'Tinkers': Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller by Mary Burke
Oxford University Press | September 28, 2009 | English | ISBN: 0199566461 | 256 pages | PDF | 2 MB
The history of Irish Travellers is not analogous to that of the 'tinker', a Europe-wide underworld fantasy created by sixteenth-century British and continental Rogue Literature that came to be seen as an Irish character alone as English became dominant in Ireland. By the Revival, the tinker represented bohemian, pre-Celtic aboriginality, functioning as the cultural nationalist counter to the Victorian Gypsy mania. Long misunderstood as a portrayal of actual Travellers, J.M. Synge's influential The Tinker's Wedding was pivotal to this 'Irishing' of the tinker, even as it acknowledged that figure's cosmopolitan textual roots. Synge's empathetic depiction is closely examined, as are the many subsequent representations that looked to him as a model to subvert or emulate. In contrast to their Revival-era romanticization, post-independence writing portrayed tinkers as alien interlopers, while contemporaneous Unionists labeled them a contaminant from the hostile South.