The Journal: 2008

Reading Around
Books, journals and websites met with ....
People & Places
Who’s doing what and where in Irish studies ...
Developing Ricorso and the issues involved ...

People & Places

Poco Maynooth
The English department at Maynooth was founded in 1825 - a tad before Catholic Emancipation. Maynooth college originated as a seminary, the creation of an imaginative treaty between the Catholic bishops and William Pitt George III undermined through his overly-literal but by no means mad determination to interpret his coronation oath as a veto on support for papist institutions. What he didn’t know was that Catholic “vocations” for the priesthood would self-destruct in 2001 and that the recipe for his designs was to give them enough rope. ... But that is all blood and ouns under the bridge of Sallins.
 Next up, we learn that NUI Maynooth’s school of English is launching two new MA degrees which are sharp-edged addresses to the (post-colonial dimension of modern Irish literature and world-wide literatures that originated under the aegis of cultural imperialism. These are an MA in “Twentieth-century Irish writing and Cultural theory” and an MA in “Culture, Empire and Postcolonialism.” Latest applications by 30 June 2009. Emer Nolan heads the MA programmes [email].
Derek Hand on Fellowship
Derek has been a vigorous contributor to modern Irish criticism, notably with his book on John Banville but most especially perhaps with his now long-running series of reviews of current Irish fiction hosted by The Irish Times under the inspirational literary editorship of Caroline Walsh. Derek has now received a Government of Ireland Fellowship (IRCHSS) to complete a book on modern Irish fiction ... an event to look forward to. Derek teaches Irish literature in English at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (DCU) and previously completed a doctorate at UCD under the direction of Declan Kiberd.
Denis Donoghue Feschrift

A collection of essays has just been published in honour of for Denis Donoghue, Emeritus Professor of English at NYU and perhaps the most distinguished living Irish critic - affectionately identified by Colin Graham with the breed of intellectual dinosaurs that roamed the academic world before the theory meteor struck. Equally, he is one of those who have offered the most stalworth resistance to the new dispensation of somewhat android intellectuals who maraude academia under the banners of poststructuralism. The festschrift is edited by Brian Caraher and Robert Mahony of QUB and CUA Washington under the title of Ireland and Transatlantic Poetics (Delaware UP 2007).

Its chapters include a brilliant keynote address by Colm Tóibín along with essays by Mary Shine Thompson (‘From Donovan to Donoghue’), Colin Graham (‘What Stalks Through Donoghue’s Irish Criticism’), Matthew Campbell (‘Figuring Irish Poetry’), Warwick Gould (‘Yeats, Bibliographical Opportunity and the Life of the Text’), Nicholas Allen (‘Absurdity, Extravagance and Irish Modernism’), John P. Harrington (‘Irish Players and American Reviewers’), Frank Kermode (‘Getting it Wrong’), and others such as Christopher Berchild, Michael Malouf, Mary McGlynn, and the present writer. Donoghue’s magesterial essay ‘Joyce, Leavis and the Revolution of the Word’ is also included.

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Terence Brown Festschrift

Still with Trinity College, Terence Brown (Dowden Professor of English) has been made the deserving subject of a festschrift entitled The Island that Was Never Found - presumably the island that we all inhabit in body or imagination. In spite of some exertion, the Ricorso page devoted to this scholar-critic fails to do justice to the scope of his attainments which include several of the most significant works of commentary published in Irish studies at any time including notably his study of Poets from Ulster (1975), his Social and Cultural History (1981 - updated to the millenium in 2004), his Selected Essays (1988), and his Critical Life of W. B. Yeats (1999).

Alongside those bookish achievements he is the long-standing chair of the Royal Irish Academy’s Committee for Anglo-Irish Literature and an adviser to numerous bodies including, it appears, the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland - in which connection his obiter dictum on the divided communities of Ireland in 1996 must have special interest where he speaks of ‘the tragic conflict of legitimate interests which had generated the recent conflict in their native land, which but for the catastrophic events in the greater European theatre might have resulted in an Irish civil war between the forces of Nationalism and unionism.’

Nicholas Allen and Eve Patten have edited the collection for Four Courts Press. It includes essays and poems by John Wilson Foster, Paul Muldoon, Chris Morash, Brendan Kennelly, Nicholas Grene, R. F. Foster, Derek Mahon, Greg Delanty, Declan Kiberd, Sighle Breathnach-Lynch, Gerald Dawe, Edna Longley, Helen Vendler and Seamus Heaney - in other words, virtually everybody who shares his degree of stature and elevation in Irish literary studies today. The table of contents is on his page in Ricorso [infra].

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Diaspora drama

Professor Nicholas Grene of Trinity College, Dublin, together with Dr Patrick Lonergan of NUI Galway, have just kick-started inaugurated a three-post doctoral fellowship to be held at the two universities with the aim of engaging in degree-outcome research targetted specifically at “The Internationalization of Irish Drama, 1975-2005”.

Three such fellowships are on offer: “The interaction of national and international theatre in the Dublin Theatre Festival, 1975-2005” (Moore Institute, NUI Galway); “Druid Theatre, Regionalization, and Internationalization in Irish Culture, 1975-2005” (Moore Institute, NUI Galway), and “The Abbey Theatre on International Stages, 1975-2005” (School of English, Trinity College Dublin).

Each of the three chosen candidates will get a stipend of €12,700 p.a. over three years. For further information contact Nicholas Grene and Patrick Lonergan. or visit the Irish Theatrical Diaspora website.

David H. Greene

The sad passing of Professor Greene brought to the memory of his obituarist in the New York Times (13 July 2008) the ancient ‘dust-up’ when he sold the letters that Sean O’Casey addressed to US Labour-leader Jack Carney to the NYU Library in 1966, and then refused David Krause permission to print them. Greene’s death reminds us that there is a letter from Greene to Sybil le Brocquy among her book collection, slipped into A Packet for Molly, talking much about the reception of J. P. Dunleavy’s run-away best-seller The Gingerman .... The letter is in my keeping and is partially copied on the RICORSO website [infra].

... & J. M. Synge
While on the subject of Sybil le Brocquy’s letters, I venture to mention that I have also copied the substance of an unpublished letter written by John Millington Synge to his mother in 1903 while living in lodgings in London. The letter is an amusing one, not previously printed in any collection [Go to J. M. Synge, or else go straight to the letter through this link].
Joep Leerssen goes Mega

It is very welcome news to hear that Joep Th. Leerssen has been awarded the Spinosa Prize of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (June 2008). In the award citation, Joep is accredited with ‘unifying two existing paradigms in the study of nineteenth-century cultural nationalism: one that views the nation as a latently present metaphysical entity and the other that sees it as a product of political manipulation.’ It is unnecessary to mention here that he has made an immense impact on Irish studies with his two great works, Mere Irish and Fior-Ghael (1986; rep. 1996) and Remembrance and Imagination (1996) which jointly compass the history of Irish cultural discourse from the 18th century battles over Macpherson’s Ossian to Synge’s Playboy of the Western World.

Joep Leerssen’s hallmark is an alertness to the pressure for national self-expression under available - and often anomalous if not downright crazed - forms, and his encyclopedic familiarity with the multitudinous works of literature, historiography and polemics involved. He is a classic example of lightly worn learning and the author of profoundly engaging books which set a standard for Irish criticism which only the best can emulate. Unlike home-grown writers, Leerssen is averse to the idea that Ireland is an exceptional case. His perspective is scholarship and sympathetic, but he remains a European unionist throughout, and the special claims of Irish nationhood are systematically bracketted by the ‘imagological’ method. The effect is to make much of Irish cultural history read like magic realism - which it was, which it is.

The RICORSO website is deeply indebted to Leerssen’s first book for a great deal of its borrowed lore on 18th century figures to the point that issues of copyright loom should we ever become commercial. The materials of his second book have yet to be comprehensively mirrored in its pages. (‘You will, Bruce, you will!’)

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