Kevin Whelan

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1958- ; b. 7 March, Co. Wexford; ed. UCD, grad. 1978 (1st in English & Geography); PhD, “A Geography of Society and Culture in Ireland Since 1800”, 1981); held UI travelling schol. at Memorial Univ., Newfoundland; asst. keeper, NLI, 1983-89; Newman Scholar, UCD, 1989-92; 1798 Bicentennial Research Fellow at RIA, 1992-95; Adj. Professor (Arts), UCG, 1994;
 
Visiting Professor, Ireland House, NYU, Spring 1995; Burns Library Visiting Scholarship at Boston College, 1995-96; issued The Tree of Liberty: Radicalism, Catholicism and the Construction of Irish Identity 1760-1830 (1996); also, with F. H. Aalan, ed., The Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape (1997); Visiting Professor, Notre Dame Univ., Spring 1997; Visiting Professor, Concordia Univ. (Montreal), Summer 1997 & 2004;
 
issued Fellowship of Freedom: The United Irishmen and the 1798 Rebellion (1998); appt. Michael Smurfit Director of the University of Notre Dame Keough Centre in Dublin, 1998- ; acts as historical advisor to the Irish government on the Famine and the 1798 Rebellion, and chairs the Irish-Argentinian Research Fund’s Selection Committee, 2004-05; forthcoming, The Killing Snows: Cultural Change in Nineteenth-Century Ireland [2005]; reputedly occas. speech-writer for Mary McAleese (Pres. of Ireland).

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Works
(Selected)
  • ‘Catholic Mobilisation 1750-1855, in Culture et Pratiques Politiques en France et en Irlande XVIe-XVIIIe Siecle, P. Bergeron & Louis Cullen [Actes Du colloque de Marseille, 28 Sept-2 Oct 1988] (q.d.);
  • ‘The Regional Impact of Irish Catholicism 1700-1900, in Common Ground: Essays on the Historical Geography of Ireland presented to T. Jones Hughes, in W. Smyth and L. K. Whelan (Cork 1988);
  • ‘The Role of the Catholic Priest in the 1798 Rebellion in Wexford’, in Wexford History and Society, ed. Whelan & William Nolan (Dublin 1987) [out of 85 priests a max. of 11, of which 7 had drink problems, were involved with United Irishmen];
  • ed., with W. J. Smyth, Common Ground: Essays on the Historical Geography of Ireland (Cork UP 1988);
  • ‘Catholic Mobilisation 1750-1850’, in Comparative Aspects of Politicisation in Ireland and France, ed. P. Bergeron and L. M. Cullen (Paris: Seuil 1990);
  • ‘The Recent Writing of Irish History’, in UCD History Review (1991), pp.27-35;
  • ‘The Power of Place’, in Irish Review, 12 (1992), pp.13-20;
  • with David Dickson & Dáire Keogh, ed., The United Irishmen: Republicanism, Radicalism, and Rebellion (Dublin: Lilliput 1993);
  • ‘The Bases of Regionalism’, in Culture in Ireland: Regions, Identity and Power, ed. P. Ó Drisceoil (Belfast: IIS 1993), pp.5-63;
  • Keynote address [essay] The Mighty Wave: The 1798 Rebellion in Wexford, ed. in Daire Keogh and Nicholas Furlong (Dublin: Four Courts 1996);
  • The Tree of Liberty: Radicalism, Catholicism, and the Construction of Irish Identity, 1760-1830 [Field Day] (Cork UP 1996), 236pp.;
  • ‘The Republic in the village: The dissemination and reception of popular political literature in the 1790s’, in Books beyond the Pale, ed. G. Long (Dublin, 1996), pp.101
  • contrib. to Irish Popular Culture 1650-1850, ed. J. S. Donnelly and Kerby A. Miller (Dublin: IAP 1998).
 
Also, ‘Reading the Ruins: The Presence of Absence in the Irish Landscape’, in Surveying Ireland’s Past: Multidisciplinary Essays in Honour of Anngret Simms, ed. Howard B. Clarke, et al. (Dublin: Geography Publications 2004) - see attached [©].

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Criticism
Teresa Doran and family, ‘The Inbetween-agers’, review of A Wonderful Boy: A Story of the Holocaust, in Books Ireland (March 2000), p.71.

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Commentary
R. F. Foster, ‘Remembering 1798’, in The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland (Penguin 2001), on historians Louis Cullen and Kevin Whelan: ‘For Wexford, the “faith-and-fatherland” interpretation seemed logical enough: there was Father Murphy, the priest who led the rebels, and there were not, apparently, many United men; moreover, that pleasant south-eastern corner was a prosperous and largely English-speaking area, with a long history of colonization. From the late 1970s, however, the distinguished social historian Louis Cullen (himself a Wexford man) began analysing this interpretation, from two angles. In a series of pioneering articles, he established a prehistory of social and agrarian conflict in the county, breaking along lines of land settlement and helping to explain the savagery of intercommunal violence there. From another angle, he examined the state of United Irish organization in Wexford, and radically revised the picture which up to then had been readily accepted from fortuitously assembled government records. More recently, others have shown how far these rely upon chance survivals. Kevin Whelan, for instance, repeating Miles Byrne, has laid great emphasis on the fact that a United Irishmen delegate from Wexford, through dallying with a girl in a pub, failed to turn up at the meeting subsequently raided in Dublin - so a list of the Wexford membership of the organization did not fall into the hands of Dublin Castle, and subsequently of no less rapacious historians. It should be said, however, that cold water was poured on this attractive idea by Charles Dickson over forty years ago.’ (Foster, pp.180-81.)

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Martin Dowling, ‘“Thought-Tormented Music”: Joyce and the Music of the Irish Revival’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 45, 3/4 [Biographical Joyce] Spring-Summer 2008, pp.437-58: "As I argue elsewhere, traditional music is modern, but it was never susceptible to being modernist, emanating as it does from class fractions other than those of what Eagleton calls the “radical right”. How was this manifested in literary and musical fields? J. M. Synge’s adventures in the far west appear in this light to have rather over-shot the mark in his search for dynamic, autochthonous, authentic culture, just as Miss Ivors has missed the target in her goading of Gabriel to make a trip to the Aran Islands in “The Dead”. A similar problem is evident in the reception and interpretation of the song “The Lass of Aughrim”, both by the two main characters in the story and by later readers. In an essay on “The Dead”, Kevin Whelan calls the tune “a folk song which summoned the deep, oral, Irish language, Jacobite, Gaelic past of the west of Ireland.” Here he replicates the mistake made by Gabriel in the story ...].’ (p.441; citing Whelan, ‘The Memories of “The Dead,”’, in The Yale Journal of Criticism, 15, Spring 2002, p.69, and Shields, ‘History of the Lass of Aughrim’, in Musicology in Ireland [Irish Musical Studies, 1], ed. Gerard Gillen & Harry White, Dublin: Irish Academic Press 1990, pp.58-73. See longer extract under James Joyce > Notes > Textual > “The Dead” - supra.)

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Quotations
The Bases of Regionalism’, in Culture in Ireland - Regions: Identity and Power, ed. Prionsias Ó Drisceoil [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference] (Belfast: QUB/IIS 1993): ‘The very idea of regionalism, with its emphasis on inherited rather than acquired identities force-feeds the atavistic appetites of tradition - the backward glance, where, in Auden’s terms, tradition becomes a democracy of the dead, not the living, and in Marxian formulation, the dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living. The appeal to regionalism can easily be construed as an appeal to conservatism, a Burkean sedative to lull the little platoons into a big sleep. In Burke’s formulation, the region represents the integrity of traditional society and its local loyalties, and it can be set against abstract universalising claims, which violate the customary affections and rooted relations which make society adhesive and stable. Any political system which placed abstract principles or claims above those of family, community or region would inevitably lack the crucial binding force that gives political systems their endurance - the affection and acquiescence of the people living under them. In Burkean terms, therefore, one must weigh the primacy and potency of a particularist past against the rational, progressive and utopian claims of the enlightenment modernisation project, with its appeal to the cosmopolitan future. / For almost two centuries, the weighing of these two projects has generally favoured the modernising, Jacobin element. Recent philosophical and political trends, notably growing recognition of the limitations of the enlightenment model of modernisation, have [13] refocused attention on Burke’s ancient quarrel with it. In a sense, post-modernism has made the region intellectually respectable once more.’ (p.13.) [Cont.]

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The Bases of Regionalism’ (in Culture in Ireland - Regions: Identity and Power, 1993) - cont.: ‘Beyond history, other disciplines have also begun to interrogate the Irish past. Henry Glassie’s sensitive Fermanagh-based piece of social anthropology, Passing the Time, is already a classic, notable for its respectful treatment of oral history, elsewhere so often-derided as meretricious. Folklore, too, has been intensely aware of the value of local perspectives, notably in the work of Caoimhín O Danachair. As a discipline, it has also consistently argued the common material base of Irish life, not least in Ulster, a point beautifully illustrated in Alan Gailey’s Rural Houses of the North of Ireland The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra is a successful effort to publicly demonstrate this, where exhibits at once attractive and authoritative are welded to an impressive scholarly base. Literary criticism has now also begun to interrogate historical narrative and, in so doing, may increasingly challenge Irish historiography’s positivist obsession, and its trust in narrative as a stable purveyor of truth. The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writingwas three weighty stones dropped in this stagnant methodological pool; while deconstructionist or post-modern ripples still only lap on the outer shores of historiographical consciousness, their long term impact may well be to problematise text, and to force history to recognise the fundamental ontological instability of narrative itself. Only a handful of historians, notably Tom Dunne, have realised that the future of the Irish past lies in this direction. For an example of its implications, David Lloyd’s Nationalism and Minor Literature is a landmark.’ (‘The Bases of Regionalism’, in P. Ó Drisceoil, ed., Culture in Ireland: Regions, Identity and Power (Belfast: IIS 1993), pp.5-63; p.47.)

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Notes
Q. source: Whelan offers view that United Irishmen sought to ‘supplant a political system rooted in sectarian privilege’ with ‘a secular democratic politics, founded on universal ideas of equality and justice’ and that this was ‘deliberately blocked by the British state, using the weapons of sectarianism, military terror … and the suppression of the Irish parliament.’ See also under Richard Musgrave, supra.

Namesake: Kevin Whelan, who works with autistic children, contrib. to Jacqueline Hill and Colm Lennon, eds., Luxury and Austerity (Dublin: UCD Press 1999); also A Wonderful Boy: A Story of the Holocaust (Dublin: Marino 1999), 108pp. [novel]

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