Archive for April, 2011

W(h)ither the humanities?

6 April 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

The outlook – to borrow a typically understated phrase from our friends in Met Éireann – is changeable. Academic discussion in the last two months in Ireland has been dominated by comment (informed and less-so) about changes to university structures and the future of the humanities in a period of deep recession. In the UK, the frightening prospect of diverting state funding through the Arts and Humanities Research Council to the study of the ‘big society’ has prompted a strong defence of academic freedom. At the same time, a parallel debate has been raging at secondary school level, where commentators like Niall Ferguson bemoan the ‘ruination’ of history, hemmed in by national boundaries while the world – and academic profession – becomes transnational. At each turn, the image of the good ship humanities listing violently in an economic storm has become increasingly difficult to ignore.

A little over two weeks ago, Ireland’s own Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the source of funding for so much that is positive about research in Ireland over the last eleven years, hosted Martha Nussbaum, the University of Chicago-based philosopher and author of Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, in the second in its lecture series on ‘The Public Intellectual’. At the heart of her address was a plea for recognition of the importance of the humanities to democracy: Read More

Pue’s recommendations for April

4 April 2011

Juliana Adelman This month I’m really looking forward to the opening of an exhibition of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s work at the IMMA.  The website promises that there will also be photographs, diaries and other artifacts.  My brother-in-law recently introduced me to the album ‘London is the Place for Me‘, a compilation of 1950s Trinidadian calypso and I am obsessed.  The song ‘Cricket, Lovely Cricket‘ celebrates the victory of the West Indies over England and it almost (but not quite) made we want to watch cricket.  All the songs are worth a listen and tell an interesting social history of their own.  At the moment I am reading a lot about animal diseases, and I don’t think C. A. Spinage’s Cattle Plague: a history would make too many bedside reading lists.  However, as noted in Kevin’s plea for environmental history reading suggestions, Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism: the biological expansion of Europe is a great read for anyone curious about the implications for people of living with animals.  Lots more suggestions in environmental history are found here.

Lisa Marie Griffith April means exam revision and assignment correction so my main plans for this month are to get through the pile of essays on my desk before exams come in. Outside of that I have just finished reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, a story about the Devil’s visit to Moscow during the 1920s and 1930s. Bulgakov’s books deal with the issue of censorship in Russia under a heavy guise of plots and characters which led to much criticism. My next book is going to be David Fleming’s Politics and Provincial People: Sligo and Limerick 1691-1761.

Christina Morin April is the month of the Dublin: One City, One Book programme, which aims to unify the city’s inhabitants by way of their shared reading of a chosen Irish novel each April. Past choices have included Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; this year’s novel is Joseph O’Connor’s Ghost Light. To get people out and about (preferably talking about the book, I imagine), there’s a great line-up of cultural events planned, including evenings with Joseph O’Connor, readings from the novel, and lectures on various aspects of the historical, literary, and linguistic heritage from which it sprang. (The schedule is here.) I’ll definitely be picking up a copy and joining in on some of the offered events! I’m also much taken with some of the showings in this year’s Belfast Film Festival, which runs from 31 March to 14 April. Speaking of Belfast, this April is the 999th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, built, of course, in Belfast (‘it was fine when it left here’, or so they say). To mark the event, as well as the upcoming centenary celebration of the ship’s building, the Titanic 100 Festival has a busy schedule of events planned, including a four-day Easter extravaganza, 23-26 April. The festival runs from 31 March to 31 May.

Kevin O’Sullivan The funny thing about preparing a module is that it forces you to go out and re-engage with texts that you thought you knew inside-out. Since January I’ve been teaching – and really enjoying – a course on Irish identity between the late 1960s and late 1990s, so in the former category are a number of the usual suspects: Diarmaid Ferriter’s The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000, John Ardagh’s Ireland and the Irish: Portrait of a Changing Society, and Fintan O’Toole’s brilliantly-titled A Mass for Jesse James: A Journey Through 1980s Ireland. So far, so predictable. But it’s the little gems that you come across, the ones that worm their way into your most-well-thumbed list, that prove the real finds. Top of the pile from the last three months are Gerry Smyth’s riveting Noisy Island: A Short History of Irish Popular Music; and Ivan T. Berend’s fascinating new history of Europe Since 1980. If you think that probably hasn’t left much time for other reading, then you’re only partially right. I’d heard so many good things about Leif Jerram’s Streetlife: The Untold History of Europe’s Twentieth Century that I picked up a copy last weekend, but it will have a battle on its hands to reach the top of a stellar bedside cast – after Tony Judt’s The Memory Chalet, which I’ve been enjoying – far too slowly – for the last couple of months, and Simon Schama’s Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writings on Ice Cream, Obama, Churchill and My Mother. Not a bad line-up!