María Losada Friend
University of Huelva, Spain | Published: 17 March, 2020
ISSUE 15 | Pages: 222-241 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2020-9426

Creative Commons 4.0 2020 by María Losada Friend. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.

The year 2019 was the Year of the Harp in Ireland. We witnessed a myriad of celebrations around the annual National Harp Day in October and UNESCO inscribed this emblematic instrument in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The recognition of the harp as a symbol of Ireland’s living heritage filled the island with seminars, demonstrations of harp-making and concerts, and the echoes of those soothing melodies still resound in our ears.

Together with the harp’s gentle strains, other different tunes have reached us bringing the sounds of economic, political and cultural changes that prove Ireland’s unstoppable march in this decade. Optimistic data show the country’s development as one of the youngest nations in Europe and its thriving economic results confirm that the Celtic Tiger has apparently surmounted previous dramatic crises. Forbes 2019 list ranks Ireland in the 11th position of Best Countries for Business which qualifies the country as a favoured location for investment in Europe. Post-Brexit era arrives blended with new expectations after an election that has shown the end of the two party system of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the emergence of the Sinn Féin with the largest vote. Irish ecological awareness has been proved as many demonstrations took place in the country running parallel to Limerick’s award and title of European Green Leaf 2020 for smaller cities. Also, a new treasure from the Irish cultural past has been recovered with the discovery of a Jack Butler Yeats’ painting (“A White Jug”) hidden in a bank vault. Finally, Edna O’Brien’s success in winning the biennial David Cohen Award proves Ireland’s continuity of literary natural talents. Previous awarded authors of this “UK and Ireland Nobel award” are V.S. Naipul (1993), Harold Pinter (1995), William Trevor (1999), Julian Barnes (2011), Derek Mahon (2007), Seamus Heaney (2009) and Tom Stoppard (2017).

The vibrant echoes of these news from the Emerald isle play in harmony with the many cultural and academic events that prove Spain’s active and energetic commitment to Irish issues and studies. A general overview on this year’s productions verifies that 2019 has been prolific. Musical and poetic celebrations, conferences, articles, books and reviews give evidence of the successful combined efforts of Spanish and Irish universities, EFACIS Centres for Irish Studies in Spain, the Irish Itinerary EFACIS, the Irish Embassy in Spain and other institutions in the Spanish territory which, together with the radio program Live on Eire, connect our cultures and languages.

March officially opened the academic season with the publication of volume 14 of Estudios Irlandeses/Journal of Irish Studies of the Spanish Association of Irish Studies (AEDEI) keeping to its traditional launching on St. Patrick’s Day. Together with the 2019 special issue 14.2 (“Samuel Beckett and Biopolitics” edited by Seán Kennedy) both volumes confirm the international academic repute of the journal which has recently been upgraded in the ranking of the scientific journals in Spain (FECyT/Fundación Española para la Ciencia y Tecnología), being now number 14 out of the 52 Spanish qualified journals (Linguistics Section).

Some other events took place in Spain around St. Patrick’s Day. The Centre for Irish Studies Banna/Bond-EFACIS (Burgos, Deusto, La Rioja and Zaragoza) directed by Melania Terrazas Gallego organized the II St. Patrick’s International Seminar: Women in Irish Culture at the University of La Rioja, with guest writer Alan McMonagle among other many speakers, an exhibition on the Irish in Latin America, a poster competition, and an Irish music concert. Also at the University of Almeria, Elena Jaime Palacios coordinated the III International Seminar on Irish Studies with Belinda Caroll’s talk (“Green Cultural- A Glimpse of Ireland in the 21st century”) and the participation of other AEDEI members. Simultaneously, in Malaga, St. Patrick’s Day provided the frame for the celebration of an interesting homage to Robert Boyd and St. Patrick’s Battalion at the Centro de Interpretación José María Torrijos. It included the presentation of the Robert Boyd Award promoted by the AMZET (Aula María Zambrano of Transatlantic Studies at the University of Malaga). This award encourages research on works related to historical relations between Spain and Ireland and adds to the already existent George Campell Award (artistic and musical relations) and Kate O’Brien Award (literary and gender relations).

May opened up with the 5th International Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society at the University of Almeria organized by AEDEI member José Francisco Fernández. The previous edition of this event had taken place in Mexico DF and bringing it to Spain was a successful achievement. Its programme (Beckett and Translation) gave visibility to the many scholars and experts interested in the reading of Beckett’s works in different languages. Plenary speakers were Erika Tophoven, Beckett’s translator into German, and Marek Kedzierski, Polish writer, critic, translator and theatre director. As a complement to the academic programme, the Mouth on Fire Theatre Company performed Rockay and Not I by Beckett at the Teatro Apolo.

On 23-24 May an international conference on the contemporary short story took place at the University of Santiago de Compostela. Organized by Manuela Palacios González and entitled Borders, Intersections and Identity in the Contemporary Short Story in English, it counted on the participation of important academic Irish voices as Anne Fogarty (University College Dublin) with “Skins almost touched: Borders and the Posthuman in Contemporary Short Stories by Irish Women Writers” and writer Mary O’Donnell “Breaching the intimate and Geographical in the Empires of Heart and Nation”. Also in May (25-26), on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Spanish James Joyce Association, with the collaboration of the Department of English and American Literatures at University of Seville, Ricardo Navarrete organized a commemorative international conference (El legado de Joyce treinta años después/Joyce’s Legacy Thirty Years Later) to celebrate the re-encounter of the founding members of the Association and to expose new critical voices on Joyce’s works and influence.

May rounded up with the successful 18th International Conference of the Spanish Association of Irish Studies which took place in northern Majorca, between Alcudia and Pollença. Organized by Aida Rosende Pérez and Rubén Jarazo at the University of the Balearic Islands its thought provoking title (Difference and Indifference in Irish Studies) encompassed an excellent repertoire of academic keynote speakers and writers. Anne Mulhall (University College Dublin), co-director of the UCD Center for Gender, Feminisms and Sexualities, participated with her talk “Decentering Whiteness in Irish Literary ‘Multiculturalism”’ as did activist Ailbhe Smyth, former head of Women’s Studies (WERRC) at University College Dublin representing a strong voice in the Coalition to Repeal the Eight Amendment. There was also a reading by Melatu-Uche Okorie, Nigerian writer and asylum seeker in Ireland, awarded the 2009 Metro Éireann Writing for her short story “Gathering Thoughts”. Contributor for different journals, her late work has been the collection This Hostel Life (2018). Besides, writer Lisa McInerney, renowned and awarded for The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles, gave a preview of her third novel, the sequel that completes her three-volume oeuvre written in “a kind of Barrytown Trilogy way”, as she explains making reference to Roddy Doyle’s trilogy.

Summer brought many events which took place all around Spain. In June, Irish poet John Liddy attended the Book Fair in Madrid and the Nuala Irish Dancers’s performance in Barcelona embellished their 10th anniversary with music and dance. Bloomsday did not go unnoticed: celebrations took place in Barcelona at the Ateneu, a James Joyce Fiesta was organized in Bilbao by the Vasque-Irish Association LagunaCara, and Zaragoza came up with different acts under the suggestive title of “Visions of love in music and words from Joyce’s Ulysses”. Madrid was the place for the Yeats Society to host an evening of poetry and music and for the Bloomsday Society to arrange an homage to the Irish author and hispanist Ian Gibson.

On that same note, it was a pleasure for all AEDEI members to support the nomination of Ian Gibson for the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad for 2019. Gibson received the distinction in Dublin in November and he sent a warm letter of gratitude to AEDEI President Asier Altuna assertively declaring that Ireland and Spain are not only united by a firm friendship but also by millenary bindings.

The well-known international summer Festival of Classical Theatre in Almagro included this year an Irish touch as on 23-24 July Irish actor and director Denis Rafter represented the monologue “Don Quijote de Dublín”.

In September, the seminar A View of the Irish Language organized by David Clark and the Amergin Institute of Irish Studies in A Coruña, had among other speakers Ciarán Dawson (University College Cork) who talked about new trends in sociolinguistic studies in Ireland and Galicia. In the same month, another international seminar in the north of Spain entitled The Animal Trope: On Literary and Empirical Animals was organized by Manuela Palacios González at the University of Santiago de Compostela in collaboration with the University of Vigo. It benefited from the participation of Irish writer Anne Haverty (Irish Itinerary EFACIS) and Maureen O’Connor (University College Cork).

On 24-25 October the Tenth International George Moore Conference took place at the University of Almeria. Organized by Elena Jaime de Pablos and entitled Truth, Innovation and Commitment: The Artistic Legacy of George Moore, it hosted relevant speakers as Adrian Frazier (National University of Ireland) with “Elizabeth Jane Gardner, George Moore, and the Question of the Woman Artist” and Elizabeth Grubgeld (Oklahoma State University, USA) with “Framing the Folk: Modernist Metropolitanism and the Regional Subject”. Besides, Conor Montague (National University of Ireland) performed the monologue “Confessions of a Middle-Aged Man: “The difficulty in life is the choice”.

Simultaneously in October, a joyful weekend of music and culture gathered national and international artists at the 16th edition of the Caceres Festival Irish Fledabh. With the help of AEDEI member Carolina Amador (University of Extremadura) and the organizing committee, this annual and prestigious event offered parallel activities such as workshops, film projections, book presentations and a lecture by Auxiliadora Pérez Vides on the Magdalene laundries entitled “Los silencios revelados de las lavanderías de la Magdalena en Irlanda”.

There was also a profusion of other festivals related to Ireland along the year. Still in October, the Irish Festival Sitges Live ’19 provided its so-called Fringe and Garden events; in June, the 2nd edition of “CeltaSur” brought music and dance in the Cúllar Vega in Granada, as did in July the 9th Catalunya Celta Festival. Other musical events in November offered interesting programmes such as “Schönberg and Music in Ireland in the XXI century” held at the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid in collaboration with the contemporary Music Centre in Dublin by the Fabián Panisello Plural Ensemble with works by Jane O’Leary, Dierdre Gribbin, Garth Knos, Kevin O’Connell and Ed Bennett.

On 8 November, the Efacis Center for Irish Studies at the University of Granada (with the Universities of Almeria and Jaen) sponsored by the Irish Embassy in Spain, the MA program of language and literature in English language and the Department of English and German Philologies organized the Spanish-Irish musical/poetry concert to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Federico García Lorca’s birth. Directed by AEDEI member Pilar Villar-Argáiz and entitled Locos por Lorca: An Irish Celebration of the Great Spanish Poet it had as special guests Irish poets Theo Dorgan and Keith Payne, Irish musician Cormac Juan Breatnach, and AEDEI scholar and writer Gerardo Rodríguez-Salas. García Lorca’s poems translated into English and Irish were read accompanied by music and images.

In that same month, on 13-15 November there was a joint activity at the Centre of Irish Studies Banna/Bond in collaboration with EFACIS at the Universities of Burgos and La Rioja. The international seminar entitled Humanity and Inhumanity in Contemporary Irish Culture unveiled how Irish authors from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland creatively represent issues related to social activism and social responsibility in a dehumanized society.

Moreover, different exhibitions all over Spain brought Ireland to us. Scholars, students and the general public were able to contemplate the important folio from the 12th century Book of Leinster, a priceless medieval manuscript from the Irish Language Collection at Dublin’s Trinity College at Galicia, un relato no mundo/Galicia, a story in the world in the Museo Centro Gaiás in Santiago de Compostela. It will run until April 2020.

Art from or about Ireland has been exhibited from north to south. O Camiño por Mar de Dublín a Compostela ran from June till October 2019 in the Museo do Mar in Vigo. In June-July 2019 the exhibition of photographs La Irlanda de Plácido Castro was shown at Vilagarcía de Arousa (Pontevedra). Also, the Eamonn Doyle Exhibition was at the Fundación Mapfre in Madrid (September 2019-January 2020) showing the production of the well-known photographer and creator of the original Dublin trilogy (i, ON, End) and its sequel K (about West Ireland and Spain). The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Malaga reopened to host Sean Scully’s exhibition, Eleuthera (October 2019-January 2020).

At the end of the summer, the Annual General Meeting at Ljubljana (31 August 2019) brought the election of the new EFACIS executive and EFACIS board. Katharina Rennhak (University of Wuppertal) was elected president and thanked the outgoing president Seán Crosson. She also welcomed the new EFACIS Board, with Spanish AEDEI member Pilar Villar-Argáiz (University of Granada) as one of its members. The new President promised to make the EFACIS federation relevant for those engaged in Irish Studies across Europe “in a truly European spirit”.

Apart from the above mentioned, numerous Spanish works on Irish Studies have been published. Gustavo Adolfo Rodríguez Martín provides an annotated bibliography in the latest issue of the journal Shaw (39.2) with reviews of some works by AEDEI members.

Also more academic achievements can be traced in the IASIL Bibliography kindly compiled by María Jesús Lorenzo Modia which is annually published in the Irish University Review. Christopher Cusack is now chair of its Bibliography committee, substituting former editor Beatriz Kopschitz Bastos in the 2019 publication (49.2). In its foreword Cusack has confirmed the increasing interest in Irish women’s writing and the representation of other marginalised voices. He expects more diversification in the area of Irish literary studies “including more work on Irish-language writing, diasporic authors and children’s and Young Adult literature” and his goal is to offer a fully hyperlinked bibliography in the future.

Also, works by Spanish scholars on Irish issues are transcending borders. Cooperation with Brasil, for example, has resulted in the volume “Contemplating Feminism(s): Women Writers and Women Critics” co-edited by Mariana Bolfarine and Marisol Morales-Ladrón in ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies (20.2) with the participation of various AEDEI members. Similarly, Pilar Villar-Argáiz, editor of the new major interdisciplinary series Studies in Irish Literature, Cinema and Culture (Edward Everett Root Publishers), announces promising volumes such as: Constanza del Río, ed. Revolutionary Ireland, 1916-2016. Historical Facts and Social Transformations Reassessed; Katharyn Laing and Sinéad Mooney, eds. Irish Women Writers at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Alternative Histories, New Narratives; Adela Flamarike’s Women, Art and Nationalism in the Irish Revival. Presence and Absence, or James Gallacherd’s Bohemian Belfast and Dublin: Two Artistic and Literary Worlds in the Work of Gerard Keenan.

Important achievements have to be mentioned in the area of translation. Manuela Palacios’ project “Crosswinds: Irish and Galician Poetry and Translation” with the collaboration of AEDEI members shows current results on translations of Irish and Galician poetry. She has also written the introduction to The Mouth of the Earth (Shearsman, 2019), translation into English by the Irish poet Lorna Shaghnessy of the collection A Boca da terra by Galician poet Manuel Rivas. Also, José Francisco Fernández with Un caso entre Mil (2019) has translated Samuel Beckett’s work (A Case in a Thousand) in a bilingual edition with a complete critical introduction.

Many other successful publications include the enlightening volume edited by Antonio Raúl de Toro and Eduardo Barros (Looking Out on the Fields. Reimagining Irish Literature and Culture (TIR, 2018) or Raul de Toro’s edition, Words and Music in Irish Literature (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2019). Both include the participation of many experts and AEDEI members and honour professor de Toro’s academic retirement.

To all this, five reviews by expert scholars to whom I am extremely grateful are added in the following pages. The reviewed volumes prove the high quality of the research done in Spain on different issues related to Irish studies. They cover the study of oral language in written texts in Irish English, a compilation of articles tracing Joyce’s legacy, an extensive critical bibliography on Beckett’s translations in Spanish, a critical edition of Hannah Lynch’s articles on Spain, and the critical edition of an annotated and commented translation of Peadar O’Donell’s travel book in Spain during the Civil War.