Robert O’Driscoll


Life
1938-1996; b. Newfoundland; joined Toronto Univ. as Asst. Professor, 1966 and estab. Celtic studies at St. Michael’s College, initiating the subject in Canada; m. Treasa; directed “Canada and the Celtic Consciousness”, an international conference, 1978, issuing the transactions as The Celtic Consciousness (1979); friend of Liam Miller;
 
host to members of the Yeats family, W. H. Auden, Jack MacGowran, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel and John Cage; his library was sold in part in Sotheby’s, July 1997, and reacquired by family on acknowledgement of real value through intervention of a leading Irish-studies publisher and proprietor of Dolmen Press; d. 29 Feb. 1996, of heart-attack, in Ireland.

[ top ]Works
Poetry
  • Intruder [Advent Poems, 10] (London: Advent Books 1972), [12]pp.;
  • Nato and the Warsaw Pact Are One: An Action Poem, with notes [The Armageddon Series, Pt. 2] (Warsaw/Toronto: Zespol 1990), 64pp.
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Monographs & editions
  • ed., Theatre and Nationalism in Twentieth-century Ireland [2nd Seminar in Irish Studies, 1968] (London: OUP 1971), 216pp., ill. [4 pls.];
  • ed., with Lorna Reynolds, Yeats and the 1890s [Yeats Studies: An International Journal, 1] (Shannon: IUP/UCG [1972]), 210pp.;
  • ed., with Lorna Reynolds, Theatre and the Visual Arts: A Centenary Celebration of Jack Yeats and John Synge [Yeats Studies: An International Journal, 2] (Shannon: IUP/UCG [1972]), 138pp., ill. [6 pls., facs., & ports.];
  • ed., with Lorna Reynolds, Yeats and the Theatre [Yeats Studies: An International Journal] (London: Macmillan 1975), xiv, 288pp. ill. [16pp. of pls., facs. & ports];
  • Symbolism and Some Implications of the Symbolic Approach: W. B. Yeats During the Eighteen-nineties {New Yeats Papers, 9] (Dublin: Dolmen Press/NY Humanities Press 1975), 84pp., 1 ill.;
  • ed., Edinburgh Arts 1979: A Quest Through Europe, or, The Long Way Round to the Edinburgh Festival [Richard Demarco Gallery] (Edinburgh [1980]), [145]pp., ill., maps, ports; 14 cm [ltd. edn. 500];
  • An Ascendancy of the Heart: Ferguson and the Beginnings of Modern Irish Literature in English, intro. by Máire Cruise O’Brien (Toronto: Macmillan 1976), 84pp.;
  • ed., The Celtic Consciousness [1979] (Edinburgh: Canongate 1981), 642pp.; Do. [another edn.] (Mountrath: Dolmen Press 1982), xxxi [i.e., 29], [1], 642pp., ill. [facsims., map, music, ports.]; and Do., [another edn.] (NY: Braziller 1985), xxxi, 642 pp.: ill. [extracts.]
  • ed. Dream Chamber: Joyce and the Dada Circus: A Collage [and] John Cage, About Roaratorio: an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake, by Sorel Etrog (Toronto: Black Brick Press; [Dublin]: [Dolmen Press] 1982), 91pp., ill ; 26 cm;
  • with Elizabeth Elliott, New World Order Corruption in Canada [The New World Order Observed: A Trilogy, Vol. 3] (Toronto, Saigon, Dublin, Castelnau 1994), 648pp.;
  • ed. & intro., Selected Plays of M. J. Molloy [Irish Drama Selections, No. 12] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1998), xvii, 394pp.
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See also The Untold Story: The Irish in Canada (q.d.).

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Commentary
Brian De Breffny, ed., The Irish World: The History and Cultural Achievements of the Irish People (London: Thames & Hudson 1977), cites O’Driscoll in his introduction: ‘The psychic bond which made the people into a spiritual and physical unit was forged, in his opinion [Professor O’Driscoll of Toronto Univ.], not by the nationalist politicians but by the writers and artists who transformed a distant, even fictional, national past into a living presence in the Irish mind.’ (p.6.)

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The Bulletin [Toronto Univ.] (8 April 1996), Obituary: ‘[...] Professor Fred Flahiff, a colleague at the college, said in an interview that for many years the college “was basking in what Bob was doing.” Later, however, O’Driscoll suffered from mental and behavioural problems that eventually ended his teaching career. O’Driscoll was suspended from teaching amid controversy over his activities and behaviour. “Everything he became engaged with, he became engaged with obsessively”, Flahiff said. “I’m not sure it was an illness, or that he simply ended up in a milieu which was not the milieu he should have been in.” However, it is “very important” to judge O’Driscoll’s accomplishments and failings with compassion. “His achievements were real.” / Rev. Robert Madden, director of alumni affairs at St. Michael’s and a professor emeritus of English, writes in a statement of tribute to O’Driscoll about a student who after one conference “spoke of his infectious enthusiasm and expressed gratitude for the generosity of spirit with which he organised these conferences, involving students, drawing people together and bringing cultural richness into the lives of all involved”.’

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Quotations
The Celtic Consciousness (Dolmen/Canongate 1981), 642pp. Introduction: ‘[…] The cauldron, or, in Christian terms, the Grail, is a central recurring motif in Celtic mythology. […] // Does the resurgence of the Celtic spirit in the twentieth century, and the reappearance of mystics and visionaries, suggest that Vico, Spengler, and Yeats were right in their contention that history moves in cycles? Do perceptions and ideas which have been pushed ot the periphery in one cycle become the spiritual nucelus for the next? In any case, contemplation of the Celtic experience forces one to look backwards and forwards at the same time, and an appropriate image of that experience seems to be one of those ancient Celtic faces carved in stone, looking simultaneously in many directions.’ (Introduction, Pt. I; p.xi.) Further [Intro., Pt. II] ‘To understand the Celtic consciousness, the peripheries of the Indo-European world must be touched, and points of contact between East and West probed, certainly with regard to mythology, language, music, and art. […’; xii]. Further: ‘Like the cauldron of their mythology the Celts themselves are proving inexhaustible .. Celtic society is an “extremely refined and complex society, the dimensions of which we have scarcely begun to understand.”’ (Quoting Sean Ó Tuama, ‘The Lineage of Gaelic Love-Poetry from the Earliest Times’, pp.289-304 in this vol.; p.294). [Cont.]

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The Celtic Consciousness (1981) - cont.: O’Driscoll laments the absence of ‘an academic programme in Celtic Studies using interdisciplinary means to correct the fundamental misconception that has been at the core of our educational system, and this is, as Claude-Levi-Strauss suggests, the mistaken belief that the womb of civilisation lies in the Mediterranean. … [T]he Celts in their relation to the Germanic and Latin world are as crucial as he Greeks and Romans in the evolution of European civilisation.’ [xxi]. Note that John Kelly writes in his foreword: ‘[…] The Celtic consciousness event was deemed impossible by all program organisers save O’Driscoll and those who caught the fever of his infectious spirit. / The event was explosive: it lasted fro weeks and played to full houses in the largest auditoria on campus. Moreover, the explosion has had its fallout … In 1981, as this book goes to press, there geins at the University of Toronto a full Major Programme in Celtic studies, the emergence of which Dean Kruger calls a miracle … the dawn of a new day of revival.’ [Cont.]

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The Celtic Consciousness (1981) - cont.: Note also contribution by the mythologist and Joycean Joseph Campbell: ‘[I]t is one of the glories … of the Celtic tradition which we have gathered here to celebrate, that in its handling even of religious themes, it retranslates them from the languages of imagined fact into mythological idiom; so that they may be experienced, not as time-conditioned, but as timeless; telling not of miracles long past, but of miracles potential within ourselves, here, now, and forever. This is an aim that is basic to the Grail tradition, basic to Arthurian Romance; as it was basic, also, to the earlier Celtic way of story-telling, whether of pagan heroes or of Christian knights and saints.’ (‘Peripheries of the Indo-European World’, in O’Driscoll, ed., op. cit.; p.4. Epigraph from W. B. Yeats, unpubl. lecture of Jan. 1904, New York: [see Yeats, Quotations, infra].

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