The Borders of Irish Literature

Chair: Matthew Campbell, University of York


Matthew Campbell (University of York) – ‘Border / lines: On not building the wall’

Caroline Magennis (University of Salford) – ‘Performing Northern Irish identity in Britain in the 21stC’

Adam Hanna (University College Cork) – ‘Border-Crossings in Northern Irish Poetry’

The prospect of the return of a ‘hard border’ between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland after the departure of the UK from the European Union presents a particular set of challenges for the study of Irish Literature. After the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and austerity in the Republic, the subject may have quietened down along with its previously fierce culture wars, though published research in Irish literature remains very well represented on international publishers’ lists. As a delimited subject of study, Irish Literature can be found in various protected places in the curricula of English departments, part liminal, part-canonical. The Irish Joyce or Beckett are maybe familiar topics of conversation; the British Longley or Bowen are maybe less common; the Irish Stoker requires ingenious readings; the British Heaney is near-unimaginable. Long shelves of rediscovered Irish literature remain marginal within undergraduate English literary study: apart from brief appearances in Romantic or Modern courses, the Irish nineteenth century is ignored by Victorianism. This matters at the borders of the contemporary curriculum and the ways in which certain authors make their way into the books that students read and the PhD topics they pursue. The curricular picture is very different in Irish English departments of course, but also in the USA, where the study of Irish literature, in Irish as well as English, thrives in the contexts of the many courses that students take and greater opportunities of linguistic study. So this panel will have a look at this sense of the new border: thematically in contemporary poetry and fiction, but also in terms of the curriculum. It will address the hope that while various ‘cross-border’ activities may continue, it will not be marked by the experience of curricular and institutional estrangement returning from a long and difficult past (‘No Irish need apply’).

Thursday 6th July, 9.30