Academic journal article Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies

Editors' Introduction

Academic journal article Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies

Editors' Introduction

Article excerpt

This issue suggests the many directions of current scholarship in Irish Studies: work characterized by new archival research, revisionist unsettlings of earlier assumptions, and innovative interdisciplinary initiatives. We begin with four essays illustrating how Irish Studies today ranges far beyond its foundational disciplines of English-language literature and history. Each of these first four contributions, by moving both within and beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, suggests new directions for interdisciplinary scholarship. Subsequent essays reflect the flood of recent work amplifying or challenging familiar interpretations of major subjects and actors in the Irish historical record.

Guy Beiner's "The Decline and Rebirth of 'Folk Memory,'" seamlessly connecting folklore, literary criticism, and history, examines how local memory about the 1798 French landing at the Bay of Killala in County Mayo interacted with the relatively modern literary genre of the novel and the even more recent form of cinema. Beiner demonstrates how the American publication and the subsequent RTE filming of Thomas Flanagan's The Year of the French in Mayo provided the catalyst for revived local interest in historical and social memories of 1798. His essay charts the complicated and overlapping relationships between folk memory and modern cultural activities--fiction, film, and even Irish summer schools. Like Angela Bourke's article, "Legless in London," Beiner's contribution undermines linear models of social memory. Both authors illustrate how folk memory, despite its often-lamented demise, does not disappear but rather transforms itself into new, sometimes startling "modern" forms. Burke juxtaposes two twentieth-century narratives about migrations and exile, finding innovative responses to the colonial experience both in the first modernist fiction written in Irish by Padraic O Conaire and in the folk memories of the legendary storyteller Eamon Liam a Burc.

Architectural historian Rhona Richman-Kenneally, like Guy Beiner, explores the complex interactions between historical, social, and political agendas that interact in the construction of modern commemorative sites. "Now You Don't See It, Now You Do: Situating the Irish in the Material Culture of Grosse Ile" again offers a richly interdisciplinary exploration of historical memory. Richman-Kenneally begins with a detailed scrutiny of the souvenir tourist card from Grosse Ile in Canada that appears on the cover of this issue. Her essay introduces readers to the methods for studying material culture and firmly locates Irish commemoration within that rapidly developing interdisciplinary field. Margaret Kelleher's bibliographical research about a major anthology of Irish writing similarly situates Irish Studies within another such field, in this case the increasingly visible area of the history of the book. Her essay, "The Cabinet of Irish Literature: A Historical Perspective on Irish Anthologies," positions Irish anthologies in recent international debates about the political and cultural functions of such publications; it also undermines historical claims for the uniqueness of the 1991 Field Day Anthology project.

If some initiatives in Irish Studies strike out in interdisciplinary directions, other essays in this issue return to familiar historical actors--John Mitchel, D.P. Moran, and Kevin O'Higgins--with fresh eyes. As a foundational and much heralded figure in Irish revolutionary republicanism, Mitchel is recognized as a champion of the oppressed Irish, but he was also, disconcertingly for many today, the champion of Negro slavery. James Quinn's "John Mitchel and the Rejection of the Nineteenth Century," rather than accepting Mitchel as an apostle of individual freedom, stresses the extreme illiberalism of his outlook. Quinn explores how Mitchel loathed Britain not only in its role as the oppressor of Ireland but also in its position as symbol of a nineteenth-century idea of progress embodied in industrial capitalism, free trade, unregulated competition, and advances in communications. …

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