A selection of abstracts and other information for the School of English Staff–Postgraduate seminar series in 2013-14. View the complete schedule.

Seminars take place on Wednesdays at 5pm in Room 4047 in the Arts Building and all are welcome!

Hilary Term 2014

Week 1: January 15

Dr Gillian Groszewski (TCD): Anthology Wars: Thom Gunn’s and Ted Hughes’s “Five American Poets”

Ted Hughes maintained a sustained interest in anthologies from the beginning to the end of his literary career. Despite this, no critical attention has been given to Hughes’s involvement with the genre. This paper considers some specific anthologies that were important to Hughes in the 1950s and ’60s for inspiration and as a means by which he could advance his career. The paper then looks closely at Five American Poets (1963), the anthology co-edited by Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes, suggesting that this book embodies many of the problems and possibilities associated with post-war Anglo-American poetics. Nicholas Jenkins has suggested that criticism of poetry in this era was dominated by ‘authentication by nationality […] the assumption […] that a poet’s work is significant to the extent that it identifies with, or represents, the modern socio-cultural collective of a “nation”’’. This paper explores the extent to which the anthologies under consideration participated in the “reterritorialisation” of the poetry they contained while also suggesting, more positively, that these anthologies often facilitated the development of Anglo-American poetic interrelations.

Week 2: January 22

Monica Insinga: Dreamspace, the City, and a New ‘Ice Age’ in Marina Carr’s “Marble”

‘De Chirico’s painting “Melancholy and Mystery of a Street” is the mood and landscape I would like to catch: the near absence of people, the dream shadows, yet full of vibrant colour and intrigue.’ – Marina Carr

Irish playwright Marina Carr’s Marble (2009) can be set in a number of places/spaces: a room with lots of marble, a city that could be Dublin or possibly any other Western city. According to De Chirico’s paintings on “Melancholy,” the landscape should be empty and vast, a street without people, at times with a marble statue at the centre. It is a surreal space, which various kinds of dreams can easily fill up. This is the space inhabited by two of the four characters of the play, Catherine and Art, who share this “dream of marble” that drives their actions, from the start of the play when the dream begins until their decision to leave their respective families. This paper compares and contrasts this surreal vision of the play with the 2009 Abbey Theatre production; director Jeremy Herrin had the play set in a more naturalistic cityscape, with a variety of different realistic settings like living rooms with leather sofas or the “De Chirico” bar with neon lights. This paper argues that the style of the Abbey production contributed to the misinterpretation of Carr’s text, a play in which the urban setting should be interspersed with surreal images related to the “dream of marble” and a gradual depiction of what Art and Ben describe as a new “age of ice.”

Kate Smyth: All the World Had Agreed’: Social Constructions of Beauty in Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”

The Bluest Eye calls attention to African-American internalisation of worthlessness as a result of hegemonic white beauty standards. Pecola Breedlove’s entrenched belief that her happiness depends on obtaining blue eyes highlights the influence of social constructions of white beauty as superior and symbolic of perfection. The widespread social privileging of white children and light-skinned black children has resulted in lower self-esteem and self-perception for many dark-skinned black children, who have been systematically taught, from generation to generation, that they are ugly and undesirable through the popularity of white film stars such as Shirley Temple and Jean Harlow, through the mass media, and white baby dolls. Morrison writes in The Blue Eye: ‘All the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured.’ Morrison emphasises the necessity of a supportive family base, like that of Pecola’s peer, Claudia MacTeer, in the fight against the internalisation of racist notions of beauty. Because white hegemonic beauty standards are accepted and perpetuated by members of the black community in the novel, even among Pecola’s own family, she becomes a method for them to alleviate their internalised feelings of ugliness and inferiority. This paper explores the detrimental effects of black internalisation and perpetuation of white beauty ideals, the prizing of lighter-skinned black girls such as Maureen Peal and the socially-sanctioned process of “passing,” and the subsequent division of the black community.

Week 3: January 29

Prof Brad Kent (Université Laval): The Making of the Public Intellectual: The Essays of Sean O’Faolain

Visit Prof Kent’s profile on the Université Laval website here.

Week 4: February 5

Richard Howard: A Proximity to Technology: The Ideologeme of Progress in the Science Fiction of James White

This paper discusses the science fiction of the Belfast author James White, who published his first story in New Worlds magazine in 1953, and continued working up until his death in 1999. White is renowned for his pacifist-inspired stories set on the intergalactic hospital Sector General, but this paper instead focuses on two of White’s standalone novels: Second Ending and Tomorrow is Too Far. It first discusses the significance of the emergence of the science fiction form in Belfast of the mid-twentieth century (White and his friend, work colleague and fellow SF author Bob Shaw constituting something of a micro-tradition), before attempting to outline how an “ideologeme of progress” emerged surrounding industrial development in the city. Fredric Jameson coined the term ideologeme to refer to ‘the smallest intelligible unit of the essentially antagonistic collective discourse of social classes,’ an ideology that reproduces itself through its dissemination through cultural texts. Having established the emergence of the ideologeme in Belfast, the paper then turns to the fiction of White, mapping the trajectory of his central protagonists as articulating a narrative of constant improvement achieved through a proximity to technology.

James Little: Between a Protest and “Catastrophe”

Written for a night of theatre in solidarity with the jailed Czech dissident playwright Václav Havel, following a request from the International Association for the Defence of Artists, Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe (1982) remains at the centre of critical debate on the politics of his writing. The opening dedication to Havel has been crucial to political readings of the play, as nothing else in the text refers directly to contemporary political events. Catastrophe is protest writing, but not as we know it. This paper analyses the ways in which Beckett’s bare poetics, together with the context in which the play was composed, have given rise to the play’s particular political dynamics. It argues that Mistake (1984), Havel’s one-act response to Catastrophe, is the kind of representational prison writing that Beckett’s work explicitly sets out to avoid.

Week 5: February 12

Tim Groenland: Consider the Author: Editing David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King”

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King is a notable recent example of that rare breed of work, the posthumously published unfinished novel. The work was assembled by Wallace’s long-time editor Michael Pietsch after the author’s suicide in 2008, and was released to critical acclaim in 2011. This paper examines the editorial processes involved in the production of the novel, drawing on a recent visit to Wallace’s archive at the University of Texas in Austin. The material housed there relating to The Pale King sheds a revealing light on the editorial activity behind the book’s publication: it includes Pietsch’s working notes as well as Wallace’s drafts, making it possible not only to examine chapters and fragments left out of the published work but also to reconstruct the decisions made in relation to selection, sequencing and presentation. Wallace’s notebooks also offer valuable insights into the creative process, a glimpse at the early growth of ideas and hints of ways in which the novel might have developed if it had been completed.

This paper discusses these materials and their implications as well as the problems they pose for critical interpretation. It also considers the inherent “unfinishedness” of the work, taking other unfinished novels by the likes of Kafka, Fitzgerald and Nabokov as examples, and examines how the editorial framing of the work helps determine its reception.

Sarah Nangle: At the Close of Chaucer’s Halcyon Days – Music and Rationality in “the Manciple’s Tale”

This paper offers a contextualization of the relationship between music and rationality in the works Geoffrey Chaucer through analysis of the Manciple’s Tale, one of the poet’s final compositions. In Chaucer’s early works, the poet employs images of birdsong which intrinsically associate music with order and governance (both of the self and of communities). In the Book of the Duchess, crafted birdsong rouses the Dreamer from his melancholy, propelling the narrative forward, and in the Parliament of Fowls, the discordant assembly of birds are reconciled through song despite their disunity, as they conclude their council by singing a roundel together. In the Manciple’s Tale, Chaucer returns to the theme of birdsong, but instead, relates a tale of turmoil and irrationality.

In Chaucer’s Manciple’s Tale, Phebus (the god of Music and Poetry) possesses a white feathered crow that he has trained to speak. When this crow informs Phebus that his wife has been unfaithful, the god, in his anger, murders his wife, then destroys his musical instruments and curses the crow with black feathers and an unmusical voice. The contrast to the beautiful and controlled birdsong of the poet’s earlier works is telling. This paper deminstrates how this destruction of birdsong articulates both Chaucer’s withdrawal from the craft of poetry, and also, his preoccupation with the deepening crisis in the reign of Richard II, in the poet’s final employment of avian imagery to explore the connection of music and governance.

Week 6: February 19

Prof Raphaël Ingelbien (KU Leuven): Joyce’s Tourists: Revisiting “The Dead”

Visit Prof Ingelbien’s profile on the KU Leuven website here.

Week 8: March 5

Ailise Bulfin: The Natural Catastrophe in Fin-de-siècle Popular Fiction

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Western popular culture had become saturated with what has been termed an ‘apocalyptic imaginary’ – a myriad of entropic images of degeneration, total war and the fall of civilisation. While H.G. Wells remains the best-known of the fin-de-siècle writers of disastrous futures, his work both responded to and greatly influenced a body of similar-themed texts which envisaged all manner of coming perils. The majority of these texts turn on catastrophes of a manmade nature including global wars, nationalist uprisings, domestic revolutions, super weapons and manufactured plagues. However, a significant subset employ natural disaster as the means of catastrophe, many dramatising the astronomical theories of cometary collision with earth or the heat death of the sun and others postulating meteorological and geological disasters in the form of storm, fog, ice, flood, volcanic eruption and earthquake. Wells, George Griffith and others write dramatic texts of comet strike, M. P. Shiel envisages a poison gas cloud emitted by a volcanic eruption wiping out humanity, and William Delisle Hay, Robert Barr, and J. Drew Gray all put forward differing versions of deadly fog.

This paper provides a survey of this little-explored subset of natural catastrophe texts, investigating the types of catastrophe they envisaged and their relationship to scientific theories of catastrophe put forward over the course of the nineteenth century. It argues that though these texts ostensibly proposed forces external to mankind as the source of catastrophe, many of them in some way attribute the blame for disaster to humanity in much the same way as the texts of manmade disaster. Arising perhaps out of societal guilt at technological and imperial progress, these texts often subtly shift the blame from the natural to the manmade – fogs are attributed to pollution, volcanic eruption to over-exploration, comets to the wrath of a vengeful god.

Jane Mahony: ‘The black and sinister arts / Of an Irish writer in foreign parts’: James Joyce’s “Dubliners” and Maunsel & Company, Dublin Publishers

The publishing history of James Joyce’s Dubliners was a protracted and eventful saga over nearly a decade from 1905 to its eventual publication in 1914. After rejection by at least eight publishers, the Dublin publishing company Maunsel & Co contracted to publish the collection in 1909. This paper details the extraordinary story of the negotiations and relationship between Joyce and Maunsel over the next three years, with the disastrous conclusion to which Joyce attributed his flight and subsequent exile from Ireland. This paper outlines the history of Maunsel and Joyce’s negotiations, in the context of the company’s background and history and that of the literary history of Revival Ireland.

The Irish Literary Revival sought to create in Ireland a distinctive sense of national identity in the English language and for many of its adherents was a conscious replacement for the constitutional political nationalism that had withered with the political fall of Charles Stewart Parnell. Some of the Revival leaders, notably W.B. Yeats and the author, commentator and later MP, Stephen Gwynn, believed that a national publishing industry would assist in underpinning the movement and provide an alternative to London publishers for Irish writers at a transformative stage in Irish literary, cultural, and national history. In the 1890s and early 1900s, all Irish authors of note were publishing in London, and the small Dublin firms were publishing only a few literary works by young and unknown writers, with the bulk of their output made up of material such as educational and religious books. Maunsel & Co was founded in 1905 and published until 1925, contemporaneously with the Revival and its fortunes were very closely linked with that movement. It has long been known as the publisher which failed to publisher Dubliners, but this paper corrects some of the myths surrounding the accepted narrative, and situates the story in the context of the contemporary publishing industry.

SEE THE SCHEDULE FOR UPDATED TITLES OF PAPERS BY AILISE AND JANE

Week 9: March 12

Dr Lauren Arrington (University of Liverpool): Constance Markievicz’s Prison Reading

Constance Markievicz was a consummate propagandist. Her emotive rhetoric and simplistic diction disguise the depth of her political thought. This examination of her prison reading, which ranged from a biography of Tolstoy to Bolshevik political theory, suggests that her revolutionary action was rooted in a diverse, international intellectual context.

Week 10: March 19

Prof Matthew Campbell (University of York): Dora Sigerson, the Hardys and Easter 1916

Visit Professor Campbell’s profile on the University of York website here.

Week 11: March 26

Dr Tom Walker (TCD): Yeats, Art Writing and Revolution in the 1910s

Visit Dr Walker’s profile on the School of English website here.

Week 12: April 2

Dr Jo Gill (University of Exeter): Modern American Poetry and the Architectural Imagination: “A black line drawn on flat air”

This paper represents some of the preliminary research for my new book, Modern American Poetry and the Architectural Imagination. As the title suggests, my broad interest is in the relationship between poetry and architecture across the twentieth century. In this paper, I focus on the development during the modernist period of a new set of ideas, practices, and discourses in relation to architecture, and on the emergence of a parallel set of concerns in poetry. With reference to several architects of the “International Style” (including Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe) and to the work of Wallace Stevens and other poets, the paper assesses the extent to which the two disciplines learned from, responded to, and otherwise engaged with each other, particularly with respect to debates about form, function, space, proportion, and ornament. I argue that poetry begins to think and to see architecturally at a moment of significant change in architectural theory and practice and that our understanding of both disciplines is enhanced by an examination of this shared set of interests.

Visit Dr Gill’s Profile on the University of Exeter website here.

Michaelmas Term 2013

25th September

Dr. Eve Patten (TCD): From the Blaskets to Birmingham: George Thomson’s Irish Connections

When the poet John Masefield read Synge’s account of the Aran Islands, he worried it would send ‘scores of tweeded beasts’ in his footsteps to Ireland’s western coastline. George Thomson was one of those beasts, and this paper traces the complex connections from his role as the English translator of Muiris O’Suilleabhain’s Blasket Island autobiography, Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years a Growing), to his various English incarnations as T.S. Eliot groupie, Birmingham University classicist and British Communist Party activist. This paper – part of a larger study of Irish-English literary encounters in the first half of the twentieth century – defines Thomson through Joep Leerssen’s concept of the ‘extraterritorial’, culturally engaged beyond his own national boundary and falling beneath the radar of Irish post-Revival narratives. With a sideways glance at ideas of romantic primitivism in this period, I will focus in particular on Thomson’s recruitment of his Blasket Island experience in the 1920s to the causes – educational and political – of his celebrated book Marxism and Poetry, written in Birmingham two decades later.

Dr. Patten is the Head of the School of English. Visit her profile on the School of English website here.

2nd October

Dr. Emily O’Brien: A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608): Murder, Demonic Possession, and True-Crime Drama in Early Modern England

In 1605, an English gentleman named William Calverley murdered two of his young sons, and seriously injured his third son – still a baby at the time – and his wife at their home in Yorkshire. The crime gave rise to a number of representations in print and on the stage, including a play of uncertain authorship, probably first performed soon after the events and first printed in 1608 as A Yorkshire Tragedy. This play forms part of an innovative subgenre of early modern tragedy depicting contemporary, true-crime murders. However, as critics have noted, A Yorkshire Tragedy is markedly different from other extant plays of this kind. While most murder plays locate their power in their association with real events, A Yorkshire Tragedy tends instead towards anonymity and abstraction. This paper presents new evidence about how A Yorkshire Tragedy reflects on the theatrical mediation of real events and sheds light on aspects of the play which have puzzled critics, focusing in particular on how it invents a narrative of demonic possession, rather than simply appropriating the more obvious precedent of the murder pamphlet genre.

Dr. Niall Gillespie: Frankenstein in Ireland: Democratic Circuits in English Novels, c. 1792-1830

This paper examines the portrayal of a radicalised Ireland in the literature of both liberal and conservative English anti-Jacobin writers.

9th October

Elizabeth Parker: Deciduous Progeny: The Roots of Evil

‘One day, my log will have something to say about this.’ – The Log Lady, Twin Peaks

A mother’s love is often quite a frightening thing in the Gothic. Indeed the dark, obsessive, and positively unhinged monstrous matriarch has almost become something of a cliché, with texts such as Friday 13th, The Brood and the twisted inversion of Psycho. With the tendency towards the eco-Gothic, this trope – though perhaps less obviously apparent – still persists. It is argued here that eco-Gothic texts which use the geographical space of the Deep Dark Forest, or its themes, are heavily indebted to our classical fairy tales. In these we will discover time and again the baron and desperate couple, willing to do anything for the gift of a child.

This paper explores the varyingly sinister answers given by the eco-Gothic to such a careless wish. It explores specifically the forest’s dark and chaotic solutions. Drawing in particular on the examples of the mandrake root in Pan’s Labyrinth, the terrifying tree stump baby of Little Otik, and the log (and its lady) in Twin Peaks, this paper examines both the ‘technologies’ of these monsters and their status as Gothic ‘bodies’. It pays particular attention to the technology of special effects in animating the forest and its monsters, which varies hugely between these three texts. The extent to which these darkly animated things are ‘bodies’ at all is also questioned, as in each case the monsters may be mere objects, which have been animated only by madness. This in turn calls into question the idea of creating a ‘body’ from our darkest, but arguably most ‘natural’ desires. The paper concludes with a discussion of Gothic geographies, and particularly the forest in cultural imaginings as our primary repository for the repressed.

Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy: Mean Streets, Dark Cities, Endless Night: The World of Noir Fiction

You would have to be living under a rock for the past 70 years to not be familiar with the term film noir and have some idea of what the term means. Noir fiction, however, is an entirely different matter. We can all make a stab at what we think denotes noir fiction simply by looking a film noir’s literary sources – James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity or Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep are typical examples. But noir fiction’s roots and branches reach far beyond this. This paper will look at this elusive and profoundly influential literary genre and attempt to unpack its various elements.

16th October

Dr. Heiko Zimmermann (University of Trier): Reconsiderations of Author and Readership in Digital Literature

Visit Dr. Zimmermann’s website here.

Note: This seminar is a crossover with the MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture and will run from 5-7pm in Room 0.09, Aras an Phiarsaigh. As usual all welcome.

23rd October

Ian Kinane: Theatre of War: Survivor: Palau as a Pacific ‘Lieu de Memoire’

Since the initial ‘opening up’ of the Pacific Ocean to the west by explorers such as Cook and Bougainville, the islands of the South Seas have long been viewed as timeless paradises, abstractions of quotidian time that persevere in the cultural imagination as sites of old world naturalism, ostensibly unmarred by intervention. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, however, the cultural history of the Pacific had to be re-written. It was on the island of Guadalcanal that the allied forces first began to gain ground on the Japanese army, which led eventually to their victory in the Pacific. The Islands of Palau, a small Micronesian nation, saw some of the fiercest battles of the war.

In this paper, I want to examine precisely how this ‘theatre of war’ has been recaptured in the popular American reality television show, Survivor, the tenth season of which was filmed within and around the islands of Peliliu and Koror, those most affected during the war. Filmed in 2005 – some sixty or so years following the end of the war – Survivor: Palau can be read as a memorialisation of the trauma that occurred. Survivor, which pits two opposing teams or tribes against each other, in what is often compared to a ‘battle’ or ‘war’, is a veritable re-mapping of the war experience, played out for the benefit of popular entertainment. This paper suggests that Survivor: Palau re-posits the cultural memory of war within the very landscape in which it was first performed, examines how exactly the memory of war is constructed within the show.

Jim Clarke: Rome in the Rain: Reflection in the Collaboration of Anthony Burgess and David Robinson

Anthony Burgess’s 1975 novel Beard’s Roman Women is saturated with reflections. Burgess’s fiction is a reflection upon David Robinson’s photographs which partly inspired it, which are themselves depictions of Rome reflected in the rain. Drawing on both photographic and literary theory, this paper will examine the collaboration between Burgess and Robinson, a rare instance in which a work of literature has been directly inspired by art photography, and explore the dual meaning of reflection as manifested via Robinson’s distorted photographic images and Burgess’s fictionalisation of his own experience of living in Rome.

30th October

Melissa Flynn: Irony in Children’s Picturebooks

Interpreting irony in children’s picturebooks presents several particular difficulties. For one, the audience for the picturebook can include both children and adults, leaving it open as to who the irony is aimed at. Pictures and words can also present conflicting narratives. Irony itself divides its audience into those who perceive it and those who miss it. Thus, multiple perspectives are possible.

This paper considers the role of different perspectives in interpreting irony in a picturebook, in light of Lyotard’s ideas about micronarratives and Nietzsche’s perspectivism.

Miles Link: The Invention of Nuclear Winter: Changes in the Imagination of the Late Cold War 

This paper argues that the introduction of the concept of nuclear winter represented a major shift in nuclear thinking, and demonstrates the close connections between scientific development, nuclear strategy and popular culture. In the early 1980s, several teams of scientists conducted research that suggested the smoke produced by a nuclear conflict would severely impact the planet’s climate by blocking out sunlight. Their findings sparked a widespread public debate, stoked by contributors such as Carl Sagan, on the confluence of science, nature, and nuclear weapons. Indeed, nuclear winter, an issue played out in the sphere of popular culture, emerged in the context of a revived disarmament movement in the West.

In suggesting the consequences of a nuclear conflict would last indefinitely, nuclear winter finally demolished the idea of a brief ‘spasm war’, as Herman Kahn accusingly named it. The paper argues that nuclear winter exposed earlier intellectual currents in nuclear thinking as inadequate. Nuclear winter also marks a shift in the imagination of the apocalypse, from a sudden crisis to a never-ending state of ruin – the template for later concerns about climate change and economic upheaval. Nuclear winter demonstrates how Cold War anxieties transitioned to those of a post-1991 global society, shifting from a world of distinct ‘Fordist’ industrial production to today’s continuous and immaterial ‘post-Fordist’ production.

The paper examines scientists’ presentations of their findings in texts such as The Cold and the Dark (1984), reactions to nuclear winter from the strategic community, and creative depictions of nuclear winter such as the British television miniseries Threads (1984). The paper also considers later assessments of the nuclear winter debate, such as Lawrence Badash’s 2009 study A Nuclear Winter’s Tale. This historical evidence is used as a case study to show how developments in politics and science respond to popular cultural developments.

13th November

Dr. Christopher Collins (Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Drama, TCD): The Changeling of the Western World

Scholars of J.M. Synge are in general agreement that Synge’s (mis)representation of the Irish populace under the auspices of Catholic bourgeois nationalism caused the disturbances that greeted The Playboy of the Western World (1907) and salacious profanity is invariably invoked to substantiate the argument. But like so many things with Synge, there are often deeper and darker motives at work. Thispaper proposes an alternative reading of the so-called Playboy riots by juxtaposing sex and violence with Synge’s knowledge of changeling belief in Irish folk culture and its manifestation in the ‘Clonmel horror’ of 1895.

20th November

Dr. Dara Downey (UCD): ‘I Must Have Died…’: Post-Mortem Speech in the Uncanny Tales of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and Harriet Prescott Spofford

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, consolation literature in America, fiction or non-fiction, concentrated primarily on reassuring the living of the happy and settled condition of their dear departed in an often richly imagined and increasingly idyllic afterlife. These texts, which almost invariably contained a religious element, within the broad parameters by which ‘religious’ or indeed ‘spiritual’ was understood particularly towards the end of the nineteenth century in the United States, strove repeatedly and frequently at some length to convince their readers that their deceased loved ones were now in a place far better than this sorrowful earthly sphere. From here, it was asserted time and again, the dead would never return – and, since the mundane realm is a sinful, painful, tainted opposite of eternal heavenly bliss, nor would they want to.

This permanent relegation of the dead to the afterlife is, however, somewhat paradoxically, repeatedly and insistently figured in strikingly homely terms, evoking the ‘heavenly mansions’ that are most dramatically literalised in Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’ famous post-Civil War novella, The Gates Ajar, which images heaven as little different from an middle-class vision of domestic and community life. Permitting the living to picture the next world in familiar terms serves to lessen fears of the unknown but, in doing so, such texts conversely contribute to the mystique of the home, aligning it with a bliss that is, by definition, so great as to be otherworldly.

As shall be argued in this paper, this figurative domestication of heaven and idealisation of home opens up space for literary depictions of life after death that in fact refuse the banishment of the dead to the spaces of death. Phelps’ ‘Since I Died’ and Harriet Prescott Spofford’s ‘The Amber Gods’ offer two, albeit very different, alternatives to texts which reassure the living both that their loved ones are happy and that they have departed this earthly sphere forever. By allowing their female narrators to narrate their lives and deaths from beyond the grave while still apparently inhabiting the houses they previously occupied, these stories literalise the home/heaven association. Rather than moving on and therefore being effectively forgotten, the dead therefore stubbornly, scandalously, and potentially subversively, continue to maintain a relationship with the spaces with which their living selves were intimately associated.

27th November

Professor Barbara Will (Dartmouth College): Rethinking Minimalism: Hemingway and Beckett

Listen to a podcast of this seminar here.

Visit Professor Will’s profile on the Dartmouth website here.

4th December

Dr. David O’Shaughnessy (TCD): ‘Hath Not a Jew a Touch of the Brogue?’: Dennis O’Bryen’s A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed (1783)

Visit Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s profile on the School of English website here.

11th December

Georgina Nugent-Folan: Gertrude Stein, die ungluckliche Dame?: Beckett’s Reading of Stein in the German Letter

In the 1937 German letter Samuel Beckett refers to Gertrude Stein as ‘die unglückliche Dame’. In Beckett’s Letters Volume 1, Viola Westbrook translates ‘unglückliche’ as ‘unhappy’. However, Martin Esslin in Disjecta favoured the term ‘unfortunate’. Duden gives the primary sense of ‘unglücklich’ as ‘nicht glücklich; traurig und deprimiert’ [unhappy, sad and depressed, dejected], and its secondary sense as ‘nicht vom Glück begünstigt; ungünstig, widrig’ [not favoured by luck, unfavourable, adverse]. However, the primary sense of the verb ‘glücken’ is to succeed; the relative happiness of a person in such a situation is therefore of secondary importance to their capacity to be successful. In addition to ‘unhappy’, translations of ‘unglückliche’ range from ‘unlucky’ to ‘ill-fated’, ‘hapless’, ‘unfortunate’, or even ‘clumsy’. What, then, were the factors that influenced Westbrook’s decision to favour the term ‘unhappy’ over ‘unfortunate’?

This paper is concerned with parsing the significance of Beckett’s use of the term ‘unglückliche’, demonstrating how different translations of the term lead to different interpretations not only of Beckett’s opinion on Stein’s character, but on the overall importance of his engagement with and praise of her work in this key passage where he breaks from Joyce’s aesthetics and instead favours the work of an ‘unglückliche’ lady.

Brian McManus: A Christmas Carol for the Irish Diaspora: HT Kavanagh, Darby O’Gill and The Ashes of Old Wishes

In the first decade of the twentieth century, the New York literary magazine McClure’s published a series of stories about the roguish Tipperary farmer Darby O’Gill and his various encounters with Brian Connors, the King of the Fairies. Later adapted for cinema by Walt Disney in the much-maligned 1959 film Darby O’Gill and the Little People, the original stories blended a semi-realistic portrayal of Irish rural life with representations of many supernatural figures from Irish folklore. The fifteen published stories constituted a conscious effort on behalf of their author, Longford native Herminie Templeton Kavanagh, to create children’s literature that was distinctly Irish for the benefit of the youngest members of the Irish-American community, which had been expanding hugely since the mass emigration from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century.

This paper will focus on one story in particular in analysing Templeton Kavanagh’s approach towards constructing Irish identity and Irishness in her literary work. In December 1905, McClure’s published Templeton Kavangh’s festive instalment ‘The Ashes of Old Wishes’, featuring the regular characters of Darby and King Brian in what is, essentially, an Irish retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The paper will examine the roles of characterisation, the use of Irish vernacular and the appropriation of elements of Irish folklore in achieving the story’s Irishness and will also discuss the literary influences on and the literary legacy of Templeton Kavanagh’s construction of Irish identity.

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