NEW HIBERNIA REVIEW GEIMHREADH/ WINTER 2012
Nótaí na nEagoirthóirí: Editors’ Notes
Putting Two and Two Together
KAREN A. HOLLAND
Disputed Heroes: Early Accounts of the Siege of Londonderry
Critiquing Cultures of Agonism: Games in Lady Gregory’s Plays and Translations
Filiocht Nua: New Poetry
Church, State, and the Religious Upbringing of Children in Mixed Marriages: The Evolution of Irish Law
Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State
A Belfast Woman: Shame, Guilt, and Gender in Mary Beckett’s Short Stories of the 1950s
ERIN C. MITCHELL
“To Sift / Through Old Boxes of Junk I’ve Kept”: Leontia Flynn’s Gifts of Museums
Brian Friel’s Explorations of Trauma: Volunteers (1975) and Living Quarters (1977)
Nótaí na nEagarthóirí:
Chris Arthur stands as one of Ireland’s most accomplished essayists, and no matter how far his writings may range, his native County Antrim is always near. In “Putting Two and Two Together” Arthur undertakes an exercise in what Arthur Koestler, in The Act of Creation, called “bisociation”—the linking together of things that do not intuitively seem related. Each section of the essay opens with five such pairings, “pentagrams” that lead Arthur into an unspooling sequence of links and reflections. Readers who know Arthur’s writing will recognize his trademark fascination with the question of connectedness. Here, it is his own connection to a highly particular place— a Northern Irish farm called Hunters Hall that has woven in and out of his family history for generations—that provides both the anchor and the trigger for his thoughts. Now living in Scotland, Chris Arthur is working on his sixth book of essays, Reading Life.
The Siege of Derry was a linchpin event in the Williamite Wars of the late seventeenth century, and has long been enshrined in loyalist memory. Dr. Karen Holland points out that, for all the ink spilled in writing accounts of the Siege, there has never been a clear-cut hero of the campaign – though there was no shortage of early claimants to the title. Holland surveys four differing versions that appeared within twenty years of the event, and finds three names put forward as the hero. Two texts offer Col. Adam Murray’s name as the man of the hour; but the clergyman George Walker and the army officer John Mitchelburne unabashedly promoted themselves as the leading figure. As Holland shows, both the authors’ religious background and the genre in which they wrote shaped their choice of heroes. Karen Holland has lately been researching women in Early Modern Ireland, in articles in the Sidney Journal and elsewhere.
In popular memory, Lady Gregory has long been associated with the earnest cultural nationalism of the early Abbey – but she assuredly had a playful side as well, and it is Gregory’s playfulness that concerns Dr. Jason Willwerscheid here. He observes that “her writings are saturated with games and play: in the mythologies, her characters play chess, checkers, backgammon, and hurling; in the plays, a card game or a horse race often constitutes a key plot device or an organizing motif.” Drawing on the insights of such theorists as Bernard Suits and Roger Caillois, who have been influential in creating the field of Game Studies, Willwerscheid finds that in works like On the Racecourse (1926) Lady Gregory envisioned a world that was less adversarial than that of her militant nationalism –a world tinged with carnival and wonderment. Jason Willwerscheid is the author of an article on Synge and evolution in most recent Irish Studies Review.
Martin Dyar, who won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2009, has lately returned to Ireland after a year in residence at Iowa’s International Writing Program. In poems like “The Mink Trap,” Dyar renders the textures of rural Ireland with a scrupulousness reminiscent of John McGahern or Kavanagh himself. The title of the last poem presented here, “Local Knowledge,” suggests two of Dyar’s deepest concerns. He scrutinizes the local, to be sure, drawing such eccentric characters as The Goat O’Hara. But he also scrutinizes the very idea of knowledge, for lurking in many of these poems is a sense that no story can ever be complete--some mystery or impediment makes them partial. In “Margaret,” about a long-term psychiatric patient, we learn that “one could never tell Margaret’s / story completely.” Dyar’s poems may trace histories—of towns, of families, of feuds—but these represent only "slivers of truth," as one poem has it. Even myths like the one described in “The Mapping of Limbo” exist in a dream-like state. Dyar’s first collection, Maiden Names, appeared in 2013, and was shortlisted for the Pigott Prize.
Until recent times, any marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant in Ireland would be heavily freighted with cultural baggage that might test or disrupt entrenched political and social lines. These tensions were ramped up further when the religious upbringing of the children became an issue; historically, civil law asserted the absolute right of the father to make the determination, but the Catholic church insisted that any children in a “mixed” marriage be raised as Catholics. Dr. David Jameson chronicles a series of precedent-setting court cases that addressed this issue, before and after the 1937 Constitution. The right of “paternal supremacy” was quashed by the 1950 Tilson decision, a ruling that appeared to be inflected by canon law. Many Protestants saw Tilson as proof that the state worked hand-in-glove with the Catholic church, although Jameson disputes such a clear-cut interpretation. A frequent presenter at ACIS and other conferences, David Jameson is currently preparing a monograph on mixed marriages in Ireland.
The scholarship of Dr. Troy Davis, in Dublin's American Policy: Irish-American Diplomatic Relations, 1945-1952 (1998) and in many articles in New Hibernia Review, Éire-Ireland, and elsewhere, has revealed the web of diplomatic agendas, political factions, and personal loyalties that have dogged Irish and American relations since the founding of the Free State. In this issue, Davis hones in on a brief but crucial period in this history, the period immediately after the Treaty. He discerns three phases in this turbulent era. At first, the Free State government made great efforts to mend the breaches in the American Irish community, and to find common cause with the outspoken pro- and anti-Treaty groups. Once the e Irish Civil War began, however, the Free State’s representatives in the United States gave up on being conciliatory; they now directed their efforts to bolstering support for the government abroad. And when the anti-Treaty forces in Ireland eventually faltered, the government soon gave signals that it cared little about what republicans in America might think.
It seems to be a truism that few Irish authors are fully appreciated in their own lifetimes, a sad claim that could be said of Mary Beckett, who died in 2013 at the age of eighty-seven—though Beckett was admittedly a bit of a late bloomer, having stopped published in 1958 and staying silent for twenty-two years before A Belfast Woman appeared in 1980. It is Beckett’s early stories that draw the attention of Dr. Kelly Mathews here, and especially, her etched evocation of the was in which shame and guilt dominate the lives of her fictional characters. “Alone among Northern Irish writers in the 1950s,” Matthews observes, “Mary Beckett documented and explored women’s domestic lives before the first stirrings of second-wave feminism.” Matthews argues that Beckett’s early stories—unafraid of such sensitive moral dilemmas as illegitimacy and gender inequality—open a valuable window on a neglected period in Irish life. Kelly Matthews is the author of The Bell Magazine and the Representation of Irish Identity (2012).
Leontia Flynn (b. 1974) is one of a cadre of energetic young poets to have emerged out of the North, and her poetry (which the Center for Irish Studies honored in 2013 with the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award) gives voice to the daily realities of life in the New Belfast. Dr. Erin Mitchell calld our attention to a theme that run through each all of Flynn’s three collection: the speakers of her poems struggle to make sense of objects that have lost their context of meaning—disks that computers no longer read, or left-behind objects found in a new home, for example. Most poignantly, language itself grows bereft of meaning in a series of poems about a father afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. As Mitchell notes, the thrown-away things of these poems turn them into “museums” of the everyday: museums that the poet, in turn, gives away with a generous heart. Erin Mitchell’s articles have appeared in such publications as Studies in Twentieth Century Literature and LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory.
Two seldom-discussed Brian Friel plays from the 1970s provide the springboard for Dr. Chu He’s consideration of how the playwright handles the theme of trauma. Though other of Friel’s plays are concerned with more immediate traumatic events, He argues that it is precisely because the trauma at the heart of the drama is buried and long unresolved that Volunteers and Living Quarters best illustrate trauma theory as articulated by Cathy Caruth, Laura Brown, and others. In Volunteers, IRA prisoners are put to work at work at an archaeological dig. As the diggers uncover bones and objects from Viking Dublin, they also unearth the “buried” traumas of their own lives. In Living Quarters, a long-ago suicide in the Butler family is at once an inescapable and an unacknowledged reality; the family moves about in a cloud of mystery and denial, somehow barred from confronting the painful truth. Chu He has also published in the James Joyce Literary Supplement.
This year's covers have featured artistic responses to the urban environment, from artists associated with the Belfast Print Workshop-one of the key institutions in the Northern art scene. Residencies, exhibitions, and courses for both the general public and for experienced printmakers all feature in the Workshop's ongoing contributions to the artistic life of the city and region. Readers may wish to visit the Workshop's impressive web site at http://bpw.org.uk/home/.
"Belfast Shadows" is a 2007 work by artist Ben Allen, b. 1962 in County Antrim. It is a photo-intaglio print that measures 22.5 x 15 cm. Like many of Allen's prints, it presents a familiar landmark, Belfast City Hall, in the distant space; unlike many of Allen's works that render the city in high color, the darkness of this image calls to mind the monochromatic palate of a woodcut. The scene, however, is edgily contemporary, and exists in an odd equilibrium; even as we see the anonymous human shapes moving away from us, the viewer can readily feel the stream of light and shadow coming near. The deliberate blurring of the image in a way that suggests movement inevitably evokes the photorealistic paintings of Gerhard Richter. Note, too, that the work-which at one level, actually resembles a Rorshasch Test-invites allusions to iconic pop culture imagery as diverse as evangelical renderings of the Rapture and the gunfight at OK Corral. An artist who experiments in many media, Allen also works in abstract painting, collage, video art, and sculpture. Allen studied BA Fine Art Painting at the University of Ulster in Belfast and continued his training with an MA in Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art in London.
We thank the artist, as well as the staff of the Workshop, and especially director Tara Vallely, for kind assistance in providing this image.