Abstracts

Panel One: Heritage and Preservation

Dr Theresa Wray (Independent Scholar): ‘Alone with the past’: private experience, public benefit.
This paper will reflect upon both the hidden rewards of accessing collections in archive spaces as both a professional and public end-user, and the responsibilities associated with such access, in order to support the present existence of such spaces that are under threat. It will discuss the relationship between the researcher’s experience, that which Carolyn Steedman reminds us is always unique in light of one’s own encounter with the space and its contents, ‘an experience that is an important professional rite of passage’,  (Dust, 2001), and the fabric of such collections, and as such is a personal reflection upon time spent with the past.  Whether professional or public end-users, our temporary residence in archive locations prompts distinctive encounters with the past experiences of others through both the resources that we plan to access and those unexpectedly encountered.  This diverse richness held within cartons, files and folders is both daunting and exhilarating to the reader, resonating with potential, and is deserved of special attention both inside and outside of the archive.   A particular focus within this paper will be the importance of maintaining access to collections in universities and National archives for both professional purposes, and public research, in order to recover and disseminate the work of forgotten and marginalised Irish women writers.  Reference to archive spaces and collections in Ireland and America serve to illustrate key points within.

Sarah Gearty (Royal Irish Academy): The Irish Historic Towns Atlas Project in the Royal Irish Academy
The Irish Historic Towns Atlas is one of the Royal Irish Academy’s long-term research projects. To date, twenty-six Irish towns and cities have been published in the series, alongside over 500 internationally following similar guidelines. In this paper, Sarah Gearty, the project’s cartographic editor, looks at the evolution of the project rom its origins and into the future, and examines its wider role in the context of heritage and preservation.

Sharon Healy (Irish Military Archives): Here today, gone tomorrow: A case study on the necessity for a more rigorous approach to the preservation of online Irish cultural and political heritage.
Following on the heels of other western societies for a radicalisation of copyright in the digital age, Richard Bruton, who was the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the time, established the Copyright Review Committee (CRC) in May 2011. While there were several tasks set for the CRC, one of its main functions was to examine the current state of national copyright legislation and to “identify any areas that are perceived to create barriers to innovation” (Modernising Copyright, 2013: 8).The CRC subsequently produced the report Modernising Copyright in October 2013 which offered modern solutions to Ireland’s outdated copyright laws. Yet, to date, the Irish government has failed to introduce up-to-date legislation based on the recommendations of the CRC report. This paper is concerned with the CRC recommendations for the introduction of digital legal deposit to current legal deposit institutions, and further to this, that such institutions should be permitted to “make copies of our online digital heritage by reproducing any work that is made available in the State through the internet” (Modernising Copyright, 2013: 14). It is our duty to ensure that future generations of Irish society have access to accurate and unimpeded accounts of their historical past. By means of a comprehensive analysis of link rot in current Irish government departmental websites; this paper presents a case study to demonstrate the necessity for a more rigorous approach to the preservation of online cultural and political heritage.

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Panel Two: Irish Poetry and the Institution

Dr Rosie Lavan (TCD): Seamus Heaney and the Canon Wars
For over thirty years, Seamus Heaney was professionally involved in education. That career preceded and accompanied his writing life, and only came to a formal end shortly after his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Speaking in 2000, he said: “I always had this notion that I was going to be a secondary school teacher, living the generic life of the newly upwardly mobile eleven-plus Catholic”, but the working life which did indeed begin in a Secondary Modern in Belfast led ultimately to Harvard University, where he was a member of the English department for fourteen years.

Heaney’s commentary on his experiences at Harvard in the 1980s and early 1990s reveals a strong, at times even truculent, commitment to the canon of poetry in English which was at that time increasingly subject to new scrutiny and challenge, within and beyond the seminar room. His well-documented and eminently quotable resistance to an often generalised understanding of literary theory – “There’s a contest going on between Derry and Derrida” – glosses more profound and difficult questions about the association between origin and destiny with which education, in his life and his work, was always involved. Guided by the refreshed politics of recent studies of Heaney’s poetics, this paper seeks to explore these questions, demonstrating that in his poetry of this period this same resistance is pushing him to reconsider his relationship with Ireland, and contemporary Irishness.

James Gallacher (University of Liverpool): “Not an Ulsterman”: Northern Voices in Kavanagh’s Weekly
Patrick Kavanagh, writing in his short-lived literary magazine Kavanagh’s Weekly, reflected on the editorial stance of Belfast periodical Rann by declaring ‘according to these lads I am not an Ulsterman’. The line was written in relation to the persistent tendency of Northern magazines such as Rann – and its predecessor Lagan – to adhere to the wilfully myopic and often implicitly sectarian definition of cultural Ulster as pertaining solely to the partitioned six counties of the traditional province that came to form Northern Ireland. Hailing from Monaghan – one of the three counties not included in the new state – much of Kavanagh’s early poetry brims with depictions of the pastoral and folkloric traditions of pre-Partition Ulster. A facet of his work that remains less well acknowledged is the presence of a longstanding engagement with the cultural and political issues pertaining to Northern Ireland. This paper will undertake an extensive exploration of the significant components of Weekly dedicated to literary and political affairs north of the border, as well as the considerable contributions made to the publication by Northern writers such as Gerard Keenan. In turn, it will aim to highlight the enduring influence of Kavanagh’s Ulster heritage in his approach to literary and cultural criticism, from his lamentable lapsing into sectarian discourse – both tacit and overt – when addressing the provenance of Protestant writers such as J.M Synge and W.R Rodgers, to his stance towards the Irish language. In doing so it will look to emphasise not only the nature of Kavanagh’s engagement with his own identity and heritage as an Ulsterman, but also his wider interaction with the divisive and often bitterly contested definition of the province itself.

Melony Samantha Bethala (York): The Roger Casement epigraph: An archival examination of Medbh McGuckian’s early career with Oxford University Press
Writing to her potential publisher Peter Fallon of the Gallery Press in 1985, Medbh McGuckian uncharacteristically signed the note ‘Maeve’, the Anglicized spelling of her name, with the explanation that, ‘I use that name as the letter was written by me and the poems by the other. So rejecting me does not entail accepting either of us.’ The enigmatic note suggests that McGuckian herself sees the personae in her poems as separate, or perhaps disparate, from the woman who writes them. In order to comprehend her poems which are at once intricate, dynamic, and oblique, we must attempt to understand the other ‘Maeve’ whose prolific literary career has been shaped by challenges and opportunities posed by British, Irish and American publishing institutions. Using correspondence between the poet and her publishers that are archived at Emory University and Oxford University Press, this paper explores Medbh McGuckian’s controversial transition from the Oxford Poets’ list to the Gallery Press in 1991. In doing so, it questions the particular challenges contemporary Irish women poets face as they negotiate their personal and professional interests in the publishing industry.

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Panel Three: The life cycle of the Irish literary tradition as a cultural institution

This panel of five speakers from the field of Celtic Studies will present a selection of papers in English and Irish related to Irish language textual history from the medieval and early modern periods. As the first vernacular language to be used as a literary medium in Europe, Irish has enjoyed a long tradition of native literature and textual criticism from ecclesiastical to secular learning. Particularly from the twelfth century onwards, Irish literature flourished and brought about the production of some of Ireland’s most precious literary artefacts. Among the extant corpus of secular and religious material is the well-known Táin Bó Cúailnge ‘Cattle-raid of Cooley’, which is still enjoyed by a popular audience today, though mostly in translation. There was also a great flourishing of bardic poetry under the patronage of the Gaelic aristocracy into the Early Modern period of the Irish language. Indeed, moving from the ecclesiastical scholar to the hereditary learned family, the tradition passed hands and survived various periods of political turmoil. By reaching into the past, this panel will explore Irish language literature as a multifaceted cultural institution and how it continues to shape modern Ireland and its relationship with the future. 

Christina Cleary (TCD): ‘The Uí Mhaoil Chonaire and their role in preserving medieval Irish literature
There are many reasons why medieval Irish literature survived throughout the centuries: Irish audiences felt a cultural connection with the material, a lot of it is grounded in the physical landscape and its people and it is, in general, quite entertaining. However, on a very practical level and leaving aside the role of the oral storyteller, the textual transmission of the literature is due to the labour of many centuries of scribes. This paper will examine the role of one particular hereditary learned family, the Uí Mhaoil Chonaire, in diligently transmitting texts that are integral to our understanding of the language and literature of the Old and Middle Irish linguistic periods. For example, the Old Irish tale Aislinge Óenguso ‘The Dream of Óengus’, datable to the eighth- to ninth-century linguistically, is preserved in the sixteenth-century manuscript Egerton 1782, currently housed in the British Library and written by members of the Uí Mhaoil Chonaire family. This is the only extant copy of Aislinge Óenguso, without which the story and a wealth of Old Irish linguistic forms would be lost. Furthermore, as Benjamin Hazard remarks, ‘three extant works that preserve the first recension [of the Táin Bó Cúailnge] are known to be by members of the Uí Mhaoil Chonaire or have close connections with the family’ (2003: 157). This paper will highlight the engagement of the Uí Mhaoil Chonaire with, and their integral part in maintaining, the literary cultural institution in early modern Ireland.

Dr Chantal Kobel (NUIM): Words, words and more words: the establishment and development of Ireland’s lexicographical tradition
There has been a long standing cultural practice of compiling glossaries and dictionaries in Ireland over the centuries, going as far back as the 8th century. Lexicographers such as Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, Edward O’Reilly and Father Patrick S. Dineen, to name but a few, played significant roles in the development of our understanding of the Irish language and their dictionaries represent important documents which record the evolution of the language. As such, these dictionaries can be considered as cultural objects or institutions. Taking the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of the Irish Language as the central focus, a project which took over 120 years to complete from its inception in 1852, this paper will explore the obstacles encountered in the process of producing such lexicographical works, be it the monastic environments in which the early Irish scholar worked or in the secular institutions of more recent times. The relevance of these early dictionaries in contemporary times will also be addressed.

Dr Sarah Künzler (TCD): ‘The filid: men of (cultural) memory, or shapers of Irish history?’
The filid (Old Irish ‘poets’) have long been identified as the carriers of Irish cultural memory (and memories). Their long training in terms of mnemonic proficiencies and their oft-cited ability to related knowledge about the past when prompted leave little doubt that they are perceived in literary sources as the select custodians of cultural memory. Yet just as Jan Assmann’s concept of cultural memory incorporates memory, identity and cultural continuity, these figures were not merely reciters of past knowledge but in themselves became integral not just in continuing but perhaps more so in forming Irish identity. This paper will briefly outline the role of the filid in written sources and past scholarship’s view of them. In the main part, however, it will engage with the filid as an institution which did not merely transmit the past but also made it relevant for the present. In particular, it will briefly discuss Airec Menman Uraird meic Coise (‘The stratagem of Urard meic Coise’, dated to 1000 AD). In this short text, cultural and personal memory work in tandem to outline the fili Urard’s social role, but also to institutionalise a personal experience in the future. Such texts testify to the importance of institutionalised carriers of cultural memory, but they also engage critically with such an institution, which demonstrates that medieval Irish sources can be reflexive and critical documents with a relevance even to modern concerns.

Deirdre Charthaigh, TCD:Ról an Chumainn Oisín i gcaomhnú agus in aistriú chorpas na Fiannaíochta
B’iomaí cumann ársaíochta agus léannta a bunaíodh le litríocht ársa na hÉireann a chaomhnú agus a aistriú sa naoú haois déag. Sa pháipéar seo, déanfar iniúchadh ar an gCumann Oisín agus ar an ról a d’imir sé i gcaomhnú agus in aistriú chorpas phrós agus fhilíocht na Fiannaíochta i lár an chéid sin. Faoi dheireadh na haoise ba mhinic an Fhiannaíocht á húsáid mar uirlis leis an bhféiniúlacht náisiúnta a mhúnlú agus níor bheag an tábhacht a bhain le foilseacháin leithéidí Standish Hayes O’Grady, a bhí ina bhall gníomhach den chumann, sa phróiseas seo. Tá an Fhiannaíocht ar imeall dhioscúrsa acadúil an Léinn Cheiltigh go fóill inniu agus déanfar plé ar an ngéarghá atá ann le tógáil a dhéanamh ar obair an chumainn agus le haitheantas a thabhairt don Fhiannaíocht mar chuid lárnach de thraidisiúin liteartha na hÉireann.

Nineteenth century Ireland abounded with antiquarian and learned societies concerned with the regeneration of ancient Irish literature. In this paper I will examine the role of one such society – the Ossianic Society – in preserving and translating the immense and largely untouched corpus of Fenian prose and poetry. By the end of the century the Fenian cycle of literature was being used as a tool for the cultivation of a national consciousness and this paper will emphasise the importance of publications by members such as Standish Hayes O’Grady in this process. Given that Fenian literature remains on the periphery of scholarship in the institution of Celtic Studies, this paper explores the need to build-on and to update the work of the society and of its members and to acknowledge the importance of An Fhiannaíocht in the Irish literary tradition.

Dr Nicole Volmering (TCD): The Irish Franciscans: preserving Irish history and literature in Louvain
It is well-known that the Irish Franciscans were actively involved in collecting, preserving and publishing (or attempting to do so) much of Ireland’s hagiographical and historical literature during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The compilation known as the Annals of the Four Masters is one of their most memorable achievements, but other, lesser known compilations and manuscripts also survive. Much of the Irish material was gathered and copied by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh and sent on to Hugh Ward in Louvain, ultimately finding its way to the National Library of Brussels. This paper highlights some of hagiographical documents that would not have survived without the efforts of the Franciscans in ensuring their preservation and aims, in particular, to shed some light on Mícheál Ó Cléirigh’s compilations as preserved in Brussels MS 5100-4.

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Panel Four: Economy of Culture

Bridget Troy (DePaul University): The Comparative Advantage of Cultural Congruence: a Study on Irish FDI
Irish culture is historically substantial in the larger context of the nation’s economicand political well-being. As a result of this cultural emphasis, the Irish economylargely rests on the promotion and preservation of the nation’s cultural background.This is demonstrated through the high volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland from culturally similar nations. Culture, as a component of FDI, can help decide entry mode, location, or can predict the performance of the multinational corporation (MNC).

The decision of an MNC on where to locate is almost entirely reliant on the comparative advantages offered by the potential host countries. The amount of foreign investment within a nation is determined by the incentives granted by the government, as well as traditional advantages in technology, natural resources, and wage differentials. Less traditional advantages, including culture, also have a large influence in determining FDI. In the next few years, FDI will continue to be a strong stimulus for economic growth throughout the world, and the relative impact of this increased FDI is reliant on the cultural congruity of the two partner nations: thereby, determining the speed and success of MNC expansion. Cultural affinity reduces transaction costs and increases an MNC’s chances of success. Culture, by definition, is a much more stable variable than financial incentives, as a nation’s culture is not immediately subject to chances in the larger economy.

This source of relative competitive advantage between a host country and its source companies is determined through quantifiable cultural measures and through other cultural and human capital factors influencing the nations’ values and preferences. IDA Ireland, in particular, emphasizes this component of Irish advantage when attracting FDI. These different factors help to define culture in relation to Ireland’s partner nations and predict the impact of culture on any particular FDI pairing.

Prof Patrick Mullen (Northwestern): Queer Tourism and Public Culture: Dissenting Sexualities in the Age of Neoliberalism
This paper will elaborate the concept of queer tourism as a critical lever to explore the connections among Ireland’s neoliberal economic policy, queer sexualities, and forms of cultural expression. Scholars and activists have compellingly argued that the governmental embrace of same-sex marriage after the success of the marriage referendum amounts to a form of pinkwashing—in other words, an embrace of normative middle class expressions of gay sexuality that serves to distract from thornier and unresolved political issues. This paper offers the concept of queer tourismto enhance the analysis that begins with a theory of pinkwashing. I suggest that queer tourism brings into sharper relief the regressive as well as the potentially progressive effects that recent transformations in the economy and in the status of dissenting sexualities have produced. The paper explores the concept through three examples. In the first, I use the term to suggest that Tourism Ireland’s immediate embrace of the referendum results in its “Yes to Love” campaign needs to be read against the State’s insistence on offering Ireland as an international tax haven, particularly in the recent ruling on the tax debt of Apple. How might a queer insistence on aesthetics help to connect these issues? In the next, I examine Paul Murray’s The Mark and the Void (2015) and Belinda McKeon’s Tender (2015). Both novels explore the social effects of the Celtic Tiger through the lens of queer romance. This queer choice—why, after all, examine the social effects of State tax and baking policy through the optics of interpersonal relations?—is further queered through the pursuit of romantic involvements by seemingly non-queer characters. Is the use of queer romance a progressive broadening of public culture or a form of sexuality tourism? Finally, I look at the Panti Bliss documentary,The Queen of Ireland (2015), to suggest ways that the seemingly leisurely consumerist practices of cultural tourism might be rethought as opening possibilities for collective political engagement. How might queer consumption enrich the resources of public culture in Ireland?

Dr Kieran McCarthy (Independent Scholar): Towards an Integrated Approach for Cultural Heritage: Dilemmas and Challenges within the European Union
The 2014 communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe sets out the European framework for the pursuit of heritage practices and its new set of foci. This has had a knock-on effect on the value of heritage in all its forms, relationships and its relevance in future society in heritage institutions across all of the 28 EU member states including Ireland – some EU heritage institutions have embraced and praised the new approaches whilst some have critiqued the narrowing funnelling of foci on a more limited number of issues including the ‘old chestnut’ of the economic value of heritage. The communication sought the twofold objective of, firstly, assessing the economic and social spin-offs of cultural heritage and, secondly, highlighting the fact that Europe is at a turning point – that is to say, it has an opportunity to meet the challenges of the cultural sector with a strategic, global and integrated approach.

Writing from the perspective of being a heritage practitioner, a local government councillor and a member of the EU Committee of the Regions (COR) and its Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture Commission the proposed paper explores the response by the Committee of the Regions to the communication by the European Commission – and how cultural heritage frameworks in the EU are setting new agendas for heritage institutions. European political institutions have now placed the emphasis on terms such as smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, which many heritage practitioners on the ground in the 28 EU member states including Ireland are grappling with. Some commentators have noted that such terms are vague and many heritage institutions struggle to re-invent themselves. Many members of the COR firmly believe that cultural heritage is a powerful driver of local and regional development for the whole of the population, and creates significant material assets thanks to the promotion of sustainable, responsible, high-quality cultural tourism. So where does that leave many heritage institutions tied in prominently with the social and cultural value of heritage? The upcoming European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 is also a question on many of the lips of EU political and heritage institutions in what they should pursue and who should pursue it and what should the key performance indicators look like.