Archive for July, 2009

Le Quatorze Juillet

14 July 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

AsterixIt’s the 14th of July and as the Tour de France trundles on with today’s stage from Limoges to Issoudun and the French indulge their new national pastime of burning cars (317 so far, up 6.73% on last year), what better time to take a sideways glance at French history. Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France (2007) is not a bad place to start, an interesting travelogue/history of the country’s diverse regions that reminds us that the unified concept of France as we know it today only really came to fruition long after the revolution. If you are in Paris in the near future, you could do worse than head to the National Museum for the History of Immigration in Vincennes, housed in the only remaining building constructed for the 1931 Paris colonial exposition. For an alternative film history, check out Indigènes (2006), the story of four North African troops fighting to liberate France at the end of the second world war, and two excellent takes on contemporary France, both set in the Parisian banlieues: the classic La Haine (1995) and 2008 Palme d’Or winner La Classe: Entre Les Murs, one of the best films I’ve seen in years. Finally, as if any excuse was needed, why not use the 14th of July as an opportunity to dig out those old Asterix books you read years ago, or try reading them again en français and discover a whole world of humour and cultural reference missing from the English translations. If you’ve never heard of them (really?), think Roman Empire, Gaullish resistance, an allegory of France in the second world war and plenty of humour, all topped off with a dose of druidic ‘magic potion’. Great history. Start with the opening book in the series, Asterix the Gaul (1961).

Interview: Ivar McGrath, lecturer in modern Irish history, University College Dublin

13 July 2009

Pue’s Interviews is a regular series of short questions and answers with those who work in the history industry in Ireland – in the museums, universities, publishers, libraries, archives and elsewhere – to give an insight into the people who make it tick.

Interview date: 15 May 2009

Pue with MicrophoneWhat book do you wish you had written?

Tolstoy, War and Peace.

What would you do if you were not a historian?

TV Rugby Commentator.

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?

About two months ago.

What event had the greatest impact on history in Ireland?

The Reformation.

What are you reading now?

A travel book on France and Marnie Hay, Bulmer Hobson and the Nationalist movement in twentieth-century Ireland (MUP, 2009).

Interview: Patrick Walsh, postdoctoral fellow, University College Dublin

13 July 2009

Interview date: 15 May 2009

What book do you wish you had written?

W. H. Lecky, Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, (1871) History, Biography and politics fused brilliantly in glorious style

What would you do if you were not doing this?

I don’t know but probably something else History related

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?

Last week

What event had the greatest impact on history in Ireland?

The 1798 rebellion for its consequences rather than its aims.

What are you reading now?

Howard Fineman, Thirteen American Arguments that Endure and Define Our Country (2008)

Art: The Greatest Hits

11 July 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Stephen Forbes - HeadsThe story in today’s Irish Times that the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has asked the authorities of the National GalleryIMMA, and the Crawford Gallery to step up their pursuit of commercial opportunities and partnerships to fund their activities, and to adopt ‘more populist’ exhibition policies raises an age old question: should we give the people what they want (or what they think they want) or should the role of our cultural institutions be to challenge and open the minds of the population to a new cultural experience?

We can, I think, largely discard the idea that commercial partnerships are detrimental to the arts, certainly not when they are viewed as Peter Murray, director of the Crawford, sees them: as an opportunity to open ‘innovative thinking in terms of commercial initiatives’. Commercial funding of the arts is nothing new and has helped to bring together some of the best exhibitions in the world in recent years. Case in point: the brilliant and massively successful ‘Picasso et les Maîtres’ I attended at the Grand Palais in Paris earlier this year, sponsored by Möet and Louis Vuitton among others. As long as commercial sponsorship is used to develop and open doors for those who work curating the galleries, I can’t see anything wrong with it in the slightest. Read More

GAA 125

9 July 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Louth All-Ireland Champions 1957The GAA is 125 years old this year, in case you hadn’t noticed. (If you genuinely hadn’t, welcome back. The weather’s been pretty good, but the economy’s gone to the dogs, Bertie’s gone, everyone’s waiting for the day they can say ‘back in NAMA’, Kilkenny are perpetual All-Ireland champions and Louth still can’t get past the Leinster quarter-finals.) Though certainly not without its faults, the GAA is one of the successes of modern Ireland: for its vision and application in the construction of Croke Park; in its continued growth and consolidation in parishes and local communities across Ireland.

At the heart of that success is a strong awareness of the organisation’s history. The GAA’s culture and tradition are, though its grassroots followers might balk at the term, very much part of ‘the brand’. But unlike the comfort you’re supposed to get from watching montages of old Guinness, Persil or Hibernian Aviva ads, there is something a little deeper to the admirably wide-ranging analysis coming out of Croke Park. Maybe it’s something in the canal water or just the influence of all those schoolteachers. It’s certainly a far cry from the conference I attended at Croke Park in 2005 which was just the wrong blend of history Read More

Josef Koudelka’s ‘Invasion of Prague, 1968’

8 July 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

josef koudelka Come up close and examine the 1968  invasion of Prague by visiting the Josef Koudelka exhibition currently running at the Gallery of Photography in Meeting House square, Temple Bar, Dublin. This superb exhibition of the most iconic images of this historical event show the shock and horror of the population of Prague on 20/21 August when Warsaw Pact troops and tanks poured into and occupied their city. Housed in the largest room in the gallery, the exhibition projects about 60 images onto a huge wall; the scale of the images allow for the detail of the city streetscape, the size of the invasion force, and the fear that this invasion force prompted in these citizens, to be fully realised.  Koudelka, who originally published the photographs anonymously and retained his anonymity for sixteen years, narrates his own account of the invasion. While I was familiar with some of Koudelka’s images from the coverage given to the fortieth anniversary of the invasion last year, I still found this exhibition emotional and moving. These photos bring you as close as is imaginable to the events of August 1968. This exhibition runs until the 26 July and entrance is free.

It was thirty years ago today

6 July 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Sony Walkman LogoThere are two ways to write about the thirtieth anniversary of the Walkman. The first is the survey history: examining its cultural significance, from its birth as an escape from the aural and visual assault of modern Japanese society and wholehearted adoption in the West, to its numerous imitations, reincarnations and digitisations, from Walkman to Discman to Minidiscman to mp3 player to iPod. That history would lead to an examination of its broader impact, revolutionising the nature of social interaction in modern society, with a side look – or room for another weighty tome – on how it has changed an art form, transforming recorded music from a solitary experience (often in dark teenage bedrooms soundtracked by the wisdom of a Billy Corgan or Kurt Cobain) to the inescapable (and increasingly banal?) background noise of contemporary living and concurrent rise of the loud=good effect to the detriment of nuance and the annoyance of commuters worldwide.

But that might seem a little bit boring, a little academic, a little lifeless, so here’s the second option: the micro-history, using personal experience to analyse broader patterns of change. I remember my first Walkman, a Christmas present at the age of ten, accompanied by Now 23 (the good: Tasmin Archer, Arrested Development; the bad: INXS, Freddie Mercury; the ugly: Billy Ray Cyrus, The Shamen, East 17). Read More

Pue’s Recommendations for July

6 July 2009

Pue’s Recommendations is a (mostly biased) monthly list of things worth reading, watching, listening to and attending, put together by the editors of Pue’s Occurrences. If there’s anything you think we’ve missed out on, or anything you think isn’t worth the mention, feel free to leave us a comment.

Harry Clarke - The Wild SwansJuliana Adelman

An oldy but goody for holiday reading: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, a travelogue of his visit to Europe. I’m a bit out of touch with goings on about town, but the Galway Film Fleadh has a few Irish documentaries that might offer interesting recent social history: Adhlacoiri on death and burial traditions in Connemara and His and Hers on love. And while we’re on film there’s a documentary on Ireland’s oldest circus (Fossett’s) at the IFI in Dublin on 26th July.

Lisa-Marie Griffith

The last of the Hodges Figgis sale- recession beating reading, we haven’t quite been driven to the libraries yet! And getting out and seeing some of the sun- Temple Bar’s Summer activities are fantastic this year including the Circus Festival and Temple Bar’s No Grants Gallery exhibition of Evan O’Sullivan and Leo Boyd. Not all historic but it’s summer and I refuse to just read history when there is so much going on in the city. The Trim Swift Festival, 2-5 July, also looks excellent.

Kevin O’Sullivan

I’m reading a lot about the Antarctic at the moment, so I’ll point you to Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s memoir of the doomed Scott expedition, The Worst Journey in the World, which, apart from being one of the greatest books on exploration ever written, is a wonderful microcosm of turn-of-the-century British society (e.g. building a partition wall in the middle of their tiny hut) played out at the South Pole. Closer to home, check out Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales at the National Gallery, and DCU President Ferdinand Von Prondzynski’s always interesting University Diary blog.

Happy Birthday USA

4 July 2009

By Juliana Adelman

08314v I’m not particularly patriotic, but I do like the 4th of July.  I miss the fireworks and the barbecues.  It probably says something profound about Americans in general that we are all pretty happy to celebrate our ‘Independence Day’ no matter how ambivalent we feel about the country’s current politics.  Anyway, I just thought I’d give you a few interesting American history links for the occasion.  First, you must listen to Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock.  Then you may want to have a look at an interesting Revolutionary War Blog.  Finally, check out two fantastic resources for American history.  The Library of Congress’s digital collections pages include a website archive, 1 million digitised photographs and images (where I got this image of the Declaration of Independence produced in the 19th C) and all sorts of other goodies.  The library’s own site also has online exhibits and teaching materials.  Another great central resource is History Matters, which is linked to George Mason University and the City University of New York.  It’s intended to help in history teaching, but has lots of interesting stuff for the merely curious.  So happy 4th of July!

A Few of my Favourites…

3 July 2009

Contributed by Christina Morin: 

the eighteenth-century family- hogarthI am beginning to discover that the great thing about being part of a blog is that you can throw a question out and get a response almost immediately. In reply to Monday’s post on the eighteenth-century novel Christina Morin, whose research interests centre on late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Irish fiction, romantic literature, and the gothic novel, offered to share her knowledge of the genre with us and give us her top three recommendations.

Here are three of my favourites for budding eighteenth-century fiction fans: Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote (1752): An entertaining novel seriously engaged with the contemporary debate over how to define the developing novel, The Female Quixote focuses on the adventures and misadventures of its young and beautiful heroine, Arabella. As you might expect from Lennox’s title, Arabella is modelled after Cervantes’ Don Quixote and is, accordingly, immersed in a kind of fantasy world produced by her misguided reading of badly translated seventeenth-century French Romances. Believing her Romances to be realistic representations of the society in which she lives, Arabella is fundamentally unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. As a result, she dramatically misinterprets the people she encounters as well as her own experiences. The ensuing contrast between Arabella’s imaginary world and the real world provides a great deal of humour in the novel, as when, for instance, believing herself pursued by a man intent on raping her, Arabella calmly jumps into the Thames, much to the astonishment and consternation of friends and family. Such incidents are frequent in the novel and will definitely have you laughing out loud, even as the text enacts a very serious defence of the developing novel and issues a warning about the dangers of ‘useless’ reading (i.e. the Romance). Read more