The IRISH SEMINAR

Executive Director: Barry McCrea
Directors: Christopher Fox, Patrick Griffin, Declan Kiberd, Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, Robert Schmuhl.

The Irish Seminar has been presented annually since 1999 at ND’s Dublin Centre, in O’Connell House as a flagship programme of ND Irish Studies. The initial idea came from Christopher Fox and the concept was executed for the first decade by inaugural Directors Kevin Whelan and Seamus Deane. Aimed at post-graduate students and faculty in Irish Studies, the Seminar has ranged across the globe to recruit outstanding faculty and students. Faculty who have lectured at the Seminar include two Nobel Prize winners (Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott), some of the world’s pre-eminent scholars (Edward Said, Fred Jameson, Giovanni Arrighi, Jacqueline Rose, Homi Bhabha, Benedict & Perry Anderson) and celebrated writers (Edna O’Brien, Paul Muldoon, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, John McGahern, Medbh McGuckian, Ciaran Carson, Nuala Ó Faoláin, Alice McDermott). Leading figures in Irish Studies include Elizabeth Cullingford, Emer Nolan, Claire Wills, Marjorie Howes, Siobhán Kilfeather, Máirín Nic Eoin, David Lloyd and Joe Cleary.
The Seminar sessions are designed to elicit strong and sustained feedback between faculty and participants. Ideas are taken seriously, the exchanges occur in a democratic, inclusive dialogical manner, and there is a real effort to create and bond a community of learning over an intense three-week period. Participants often comment that they pack in a semester’s worth of work in those three weeks. Alongside the formal sessions, an ancillary programme of readings, theatre visits, archive and library visits, and fieldtrips ensure experiential learning.

The Irish Seminar nurtures a cosmopolitan community of young scholars: the eighteenth-century Republic of Letter reconfigured for the 21st century. It provides an intellectual infrastructure for scholarly collaboration, balancing the theoretically rich with the empirically rigorous. The Seminar adopts a flexible pluralisation of approaches, less constrained by the firmness of institutional boundaries and disciplinary consolidation. It is self-reflexive about professional and intellectual formation, while seeking to foster a supportive environment that develops the intellectual poise of emerging scholars. Typically up to forty graduate students attend each year, drawn from the USA, Ireland, Scotland, Hungary, Israel, Albania, France, Italy, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Canada, and England. Student participants have included representatives from Berkeley, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, NYU, Dartmouth, Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, Boston College and Aberdeen. The Seminar also attracts a cohort of Irish graduate students and the mingling of Irish, European, American and global grad students provides a matrix for stimulating debate.

2017: Ireland & Italy

In the first chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus declares that he is “the servant of two masters … an English and an Italian.” Stephen is referring, of course, to the British monarch and the Roman Pope, but as with much of what Stephen says, there is much else implicit in the statement. The relationship with Italy is a crucial one in the shaping of Irish culture, but it is all too often overlooked in favor of the more obvious and accessible links with the English-speaking world. There is an old, abiding and complex set of connections between Ireland and Italy, from medieval monasticism (and earlier) to the contemporary European Union.

The slogan “Home Rule Means Rome Rule”, used by Unionists and Westminster MPs in the late nineteenth century, reflects a widespread idea that, for the overwhelmingly Catholic population of Ireland there was (as Stephen Dedalus suggests) always an alternative capital city to London – and it was not Dublin. The story of Ireland has in so many ways been a story inextricably connected to the Church and thus to Rome; in that sense alone a great deal of Irish history has taken place in Italy.

The departure of the defeated Irish aristocracy to seek refuge on the Catholic continent, the so-called “Flight of the Earls” in 1607, produced a prominent Irish (and usually Irish-speaking) presence in Rome. An Irish seminary, still in existence, was founded there in 1628, and there was significant Irish participation in Italian armies throughout the early modern period.

The connection with the Church has ensured a continuous and intense relationship between Ireland and Italy through to the present day, but Italy has also exercised a powerful influence on other aspects of Irish culture. James Joyce was thoroughly formed as a writer in Italy, and much of his voluminous correspondence – including the letters exchanged with his own children – is written in the Italian language; W.B. Yeats was heavily influenced both by Italian visual art and political thought. Ireland and Italy have parallel histories of political violence in the 1970s, and the financial crisis that began in 2008 has put the two countries in a partly shared predicament of “peripheral” Eurozone countries.

The Notre Dame Irish Seminar and Rome Seminar will come together for a joint seminar on “Ireland and Italy” from June 16th – July 1st, 2017, at the Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway. A variety of scholars, from Ireland, Italy, and the United States will address the historical, cultural, political and social connections between the two countries, including some of the following broad areas: Ireland and the Vatican; the early modern Irish presence in Italy; James Joyce and Italy; Yeats and Ravenna; Yeats and Fascism; political activism in Ireland and Italy; the reception and translation of Irish literature in Italy; Italian themes in contemporary Irish literature; Ireland, Italy and the European Union. The seminar will include a tour of the Irish College, a trip to the Vatican Library to inspect Irish manuscript holdings there, a field trip to the iconic Cinecittà film studios, and tours of sites of Irish interest in Rome such as the tomb of the Great O’Neill in San Pietro in Montorio, the Irish basilica of San Clemente, or the apartment near the Spanish Steps where Joyce wrote “The Dead”.

Under the Executive Directorship of Barry McCrea IRISH SEMINAR 2017 will be held in Rome, Italy. For more information about this years theme, Ireland & Italy please contact irishseminar@nd.edu.

Irish Seminar themes 1999-2017

1999: Memory and History: Ireland 1500-2000.
2000: Modern Ireland 1880-1930.
2001: Contemporary Ireland.
2002: Ireland and Globalisation.
2003: The Irish Body.
2004: Boston or Berlin?
2005: Genealogies of Culture.
2006: Capitals of Culture: Paris and Dublin.
2007: Irish Classics.
2008: Republics and Empires.
2009: Apocalypse and Utopia.
2010: The Irish Revival.
2011: Irish Modernisms.
2012: Contemporary Irish Theatre.
2013: Contemporary Irish Poetry.
2014: The Vernacular Imagination.
2015: Peripheral Modernities? Ireland, Argentina, Latin America.
2016: Classical Influences
2017: Ireland and Italy.

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