Nathaniel Hone II, The Parthenon, Athens (1891/2); graphite and watercolour on paper;
reproduced with the permission of the National Gallery of Ireland

Classical Influences

13th June – 1st July 2016

Dublin & Kylemore

There has been much scholarly discussion in recent decades of the tensions inherent in the appropriation of classical models by colonized nations (e.g. B. Goff (ed.)Classics and Colonialism (London, 2005), M. Bradley (ed.) Classics and Imperialism in the British Empire (Oxford, 2010)). Such tensions were immortalized by Derek Walcott’s reference to ‘all that Greek manure under green bananas’. The Irish, however, were well versed in Greek and Latin before the British colonizers arrived. Classical models, then, do not necessarily represent the colonizer in Irish culture. Some authors, like Yeats, drew parallels between Britain and imperial Rome, but Latin was also the language of the Roman Catholic Church, and so Irish rather than British in a general sense. The 2016 Irish Seminar is designed to examine Irish culture from a number of different historical, sociological, and literary perspectives under the umbrella of the theme ‘Classical Influences’, with the aim of recognizing the wide-ranging impact of Greek and Roman models on the development of Irish society. Literary greats, such as Yeats, Joyce, and Heaney, whose work is well known to have been influenced by classical literature will naturally be addressed, as will the work of prominent contemporary poets and playwrights such as Eavan Boland, Marina Carr, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon and Frank McGuinness. Modern Irish literature will represent an important thread of analysis throughout the course of the three-week seminar. We will discuss what Irish authors do with classical material, how their approaches differ from each other, and what is particularly Irish about their adaptations. However, we will also seek to contextualize Irish engagement with the Classics both diachronically and synchronically. Diachronically by looking back to classical influences on early Irish monasticism, to classical influences in Irish heroic epic, in writings from the early modern period, and to the 18th and 19th century reception of medieval Irish literature. Synchronically by looking beyond literature to classical influences in Irish philosophy, pedagogy, material culture, and particularly in Irish politics in recognition of the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

The 2016 Seminar will be in three parts. Week One will follow the usual format and will take place in O’Connell House. Week Two will feature an international conference on Classics and Irish Politics, and will take place at the Royal Irish Academy and at Trinity College Dublin. Week Three will take place in Notre Dame’s new education centre at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara.

For more information on the Irish Seminar and to join our mailing list contact

For information on the Classics and Irish Politics conference, with a link to a provisional programme,

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

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