José Lanters University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
José Lanters, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, co-directs the Center for Celtic Studies and has published numerous essays on Irish fiction and drama. Her publications include Unauthorized Versions: Irish Menippean Satire, 1919-1952 (The Catholic University of America Press, 2000); The ‘Tinkers’ in Irish Literature (Irish Academic Press, 2008); Beyond Realism: Experimental and Unconventional Irish Drama since the Revival, co-edited with Joan FitzPatrick Dean (Rodopi/Brill, 2015); and The Theatre of Thomas Kilroy: No Absolutes (Cork University Press, 2018). A past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies, she currently serves as the vice chair for North America on the executive committee of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures.
Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter (2018) explores how the stories of exploited people have been written out of history. The play includes several storytellers, and it both replicates and deviates from the details of numerous existing narratives, including McDonagh’s own plays. Set in 1857, the play imagines that Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales were written by a pygmy woman from the Belgian Congo who has traveled back in time; Hans calls her Marjory and keeps her in a box in his attic. Eventually Marjory writes herself out of the box and departs for Africa to prevent the colonization of her people. Dark Matter compels us to question the narratives about the past that have become embedded in our culture and to uncover the facts that official accounts have altered or suppressed; rewriting history is acceptable only in imaginative storytelling, as an act of poetic justice. (JL)