The Irish Seminar
The Irish Seminar nurtures a cosmopolitan community of young scholars: the eighteenth-century Republic of Letters 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 pluralization of approaches, less constrained by the firmness of institutional boundaries and disciplinary consolidation. It is self-reflective about professional and intellectual formation, while seeking to foster a supportive environment that develops the intellectual poise of emerging scholars.
Seminar sessions elicit sustained feedback between faculty and participants. Ideas are taken seriously, the exchanges occur in a dialogical manner, and there is a real focus on fostering a community of learning. Alongside formal sessions, there are readings, theatre visits, archive and library visits, and field trips. Participants have been drawn from the United States, 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 graduate students provides a matrix for stimulating debate.
The Irish Seminar has been presented annually since 1999 at ND’s Dublin Global Gateway in O’Connell House. It is a flagship program for Irish Studies at Notre Dame, founded by Seamus Deane, Chris Fox, and Kevin Whelan. Past themes include The Vernacular Imagination, The Irish Revival, Apocalypse and Utopia, Genealogies of Culture, and Ireland and Globalization.
Faculty have included 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 and 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 participating in the Irish Seminar have included Elizabeth Cullingford, Emer Nolan, Clair Wills, Marjorie Howes, Siobhán Kilfeather, Máirín Nic Eoin, David Lloyd, and Joe Cleary.
2017 Theme: Ireland and Italy
The Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Italian Studies Department at Notre Dame present ‘The Irish and Rome’ Seminar 2017, led by Professor Barry McCrea.
In the first chapter of Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus declares that he is ‘the servant of two masters … an English and an Italian’. Stephen is referring to the British monarch and the Roman Pope, but (as with many of Stephen’s musings) much else is implicit in the statement. The relationship with Italy was crucial in shaping Irish culture, but it is easily overlooked in favor of the more obvious links with the Anglophone world. An old, abiding, and complex set of connections bind Ireland and Italy, from medieval monasticism to the contemporary European Union.
The slogan ‘Home Rule Means Rome Rule,’ used by Unionists in the late nineteenth century, reflected a widespread idea that, for the overwhelmingly Catholic population of Ireland, there was always an alternative capital city to London and it was not necessarily Dublin. The story of Ireland is inextricably connected to the Church and thus to Rome; a great deal of Irish history has taken place in Italy.
The Flight of the Earls in 1607 — the departure of the defeated Irish aristocracy to seek refuge on the Catholic continent — produced a prominent Irish, and 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 down to the present day, but Italy has also exercised a powerful influence on Irish culture. Joyce was thoroughly formed as a writer in Italy, and his voluminous correspondence — including letters to his children — was largely written in Italian. Yeats was heavily influenced by Italian visual art and political thought. Ireland and Italy have parallel histories of political violence in the 1970s, and the financial crisis post- 2008 has implicated both countries in the fiscal predicaments of peripheral Eurozone states.
The Notre Dame Irish Seminar and Rome Seminar will jointly present the seminar on Ireland and Italy June 16-30, 2017 at the Rome Global Gateway. Scholars from Ireland, Italy, and the United States will address the historical, cultural, political, and social connections between the two countries, including the following themes: Ireland and the Vatican; the early modern Irish presence in Italy; 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 visit 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, notably the tomb of the Great O’Neill in San Pietro in Montorio, the Irish basilica of San Clemente, and the apartment near the Spanish Steps where Joyce wrote ‘The Dead’.