I'm forwarding this post from S.C.C. I thought some of you
might find this of interest.
mise le meas,
Paul Beard ([log in to unmask]) wrote:
: I went to see Brian Friel's "Dancing At Lugnasa" last night (a memory
: play in Friel's mythical Ballybeg, Co. Donegal), and enjoyed it
: I would like any information anyone can give me on Field Day, an arts
: project of Friel, Seamus Heaney and Stephen Rea, as well as some tips
: on traditional Irish music (lots and fiddling/tin whistle stuff used in
: the play).
You should probably add Se/amus Deane as well. I'm familiar with
a product of this arts project, the Field Day Anthology of Irish
Writing. This three volume set covers Irish writing over a span
of more than 1300 years. I actually have this set, and
enjoy it immensely. The Field Day Theatre and Publishing Company is
a Derry-based cooperative, including the likes of those folks that
are mentioned here. This work is described as a
first step in looking back at writing in Irish history.
If you are interested, here is an article from the Chronicle
of Higher Education on Se/amus Deane's new post at Notre Dame.
THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
December 15, 1993
PLUNGING INTO IRISH STUDIES
Seamus Deane, a renowned literary scholar, fills a void at Notre
by Peter Monaghan
NOTRE DAME, IND. The University of Notre Dame, the home of the
Fighting Irish, is the sentimental alma mater of many more actual and
would-be Irish-Americans than ever have studied here.
Yet until now, the most identifiably Catholic institution in the
country--one where 14 of 16 presidents have been priests of Irish
birth or descent--has never had an Irish-studies program.
This fall, Seamus Deane, a renowned literary scholar, was invited to
Notre Dame to remedy that lack, aided by a $2.5-million gift to the
The reputation of Mr. Deane, a professor of modern English and
American literature at University College, Dublin, rests on a broad
range of achievements. He was general editor, for example, of the
FIELD DAY ANTHOLOGY OF IRISH WRITING (W. W. Norton, 1991), a
three-volume compendium of writing from the sixth century to the
present. It has been widely accalimed as the most important Irish
publication in decades. (A fourth volume, containing the work of
women writers exclusively, is being prepared.)
The Irish-studies program at Notre Dame, too, will deal with writing
form the whole, 1,500-year expanse of Irish literary history, in Irish as
well as English--and not just "the Golden Oldies: Yeats, Joyce, maybe
Synge and O'Casey," as Mr. Deane puts it. That will immediately set
it apart from all but a few Irish-studies programs in this country.
The FIELD DAY ANTHOLOGY laid the groundwork for a re-evaluation
of the place of writing in Irish history. As an act of postcolonial
protest, it aimed to reclain Irish writing long appropriated by the
English national literary canon.
The anthology has proved a high point in the work of the Field Day
Theatre and Publishing Company, a Derry-based cooperative of
writers and scholars, of which Mr. Deane is one of six directors. Its
pamphlets and theatrical productions have greatly influenced the
debate on Irish political and cultural issues.
So has Mr. Deane's scholarship--consistently. In CELTIC REVIVALS:
ESSAYS IN MODERN IRISH LITERATURE, 1880-1980 (Wake Forest
University Press, 1987), for example, he emphasized Ireland's
literary resilience despite repeated invasions. Also among his
publications is A SHORT HISTORY OF IRISH LITERATURE (University
of Notre Dame Press, 1986).
Mr. Deane has not focused exclusively on Ireland, however. He was
raised in the North, in a working-class family in Derry. As part of the
city's Catholic minority, he was "highly politicized from the outset,"
he notes. Yet it was to Europe and England that his interest turned.
He studied English literature and French Enlightenment thought, first
at Queen's University in Belfast, then at Cambridge University.
Those interests led to the publication in 1988 of THE FRENCH
REVOLUTION AND ENLIGHTENMENT IN ENGLAND (Harvard
University Press, 1988).
He has also published some 70 journal essays, and, in addition, five
books of poetry. His first novel, READING IN THE DARK, is
forthcoming from Granta Books.
Those achievements have made the unassuming Mr. Deane as
highly admired as he is widely liked. Says David Lloyd, an Irish
literary and cultural scholar who teaches at the University of
California at Berkeley: "Deane is clearly the principal Irish intellectual
at the moment. There's no doubt about that." Mr. Deane has
attained, Mr. Lloyd adds, not just academic prestige, but the stature of
a "moving spirit" for a generation of Irish scholars.
"This seems like the perfect appointment for Notre Dame to make,"
says Christopher Fox, the chairman of the university's English
department, where Irish studies will be housed. He calls Mr. Deane
"arguable the top Joyce scholar in the world," who has also written
"probably the standard history of Irish literature." In 1992, Mr. Deane
edited and introduced Penguin's six-volume edition of the works of
Mr. Deane will spend one semester a year at Notre Dame for at least
three years. His program will entail creating new courses and pulling
together existing courses from various departments, first at the
undergraduate level. Graduate courses are planned for the future.
Above all, Mr. Deane says, he came to Notre Dame because he was
more interested in having an opportunity to shape Irish studies in the
United States than in offers to teach modernism or postcolonial
studies elsewhere. He will, in any case, now be closer
geographically to other leading scholars of postcolonialism with
whom he has worked, including Edward Said and Fredric Jameson.
He says he wants to give his program "some particular kind of
distinction." Its unusually wide scope alone will do that. And the
program's location here may give it added punch, given that Mr.
Deane says he and his colleagues at Field Day consider Notre Dame
"a place which might have been a nurturer of precisely the kinds of
stereotypes that would worry us."
The two predominant stereotypes of the Irish, he says, are that they
are very violent and poetic. Although they originated in England to
justify colonial rule, those stereotypes are so strong that even the
Irish and Irish Americans identify with them. "Maybe the best thing to
do is to step into the center and to start changing from there," he
Mr. Deane aims first to acquire important library collections relating
to Irish literature and thought. "Before we can do serious work, we
need library holdings in depth," he says.
That project has already begun, financed by a $2.5-million gift from
Donald and Marilyn Keogh. Mr. Keogh, chairman emeritus of Notre
Dame's Board of Trustees, recently retired as president of the
The major challenge, Mr. Deane says, will be to find resources to
support the program in its breadth--some teaching of the Irish
language and literature in Irish, from the seventh century to today,
and of Irish history, philosophy, and other subjects. Again, the
purpose of that kind of scope is simple, he says: "To understand how
we got into this mess in the North, we've got to understand the
history, the genesis, and the force of the stereotypical patterns
according to which all of us, Catholics and Protestants, are
Courses on Ireland are offered by hundreds of institutions. A
comprehensive approach of the kind Mr. Deane envisions, however,
is found at only a few institutions, including Boston College and New
York University. He cites some "very fine teachers" elsewhere,
including Mr. Lloyd of Berkeley. But otherwise, he adds, "Irish
studies leads a very exiguous life, as an appendix, sometimes a
diseased appendix, to British or English literature."
Irish studies at Notre Dame, he says, will share the aims of Field
Day, including challenging versions of Irish history "which we would
regard as complicit with the colonial mentality."
In his writing, Mr. Deane suggests that Ireland serves well as a small
case study of colonialism. Literature, he says, provides a window
into that history. The latest phase of intense literary production is
linked to the island's recent political history--"this 25-year war since
1968," as Mr. Deane puts it. In the forefront of the revival have been
figures like Mr. Deane and his friend since their schooldays together,
Seamus Heaney, the foremost living Irish poet.
The political nature of the literary revival is no secret. On this
subject, Mr. Deane is clear: "In the Northern situation, I would quite
frankly say you can't solve that situation, you can't introduce peace,
unless you introduce justice, and you can't introduce justice and
preserve the Northern state." He adds, with characteristic wryness:
"But of course, when I say that, then people see the shadow of an
Armalite in my hand. And so I say, 'Here's a phantom bullet. I call it
Many of his critics in Ireland, he notes, see his cultural undertakings
as agitation. Mr. Lloyd of Berkeley confirms that assessment, and
applauds Mr. Deane for his resoluteness. "It's a real credit to
Seamus Deane that he has maintained his radical edge," he says.
Mr. Fox, the chairman of the English department here, says that when
he recommended hiring Mr. Deane, he reasoned that "the Irish
Catholic kids at Notre Dame needed somebody like Seamus Deane to
give them his sense of what it meant to be Irish."
Certainly Mr. Deane stands ready to correct any romantic notions
about Ireland--pro- or anti-republican. "It's a matter of great frustration
to many people in Ireland," he says, "that the American view of
Ireland is so confined, and in many ways so anorexic.
"To understand the Northern Irish situation takes a long time and a
great deal of care," he says.
Nor will Notre Dame's Catholicism, or his own beginnings as a
"cradle Catholic," damp his outspokenness. For instance, he says: "I
have no patience with or time for any notion of a Catholic, Gaelic
Ireland. None whatsoever. It would be as bad as a Protestant,
A fresh look at Irish writing, he suggests, holds promise. He has
been in the forefront of a re-evaluation of W. B. Yeats. In Mr. Deane's
reading of this most celebrated of Irish poets, Yeats actually
crystallizes a whole system of colonialist attitudes. Yet Yeats voices
his colonialist stripes so brilliantly that, far more fruitfully than lesser
poets, he engages such issues as the inseparability of literature and
politics, Mr. Deane says.
Part of Mr. Deane's "personal effort," as he puts it, has been "to
recuperate James Joyce from what I have to say is the American
liberal humanist view of him, and put him in a much more specific
geographical, historical, colonial context." This semester, he has
been teaching an undergraduate course on the novelist and a
graduate course on the Irish novel. So rapidly has his renown as a
lecturer spread that the lecture halls have overflowed with listeners.
"He's very generous about letting everybody come in," says Mr. Fox.
His assessment of Mr. Deane--"As a lecturer I've never seen anybody
quite like him"--is shared by Brian Friel, the Field Day playwright. In
a letter of recommendation to Notre Dame officials, Mr. Friel called
Mr. Deane a brilliant lecturer, creative, persuasive, and fascinating.
"His lectures are informed and crafted and satisfyingly complete
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Sean V. Kelley [log in to unmask] (MIME)
Avionics Div., Lockheed Scri/obh chugam i nGaeilge, ma/s e/ do thoil e/
"Bi/onn driopa/s ar na h-amada/in nuair a bhi/onn drugall ar na h-aingil"
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