Two Galway Playwrights: MJ Molloy and Tom Murphy

Posted: April 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

County Galway was the homeplace of two distinguished Irish playwrights in the twentieth century: M.J. Molloy (1914 -1994) and Tom Murphy (born 1935). Many of their plays draw on the lives and historical experiences of those living in the north-east of the county, between Tuam, Milltown and the Mayo border. Their work was produced for the wider Irish public by the Abbey Theatre and Druid Theatre Company, but also by the Amateur Drama movement, which was active in every corner of the country through the agency of local theatre groups. This lecture will address the important contribution each of these writers made, through consideration of some of their influential plays, including Molloy’s The Wood of the Whispering (1953) and Murphy’s Famine (1968).


The lecturer  Dr. Riana O’Dwyer graduated with both a  BA and MA from University College Galway.  During a postgraduate year at the University of Lausanne, as a beneficiary of  a Swiss Government scholarship, she began research on the work of James Joyce.  Her doctoral research was undertaken in Canada, at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, where her PhD was awarded for a thesis on James Joyce’sFinnegans Wake.  Returning to Ireland, she taught for a number of years at Queen’s University, Belfast.  She has been a lecturer in the English Department at NUI Galway since 1984.

During this period she has lectured at a number of overseas universities, including the University of Texas at Austin and the universities of Barcelona, Trieste, Coimbra, Debrecen and Pecs.  She has been a Visiting Scholar at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University.  She was one of the founders of the M.Phil in Irish Studies,  subsequently its Director, and remains on the academic board of the MA in Irish Studies.  She is currently chairperson of IASIL, the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures.

Dr. O’Dwyer’s personal research interests include Edmund Spenser’s writings about Ireland; nineteenth-century Irish fiction, especially that written by women; the works of James Joyce; recent Irish drama.  Research supervision has mainly related to Irish authors, including Banville, Flann O’Brien, John McGahern, Frank McGuinness.  Research projects have included ‘The Ascendancy and the Gaelic World’, a priority research area funded by PRTLI 2 at Galway’s Moore Institute (formerly CSHSHC), and a Millenium Fund grant to research the work of Emily Lawless

 some of her Selected Publications:


2009. Tom Murphy and J. M. Synge in the Western World. Tom Murphy at 75: Essays on the Work of a Major Irish Playwright, C. Murry, ed. Dublin: Carysfort Press, pp.

2008. Colonial Contradictions: Emily Lawless’s With Essex in Ireland in Laura Izarra, Beatriz Kopschitz, eds., A New Ireland in Brazil.  Sao Paulo: Humanitas Press, pp. 269-284.

2008. Travels of a Lady of Fashion: The Literary Career of Lady Blessington (1789-1849 in Heidi Hansson, ed. New Contexts: Re-Framing Nineteenth-Century Women’s Prose.  Cork: Cork University Press, pp. 35-54.

2007. Echoes Down the Corridor: Irish Theatre — Past, Present and Future.  Editors Riana O’Dwyer & Patrick Lonergan. Dublin: Carysfort Press. Introduction pp. 1-12.

2002 Women’s Narratives 1800-1840. In Meaney, G. et al. (eds.), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol. 5. Cork University Press, pp. 833-893.


2000 The imagination of women’s reality: the theatre of Christina Reid and Marina Carr.  In Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, Jordan, E. (ed), Dublin, Carysfort Press, pp. 236-248.

2000 ‘There was a kind lady called Gregory’: James Joyce, Lady Gregory and the Irish Literary Revival, in Lady Gregory Autumn Gatherings: Reflections at Coole, Tobin S. & L (eds.), Galway, Autumn Gatherings Publications, pp. 30-50.

1998 Introduction to Woman and Her Master (1840) by Lady Morgan. Volume One in series Irish Women’s Writing, 1839-1888, Luddy, M. (General Ed.), Bristol, Thoemmes Press, pp. iii-xiii.

1996 Nora or Molly / Maker or Muse?: James Joyce and Nora Barnacle, in Krino 1986-1996: An Anthology of Irish Writing, Dawe, G. & Williams, J. (eds.), Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, pp. 40-44.


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