Sleeping Beauty

25 November 2011

Not only was yesterday Thanksgiving, it was also the deadline for a big grant application I’ve been working on seemingly forever. As you read this, therefore, chances are I’ll be found sleeping, napping, or generally relaxing….

Have a great weekend! – Tina

Happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers! I couldn’t resist a little turkey-related cartoon….  Tina

Standing by its own Worth: Amory’s The Life of John Buncle

23 November 2011

Contributed by Eoghan Smith

The Life of John Buncle, Esq, by Thomas Amory, and edited here by Moyra Haslett, is to the modern reader a remarkable book. Although not as famous as Irish eighteenth-century novels such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, it is nonetheless a brilliantly eclectic offering of Enlightenment possibility, and, in its eccentricity, an exemplary piece of eighteenth-century fiction. Before Ezra Pound tricked the world into believing that it was twentieth-century modernism that was “making it new”, there were novelists such as Amory, whose range of styles, experimentalism and literary reference – to the point of whole-scale plagiarism – points to the great formless democracy that is the early novel.

The book is a carnival of voices, registers and media – aptly described in the introduction here as “by turns that of pastoral, sermon, romance, learned disquisition, theological debate, experimental science, poetry, travelogue, eulogy and prayer”. A sort of journey through the consciousness of the mid-eighteenth century, the novel is ostensibly a memoir of one John Buncle, who, after leaving Trinity College and becoming alienated from his father and exiled from home, travels to England to seek out a friend with whom he can live. Along the way we are treated to Buncle’s extravagantly unusual encounters with, among other things, a woman-only society of mathematicians, and a range of religious communities through which Amory advances what Haslett describes as “Whig, libertarian politics”. Read the rest of this entry »

A History of the Humble Pumpkin Pie

21 November 2011

By Christina Morin

With the US celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday, I thought I might take the opportunity to extol my favourite Thanksgiving Day food: pumpkin pie. As far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a sliver – however small (or large!) – of pumpkin pie, eaten plain or topped with a dollop of whipped cream. There are, of course, a multitude of variations for pumpkin pie, but the one I’ve always known and loved is the recipe on the back of the Libby’s tin (yes, you can buy pumpkin – already cooked and mashed – in a tin. Such a time saver!). The resulting pie is gorgeously custardy, sophisticatedly spicy and, yes, decidedly orange. I’ve made it a few times for friends and family here in Ireland and have been extremely disappointed at the negative reception it has received. If you didn’t grow up with it, it seems, you don’t understand it… pumpkin? In a pie? for dessert? Impossible!

Be that as it may, I plan to eat some pumpkin pie this Thursday in celebration, fully acknowledging that it, like most of the dishes gracing the average, twenty-first century Thanksgiving Day table, is a far cry from what the Pilgrims ate at that first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621. Read more

The great book conundrum: the more you readeth, the less you taketh back to the library (apparently)

18 November 2011

Ok, from the title of this post you might think I’ve been stealing books. Well, no. It’s just been one of those weeks. Books come in, get read, and go back out. The ‘articles to read’ folder on my hard-drive sees more passing traffic than a fox on the M50. So why, pray tell, does the balance between the ‘to read’ pile and the ‘bring back to the library’ pile (foreground, obviously) on my desk remain ever thus?


The streets of Dublin

16 November 2011

By Juliana Adelman

I was very excited to delve into Lief Jerram’s Streetlife: the untold history of Europe’s twentieth century.  Unlike pretty much everyone I’ve talked to, though, I was rather disappointed.  In fact, I still haven’t finished it.  I could see what Jerram was trying to do.  I liked the writing and the integration of material.  But for me the book wasn’t really getting to the heart of the matter.  Jerram repeatedly asserted the importance of the street in history without really discovering what the street IS.  In fact, the book is really urban history rather than much to do with street life per se.  What makes things happen in one street and not in another?  We all know that some streets ‘feel’ different to others and that landing into a foreign city can throw off our personal radar that detects which streets are friendly and which are dangerous.  But Jerram wasn’t really interested in this, as far as my reading of the first few chapters could gather.  He was merely asserting the importance of the space or place in which history happens.  No one with even a passing acquaintance with historical geography could find this argument novel.  I’m sure Jerram fans will pepper the comments section with complaints that I am completely wrong based on the last two chapters of book.  So fire away and I promise to go back and read them.

My knowledge of the historiography of the twentieth century is admittedly limited.  Ninteenth-century historians seem to have been far more interested in street life, perhaps because of the evocative picture of vice and decay that can be found in many primary sources and in Charles Dickens’ extensive output.  Victorian London, in particular, has been the subject of numerous volumes devoted to its underworld and to the varieties of urban life it housed. Read more

Game-changing histories – tell us yours

14 November 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I have a serious question for you. You know those texts – books, articles, chapters, whatever – that changed your history world? The ones that gave your work a little jolt, that changed your whole approach to how you read and understand the past. What are they?

Because here’s the thing. And it’s ok to admit it. You know that pile of books that sits beside the historian’s bed? The ones you just had to have; all that you couldn’t leave behind. Well look closer. Notice anything? There are way too many non-fiction books for one. But look deeper again and you’ll uncover a less talked about but no less visible trend. Most historians will read anything as long as it’s not related to what they study.

Don’t believe me? Fair enough. Surely, you say, these individuals, so lucky in the first instance to get paid to do what they love doing, are so enamored by their subjects that they love nothing better than to wile away an evening keeping up to date with the latest scholarship from their chosen field. Well here’s the thing: they don’t. Read More

For the day, and times, that’s in it

11 November 2011

Here we go again. In more ways than one. Thinking about tonight’s match and the world that’s crumbling around us, my mind was immediately drawn to this: Dermot Bolger’s fictional account of following Ireland to the 1988 European Championships (or ‘Euro ’88’ in the vernacular) through the eyes of a migrant. The following scene takes place in Gelsenkirchen just after Wim Kieft has scored a late goal for the Netherlands to effectively knock Ireland out of the tournament.

I stood up amongst the silent men and women, their faces white, and I raised my hands.

“Ireland!” I screamed. “Ireland! Ireland!” I had six minutes of my old life to go. Six minutes more to cheat time. The crowd joined in with me. Every one of them. From Dublin to Cork. From London and all over Europe. And suddenly I knew this was the only country I still owned. Those eleven men in green shirts, half of whom were born abroad.

Shane and Mick stood firm at my right and left shoulders. I knew they were thinking too of the long train journeys ahead. The tunnel was being pulled out for the end of the match. Men gathering down on the touch-line. We lifted our voices in that wall of noise, one last time to urge the lads on.

Ireland! Ireland! Ireland!

(From: Dermot Bolger, In High Germany, New Island edition (Dublin, 1999), p. 52.)


Revolution: A Photographic history of Revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923

9 November 2011

Contributed by Orla Fitzpatrick

This new book covers a period that is particularly fascinating, albeit somewhat confusing, for photographic historians.  The Irish revolutionary period offers a rich photographic archive.  Portraits range from official mugshots held in government archives to family portraits commissioned from commercial photographic studios. Snapshots taken by onlookers and documentary images captured by press photographers offer powerful depictions of armed combat and its aftermath. All of these could be and were manipulated and circulated for the purpose of propaganda or indeed suppressed or hidden by the various sides. The chaos which prevailed at certain times during the period scattered photographs far and wide and has left a bewildering array of personal and private collections which both excite and perplex the researcher and historian of the period.

The matter of provenance can be challenging for such a disparate group of photographs. Prints can be held simultaneously by multiple institutions and individuals. Generally speaking, the holder of the negative, if it exists, takes primacy over the print owner although many have been lost over the years. The further you move away from the original source negative the poorer the image quality becomes, so that second, third and even later generation prints can lose definition and clarity. For these reasons, when conducting photographic research, I tend to use photographs where the negatives or original prints are held by public institutions.  The assignation of a verifiable number to each image and clear provenance and copyright for the collection make them more accessible and usable than those held by private companies and individuals.

Revolution: a photographic history of revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1923 covers the period leading up to the Easter Rising of 1916; the War of Independence and the Civil War and its aftermath. Read More

Pue’s Recommendations for November

7 November 2011

Juliana Adelman My joyful return to fiction reading has continued (albeit at a slower pace now that deadlines are approaching).  Last month I enjoyed The man who was Thursday: a nightmare by G. K. Chesterton and now, having gotten into the Edwardian mode, I am moving on to Tono-Bungay by H. G. Wells.  Back to the nineteenth century and I’ll be heading to see an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, one of my favourite books from childhood, at the Gate Theatre.  Back to the realm of history work and I am grateful to a librarian at the National Library of Ireland for pointing out the digital resource of the Hathi Trust library.  Much nicer to use than Google Books, with a number of ways to read and view, it has a surprising number of Irish-relevant books.  Finally, I love Belfast at this time of year because it kind of reminds me of New England.  Take a walk through the Botanic Gardens and visit the excellent Ulster Museum.  And if you’re hasty you might be able to get tickets to hear Americana music and listen to Ian Rankin read from his new book on the 11th and 12th.  in an event organised by my favourite book shop, No Alibis.

Lisa Marie Griffith Perhaps because the weather is finally getting colder my main plans for this month are to get through a long list of films.  The French Film Festival runs at the IFI between 16th and 27th of November. One of the films that stands out on the programme is The Silence of Joan. It focuses on an invented narrative of the last days of Joan of Arc. My week with Marilyn is also out at the end of the month and features Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. Sigor Ros’s second concert film Inni (Inside) is also released this month. I was really disappointed to miss Sarah’s Key when it was in the cinema during the summer. The film looks at the round-up of Paris’s Jewish population by the Vichy government in 1942 and is released on dvd this month.

Tina Morin This month, I’m treating my hubby to tickets to see  The Saw Doctors, who are playing in a variety of venues across Ireland and Northern Ireland throughout the month. We’re also considering going to Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on 30 November to catch Dave Gorman, the guy behind the hilarious Googlewhacking Adventure and Are You Dave Gorman? For those of you unfamiliar with Gorman, ‘googlewhacking’, in his terms, refers to the phenomenon of entering a search term into Google and getting a single hit. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show he produced after his travels around the world trying to identify as many ‘googlewhacks’ as possible, and it’s incredibly funny! On a more serious note, I’m completely immersed in an education by fire of digital humanities for a grant application I’m preparing and have been delving through myriad web resources to familiarise myself with terms and techniques while also getting a feel for design, layout, etc. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is absolutely essential for getting the necessary ‘tech-speak’ and for learning what’s behind the terminology. And, showing the incredible possibilities of digital resources beyond the obvious digitisation of primary texts, is the DHO:Discovery website, which links scholars with the digital holdings of an impressive range of Irish-based collections, allowing for inter-collection searching and comparison as well as offering an innovative range of ‘visualisations’ of material.

Kevin O’Sullivan I’m a little late to this I’m sure, but for those of you who’ve been participating in or, like me, fascinated from afar by Ireland’s own mass observation project, then you’ll have been intrigued by the film Life in a Day, produced by Ridley Scott and filmed by a cast of thousands from around the world in July 2010, that was broadcast on BBC2 last week. Well worth checking out. This month has also been a good one on the reading front. I’ve just finished Alice Wondrack Biel’s Do (Not) Feed the Bears, a fascinating, if not always the  most eloquent account of man’s relationship with wildlife in America’s national parks. I doubt the medieval world looked much like the fantasy depicted in George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, but who cares? The book’s at times sloppy, at times makes your skin crawl, but it always demands your attention. A great piece of escapism. Finally, an app to make your life easier: for those of you with any kind of computer, laptop and/or smartphone who haven’t discovered Evernote yet, check it out. The possibilities are boundless.