Archive for October, 2010

Something for the Halloween weekend

29 October 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

Film fans based in Dublin should check out the IFI Horrorthon taking place this weekend. The horrorthon is showing a host of new realises like Paranormal Activity 2 but is also screening a long list of classic films that would turn the head of anyone interested in the history of film. They include the controversial I spit on Your Grave (originally released in 1978 this is the 2010 updated version), Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, Carrie and Gremlin’s 2: the new batch. Who can resist the opportunity to see a classic film they love on the big screen? This is worth a look!

If you haven’t spotted it already, the IFI are now running a blog with lots of updates about their archive, film courses, talks and screenings. You can find it here. If you are outside of Dublin and would like to recommend something please leave us a comment and tell us what you are doing.

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Review of Michael Sheridan’s, Murder at Shandy Hall: The Coachford Poisoning Case

27 October 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith

In Murder at Shandy Hall Michael Sheridan (journalist and author of Death in December and Frozen Blood: Serial Killers in Ireland) pieces together a murder which took place in 1887 of a wife, Mary Laura Cross, and the subsequent trial of her arsenic poisoner husband Dr Philip Cross. The nineteenth century was a golden time for poisoners. Arsenic, which has no smell or taste is incredibly difficult to detect in food and drink, was the poison of choice. I am a big fan of Kate Summerscale’s historic crime investigation The Suspicions of Mr Whicher so I jumped at the chance to review this and learn a bit more about Irish criminal cases in the nineteenth century.

A quick summary of the case is this: In the early morning of 2nd of June 1887 Mary Laura Cross died after several months of illness. Read more

Ireland in Turmoil at the Trinity Long Room

25 October 2010

By Lisa Marie Griffith
On Saturday I was lucky enough to be escorted around the new exhibition at the Trinity Long Room: Ireland in Turmoil: The 1641 Depositions by the co-curator of the exhibition Eamon Darcy. The digitization of the depositions is Ireland’s largest digital humanities project to date. If you are not familiar with the 1641 depositions, they are over 3,000 testimonies which were taken by a team of government officials in the aftermath of one of the most violent events, the 1641 rebellion. There is a very nice explanation of the significance of these depositions, as well as the scope of the project from the RTE 6 O’clock news that you can watch from Youtube here.

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Review: Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves

22 October 2010

By Christina Morin

As I sat waiting in the Garda National Immigration Bureau the other day – my yearly punishment for not being Irish – I decided to do a little light reading. The book I had to hand was The Swan Thieves (2010), by Elizabeth Kostova. I had picked it up a while back during one book sale or another, knowing very little about it except that I loved Kostova’s 2006 novel, The Historian. Within the first few pages, I was hooked and found myself in a rather exhilarating state of immersion in a fictional world. I just didn’t want to put the book down! A good sign, I always think, and a credit to the author’s ability to create a fantasy world that is at once mundane and extraordinary. What I particularly liked about The Historian and again with The Swan Thieves is the way in which Kostova weaves together distinctly separate but also intrinsically linked historical narratives – one present day, and one nineteenth century or earlier. While The Historian told a chilling tale of tracking the real life (er… real living dead) Dracula in twenty-first century London and Budapest, The Swan Thieves narrates the strange obsession of gifted painter Robert Oliver with a dead Impressionist artist he neither knew nor had any connection to. Read more

Power and Privilege at the NPA

20 October 2010

Contributed by Joanne McEntee

Just as a privileged few laid claim to Ireland’s magnificent Big Houses in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so the powerful remain those privileged enough to grace the remaining few of these houses. Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan featured in a recent episode of the ‘X Factor’ and was also home to the wedding of ‘Beatle’ Paul McCartney in 2002. Earlier this year, Ireland’s outside centre Brian O’Driscoll tied the knot in Lough Rynn, Co. Leitrim. Back in 2001, Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo was the site of the lavish wedding of actor Pierce Brosnan.

The current photographic exhibition on display in the National Photographic Archive, Temple Bar, Dublin, entitled Power and Privilege: Photographs of the Big House in Ireland 1858-1922, offers insights into a world long gone through images depicting the family, employees, entertainment, landscape and gardens, transport, the arts and sciences, and, of course, weddings of various Big Houses across the country. Read more

Review: On deep history and the brain by Daniel Lord Smail

18 October 2010

By Juliana Adelman

When I was in college I took one class in paleoanthropology taught by Professor Richard Klein.  Klein was rather singular in appearance and, much more than my science professors, was exactly what I had imagined a university professor to look and speak like.  His subject was awe inspiring in its breadth and, in my mind, importance.  Listening to him talk about extinct hominid (hominin) lineages felt as weighty to me as an inspired Sunday sermon might feel to others.  For reasons I cannot pinpoint at this remove, I did not pursue paleoanthropology beyond that single course though it has remained something that I am curious about.

Smail’s explanation for his interest in the deep past is personal.  His father, also a historian, taught a course on the ‘Natural History of Man’, which Smail emulated nearly thirty years later.  A historian of medieval Europe by trade, Smail ranges across tens of thousands of years in On deep history and argues for the continuity between prehistory and history and particularly between paleolithic and postlithic humans.  His reasons for suggesting this continuity are compelling and simple: written records do not define history, it is evident that ancient humans had forms of culture, any boundary we draw between ‘them’ and ‘us’ is arbitrarily imposed and finally that human culture has a real relationship with the human body.  It is this final suggestion, not original to Smail, that forms the basis of a new kind of history which he suggests can be applied to all periods: neurohistory.  Neurohistory examines the reciprocal relationships between the ‘brain-body system’ and culture. Read More

Seachtar na Cásca – The Easter Seven

15 October 2010

Contributed by Joanne McEntee 

‘As we gather in the chapel here in old Kilmainham Jail,                            I think about these past few weeks, oh will they say we’ve failed?’

Although initially deemed a failure, the rising orchestrated by the ‘Easter 7’ in April 1916 proved pivotal in Ireland’s struggle against British rule. The seven signatories of the Proclamation, Thomas J. Clarke, Sean Mac Diarmada, James Connolly, Patrick H. Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, Thomas MacDonagh and Joseph Plunkett have been resurrected once again in the first major television series of the event in over forty years.

‘1916 Seachtar na Cásca’ written by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh, directed by Dathaí Keane, and produced in conjunction with Abú media productions had its first public airing at the 22nd Galway Film Fleadh. TG4 now brings this seven part historical documentary to a wider audience every Wednesday night at 21.30 with repeat showings on Saturdays at 21.30. The series runs from 22 September until 3 November. Read more

Techie Troubles

13 October 2010

By Christina Morin

I’m not sure what everyone else who’s ever written a book does in the last few weeks before submission, but I’ve been doing a lot of procrastinating – starting novels I know I should wait until after I submit to read, meeting friends and colleagues for endless cups of coffee, trawling the aisles of Ikea for the perfect book shelf to grace my new home office, concocting amazing, nutritious lunches for myself, and endlessly updating my Facebook status. Of course, the time-delaying tactics have been much helped by my recent attempts to set myself up in my new workplace (which shall remain nameless out of respect for its reputation and my job security!) Becoming a new staff member, it seems, is easy in theory but much harder in practice. It took two weeks for my staff card to materialize, even though the actual manufacture of said staff card involved looking briefly into a little camera and waiting three minutes for the card-making machine to spit out my plastic proof of identity. Mind-blowing really! Read more

On yer bike!

11 October 2010

By Christina Morin

I was reading the other day on the Guardian about the upcoming Cycle Show in Earl’s Court, London. The article started with a fabulous quote from American suffragette, Susan B. Anthony: ‘The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world’. Although I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment on the emancipation of women, I do love the feeling of freedom and, admittedly, shadenfreude-tinged glee that comes from whizzing down the street and inwardly laughing at all the grumpy people stuck in endless queues of traffic. Through my time in Ireland, I’ve lived in several cities, some more cycle-friendly than others, but I’m always thankful for my bike and the ability just to jump on and cycle into the sunset, as it were.

 Anyway, after inspiring me with a renewed love for my bike and its possibilities, the article got me thinking about the history of cycling. It turns out that I’m not the first to become intrigued by the subject. A random internet search reveals some interesting homages to the humble bicycle and its history. There’s a National Bicycle History Archive of America as well as a Bicycle Museum of America, for instance, and in Wales, there’s a National Cycle Collection (located, ironically, in a place called ‘Automobile Palace’!), with a searchable archive of nearly 5000 cycling-related documents. The University of Warwick houses the National Cycle Archive, founded in part by the Cyclists’ Touring Club (itself founded in 1878), in order to preserve ‘archives, books and journals relating to cycles and cycling’. The holdings can be searched via the library’s catalogue, and there is also a list of the archive’s main holdings – fascinating reading in and of itself! Once you’ve delved into a bit of cycle history research, you can attend the annual International Cycling History Conference, which has been held throughout the world for over 20 years. The 2011 conference will take place in Paris, in case you’re interested! Read more

Random history from my month of July

8 October 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

At the beginning of the summer, tired of trying to remember all those good things I’d seen/heard of and intended to include in our monthly recommendations, but just didn’t quite get around to, I had what I thought was a clever idea. I’d start a list, include everything that sparked my interest in the course of one month (July), recommendable or not, and come autumn I would have an interesting image of my media and reading habits, and how history crosses their paths over the course of four weeks.

Looking back over my hand-written notes, digital lists, and a number of bookmarked web pages, what I’ve collected strikes me as an interesting reflection of our interaction with the waves of media that wash over us. Some things stick, and not always the ones you might imagine. You might think that it would prove a very personal, and a very idiosyncratic list. And you’d be right. You might think that its voyage would be very difficult to track, would make quite an egocentric piece, and be of little interest to anyone else. And you’d be sort of right. But it’s now autumn and what I’ve collected feels like a Friday piece, so read on through my notes at your peril and I’ll let you be the judge.

  • Leadbelly’s false history. [Explanatory note: This was from an article in The Word detailing how the back-story of American blues musician Leadbelly was greatly exaggerated by marketing men in order to heighten his appeal among white audiences. Good ideas never grow old, etc.]
  • ‘Folk’ music as an invention of the Victorians. First reference to folk music not until 1843 and didn’t enter dictionary until late C19th. [From a podcasted interview with Rob Young, author of Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music (about 11.55 in). Young revealed that the term ‘folk music’ was, in fact, largely an invention of the Victorians. ‘Ploughmen are not sitting out there in the sixteenth century thinking about going to the folk club tonight.’]
  • Italian painter Caravaggio killed someone. How he was killed himself. Read More