End(s) of National Literatures

Wednesday 19th October 2022, 1:00pm – 2:15pm
Prof Chris Morash, Trinity College Dublin
The End(s) of National Literatures: The Case of Ireland

When the Dublin diarist Joseph Holloway ventured out on his morning walk on Easter Monday, 1916, he came across a posted notice which he first took to be an advertisement for a play – with good reason, for four of the seven names blazoned at the bottom were published poets or dramatists. In fact, he was looking at the Proclamation of an Irish Republic, posted around the city announcing a nationalist military insurrection, led largely by writers. This vignette can remind us that there are few countries in which literature and politics are more closely intertwined, and hence where the idea of a ‘national literature’ has a deeper hold, than in Ireland. “Art and scholarship”, claimed W.B. Yeats in 1901, “make love of country more fruitful in the mind, more a part of daily life.” If we then jump forward to the present moment, when Ireland regularly jostles with Singapore and Switzerland as among the most globalised societies on the planet, we must ask: what do we do with the idea of a ‘national literature’ in a globalised world?  Such questions are more than hypothetical, if only insofar as the institutions of literature (not least in the universities) have a deep investment in the idea of a national literature.  The case of Ireland allows us to ask questions like these with a particular focus, but with a relevance that extends well beyond Ireland.

Chris Morash FTCD, MRIA, is the Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing in Trinity College Dublin. His study of W.B. Yeats, Yeats on Theatre, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2021 and he has recently been appointed as Series Editor for the Cities of Literature Series for CUP. His own volume for the series, Dublin: City of Literature is scheduled for publication early in 2023. His past publications include Writing the Irish Famine (Oxford, 1995), A History of Irish Theatre, 1601-2000 (Cambridge, 2001), A History of the Media in Ireland (Cambridge, 2009), and Mapping Irish Theatre [with Shaun Richards] (Cambridge, 2013). He contributed to the Irish entry at the Venice Architectural Biennale in 2021, and was invited to curate a series of plays, entitled Unseen Plays, for the Abbey Theatre (also 2021). He chairs the judging panel for the International Dublin Literary Award, the world’s richest prize for a single novel in English. 

In-Person only. John Medley Building, Fourth Floor Linkway. University of Melbourne, Parkville.

Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill