|Largest Ever Irish Conference
for Notre Dame
By Paul Keating
Former Riverdance star Jean Butler is to perform at the largest ever
gathering of Irish studies experts in Notre Dame University this month.
Best-selling Irish author Nuala O’Faolain, famed for her two-part memoir,
will also join the event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Northern
Ireland theater group, the Field Day Theater, which encouraged many new
actors, directors and theatergoers during the worst of the Troubles.
More than 500 Irish studies specialists will attend the conference at
the Keough Institute for Irish Studies in Notre Dame, named in honor of
former Coca Cola President and Irish studies enthusiast Donald Keough.
The Irish government will also be hosting an exhibition on the life and
work of James Joyce which is expected to include some of the original writings
the government purchased on the international market.
The annual American Conference for Irish Studies, this year entitled
“Ireland Beyond Borders,” takes place between April 13-17 and will include
about 100 discussion panels on Irish history, art and culture.
One of the highlights will be a celebration of the Field Day Theater
Company, and founding member Seamus Deane will lead the discussion.
Deane, from Derry in Northern Ireland, is best known internationally
for his acclaimed mystery thriller/coming of age novel Reading in the Dark.
Other speakers include O’Faolain, who won wide praise for her biting
memoir, Are You Somebody? and for its follow up, Almost There.
The panel will also hear from Angela Bourke, author of a biography last
year on Dubliner Maeve Brennan, a star at The New Yorker magazine before
she fell into mental illness and homelessness.
The Field Day theater event will also be celebrated by the Irish traditional
There will also be many original papers on Irish and Irish American politics.
Among the more unusual, Lachlan Whalen, from Marshall University in West
Virginia, will give a talk on the published literature of IRA prisoners
entitled “No Frills and No Fancy Words — The Dialectics of Provisional Prison
Literature in Republican News and Faoi Ghlas.”
Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin of the University of Missouri St. Louis, will give
a talk on the effect of the Public Halls Act of 1935, which was designed
to curb rowdy gatherings in rural Ireland. The paper will be called “Dancing
on the Hobs of Hell — The Response of Musicians and Dancers to the Public
Dance Halls Act 1935.”
Johannah Duffy of the National University of Ireland in Dublin will explore
“Jazz in Ireland During the Interwar Years.” (There was once a protest march
in Ireland to stop jazz being played on the radio.)
Meaghan Dwyer of Boston College will talk on how the Irish and Jewish
Communities lived together in Boston tenements between in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, while Ely M. Janis, also of Boston College, adopts
a slogan of the time with her study of the Irish Land League in the U.S.
entitled “The Cause of the Poor in Donegal is the Cause of the Factory Slave
in Fall River.”
On a more modern beat, Bob Frigo of Savannah College of Art and Design
will look at that old chestnut, political murals in Northern Ireland.