregory's work marks out a middle road where the woman is both hero-archetype and resistant to one universal pattern in her particular femininity. As Andrew Samuels records, when Jung first began work on archetypal theory, he 'found that imagery fell into patterns, that these patterns were reminiscent of myth, legend and fairytale, and that the imaginal material did not originate in perceptions, memory or conscious experience. The images seemed to Jung to reflect universal human modes of experience and behavior'. (1) According to Michael Adams, Jungian archetypes 'are a collective inheritance of general, abstract forms that structure the personal acquisition of particular, concrete contents'. (2) Adams carefully explains how the content can assume various shapes though the form that contains it remains generally recognizable. He goes on to emphasize that the archetypal image that results from typical form and particular content always carries with it 'an emotional aspect' that gives it a 'dynamic effect' on the cultural community. (3) Among the thematic archetypes, the hero on the journey quest is one of the most powerful. Because of his interpretation of the Jungian hero, Adams is able to claim: 'Different heroes have different styles. They are not all identical. Some are notably non-aggressive and non-violent. As Joseph Campbell says, the hero has a thousand different faces'. (4)

22 maart
Irish University Review

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