Death Matrix, Thanatopolitics and Gendered Expressions of ‘Death’ in J. M.Synge’s Riders to the Sea

Ananya Chatterjee                            

JIS University, Agarpara

     Volume III, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF


Death has been always considered a unique concept by critical thinkers all over the world. Among the modernist works, J.M. Synge’s play, Riders to the Sea, is remarkable for the intensity with which it portrays the experiences of death and the act of mourning the dead. This preoccupation with death is a frequent feature of Western literature as well as metaphysics, and Giorgio Agamben’s idea of thanatopolitics, in particular, informs us how death is not just an aesthetic or metaphysical concern, but also a socio-political factor. My paper reads J.M. Synge’s play in the light of Giorgio Agamben’s works to highlight how Riders to the Sea relates to the modernist predicament. My paper highlights how the experience of the First World War conditioned the modernist perception of death, and this, in turn, gave women individuals a problematic locus with respect to the ambit of thanatopolitics. This paper also traces the hyper awareness of death, the near paranoia that gives way to a cathartic feeling when the actual death takes place. We see the character of Maurya stepping out of this matrix of thanatopolitics, where the sea cannot threaten her any further. This, in turn, highlights the discrepancy of the treatment between the deaths of men and women within the grip of thanatopolitics, which becomes another key factor that could define modern lives.

Keywords: death, thanatopolitics, matrix, modernist, culture.