María Losada Friend
University of Huelva, Spain | Published: 17 March, 2021
ISSUE 16 | Pages: 224-237 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2021-10084

Creative Commons 4.0 2021 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.

We will always remember this year 2020. So much has happened since last March that it seems an impossible and endless task to sum it up in a few paragraphs. We have endured and learned to live with uncertainty holding on to things that can make us stronger and better. Feeling close to Ireland, studying its culture, looking for new angles to understand its new tendencies and applying academic research to reread its history, peoples and development has been a powerful weapon to beat the Corona pandemic. Confined and threatened by the new situation, Spanish scholars have not surrendered and have kept on working enriching, yet one more year, our knowledge about the beautiful Emerald island.

In January, when the pandemic was still far away from our horizon, President Higgings made a statement of sympathy on the death of Stephen Joyce, grandson of James Joyce and his last living descendant. The President recalled his visit with him to Joyce’s grave in Zurich and mentioned Joyce’s poem to Lucia (“A Flower given to my daughter”). One stanza seems to acquire even more sense these days: “Rosefrail and fair – yet frailest/ A wonder wild/ In gentle eyes thou veilest/ My blueveined child”). The fragility and beauty of a life that Joyce describes and his desire to make it eternal through poetry becomes meaningful now that we have felt defenceless, vulnerable and mortal. We have witnessed how the pandemic has affected Ireland’s life displaying simultaneously expressions of solidarity, endurance and beauty. It has brought together voices that reveal its cultural diversity and richness and makes us eager to keep tracing the grandeur of their powerful expressions. Thus, Irish writers’ opinions spread helpfully in the news, as we read in The Irish Times John Boyne’s view about the changes of social media and “the ways in which people use the platform to help each other and to reach out to their neighbours”, or we shared Sinead Gleeson’s hope “that we keep a candle lit in the window as reminder of all this passing darkness, and all the light ahead”, or we admired Kevin Barry’s contemplation of the power of Irish nature: “The Curlew mountains do not seem in any way perturbed, Lough Arrow remains serene, and the hills are the same old hills.” Also, the death of Northern-Irish Derek Mahon left behind the beautiful line “the sun rises in spite of everything” from his poem “Everything is going to be alright”, that has become a ceaseless expression of comfort this year. And likewise, the voice of Felicia Olusanya, Irish-Nigerian poet in a RTE’s programme captured powerfully in “Still” the vibrant feeling of Ireland’s restlessness and resolution during the lockdown. Just a few lines can be quoted to grasp her emotion: “For the Frontline workers armed with nothing but faith, / For the emerging minds that must dare to dream in high definition, / For the lonely minds that are glaring at love through a screen, / For the bodies that create homes in cardboard shelters. / Still. / For you. Ireland is standing still”.

Our neighbours’ work and artistry have been a lesson to bear isolation and anxiety, and have helped us to endure a life that depends now on charts and statistics, a new life for the living and the dead. And as we follow with preoccupation the development of this new and uncertain year, we look back at the 2020 looking for things that were done or those that were planned and have been postponed or cancelled and value all efforts and attempts. Before and after the declaration of the pandemic a trace of hard work shows that Irish studies in Spain have survived through this year.

Luckily enough, before the shutdown in March, the 5th International Seminar on Irish Studies – part of the EFACIS Irish Itinerary tour and with the support and collaboration of the Embassy of Ireland – was organized by the Granada Centre of Irish Studies at the University of Granada in February. The invited Irish writers were Donal Ryan and Emilie Pine who, with other prestigious keynote speakers and cultural activities such as performances by the Irish traditional music community in Granada and a workshop of “Céilí Dance”, marked the beginning of this difficult year.

Many of the academic activities had to been cancelled or postponed but fortunately we will see most of them taking place during 2021. For example, the 19th International AEDEI Conference. Silences and Inconvenient Truths in Irish Culture and Society carefully planned and organized by Teresa Caneda at the University of Vigo will be a virtual event taking place online in May 2021 with guest speakers Professor Vincent J. Cheng (University of Utah) author of Amnesia and the Nation (Palgrave, 2018), Caelainn Hogan, writer and journalist, author of Republic of Shame: Stories from Ireland’s Institutions for Fallen Women (Penguin, 2019); Mark Fitzpatrick (Yale University), director and producer of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, and poet Mary O’Malley poet and 2019 Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin (Gaudent Angel, Carcanet Press, 2019). Similarly, Shadows of Joyce in/and Irish Contemporary Authors, the International Conference of the James Joyce Spanish Association, organized by Juan Ignacio Oliva Cruz and his team at the University of La Laguna (Tenerife), was cancelled and has been postponed sine die to explore Joyce’s role as a revolutionary, individualistic, and exiled writer. Also, AEDEI members will be able to attend the IASIL Symposium at the University of Łódź (Poland) as our colleague Ondřej Pilný announced its postponement to July 2021.

Unbeatable, the publication of the annual number of the review Estudios Irlandeses/Journal of Irish Studies came out triumphantly in March. All articles and contributions of this number 15 cover many issues on Irish productions. There are works on Brian O’Nalan, Joyce, Edgeworth, J.C Mangan, Brendan Behan, John MacGahern, Heaney, Kate O’Brien, Melusian Narrative, Eco and Beckett, Masculinities in Pub fiction, and Wilde. It also includes interviews with Eibhear Walshe and with the author Lillis Ó’Lahoire, and adds a section on “Reflections on an Irish American” and the translation and essay on Teresa Deevy’s The King of Spain’s Daughter. Somehow this publication symbolically put an end to the gloominess that the shutdown brought and blazed the path to many more projects that were to come during the year in spite of the adverse conditions. In fact, the publication of this number 15 was complemented later in the month of November when the special issue, number 15.2 saw the light. Edited by Margarita Estévez-Saá, Manuela Palacios-González and Noemí Pereira-Ares (University of Santiago de Compostela) and entitled Eco-Fictions, The Animal Trope and Irish Studies, it is a brilliant selection of high-quality articles which give a new insight into the many angles of Ecocriticism and fiction. These two last numbers of the review close the admiring work of the former general editor, José Francisco Fernandez and his team, formed by Verónica Membrive and Germán Asensio, who have been warmly congratulated for their outstanding work. The new editorial team led by Marisol Morales (University of Alcalá) as general editor with Asier Altuna-García de Salazar (University of Deusto) and Auxiliadora Pérez-Vides (University of Huelva) as managing editors will undoubtedly keep the quality standards of the journal.

April ended with the call for candidates for the new I Kate O’Brien Award organized by the Aula María Zambrano de Estudios Transatlánticos (AMZET) at the University of Málaga for works that study the relations between Ireland and Spain in the frame of literary and/or gender studies. Besides, the award ceremony for the II George Campell Award organized also by the AMZET was postponed to November. The prize was for Lorena Arce Romeral and Míriam Seghiri Domínguez (University of Málaga) for their work “Generación de plantillas de redacción y traducción (inglés-español) de contratos de compraventa de viviendas: un estudio aplicado a España e Irlanda” (“Generating templates for composing and translating (English-Spanish) contracts of sale: a study applied to Spain and Ireland”). There was also a secondary award (accessit) to “Relations Ireland and Spain, 1965 to present. An illustrated journey” by Martha Gutiérrez-Steinkamp, Smithsonian Fellow in the United States.

Also from La Rioja region good news arrived with the important publication of Trauma and Identity in Contemporary Irish Culture (Peter Lang Reimagining Ireland series, 2020), edited by Melania Terrazas (University of La Rioja). The highly-inspiring volume includes scholarly articles on Irish literature, film, digital archives, history and music, an unpublished essay by Irish artist Emer Martin, unpublished poems by Pat Boran, and an interview with the latter. Many AEDEI members have contributed to this enlightening piece of research whose beautifully designed cover is by Emer Martin.

St Patrick’s Day in March is usually an important date regarding academic activities and other cultural events planned by AEDEI members. Unfortunately, the projects of the Irish Itinerary (EFACIS) organized by Banna/Bond, Center for Irish Studies at Deusto or La Rioja could not take place, but we hope that they will be planned again in the near future. Both events – Text, Music and Performance organized by Asier Altuna García de Salazar) and the III International Seminar on Saint Patrick’s Day 2020 organized by Melania Terrazas – counted on the participation of the Irish writer and artist Emer Martin and musician, actor and playwright Gerry Smyth (Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom). La Rioja had planned also a photograph contest “St. Patrick’s Day y la cerveza Guinness en transformación”, a lecture by Linda Connolly (Maynooth University) entitled “The Irish’s Family”, and a round table on Irish identity in transition. Similarly, the seminar Cultural Waves in Ireland and Irish Studies at the University of Huelva diligently planned by Auxiliadora Pérez Vides and José Carregal for April had to be cancelled. Also, the International Shaw Conference Shaw in Europe, co-sponsored by the International Shaw Society and the University of Extremadura, was to take place in May 2020. Its general topic is “Shaw and Europe” with special focus on the international dimension of the Irish author, especially Shaw’s reception in Europe (ideas, works and translations). Luckily it has been postponed for 2021 and the dates will be announced on the ISS web page.

In June the new Executive Board of AEDEI was agreed upon in the General Assembly of the Association. Former President, Asier Altuna García de Salazar and his team received the warm gratitude of all members for their work and dedication and the new board was welcome: Pilar Villar-Argáiz (Chairperson), María Amor Barros del Río (Secretary), José Carregal (Treasurer) and board members Juan F. Elices and Melania Terrazas Gallego.

From June onwards, AEDEI members followed with interest the exciting new project launched by EFACIS as part of its Irish Itinerary Series: The Itinerary Podcast, which has proved an easy and useful tool to visualize the work of Irish artists and writers. Culture and academic work join together, letting us enjoy the online presentation of thought-provoking ideas, readings, performances, and conversations between creative minds and scholars. It has been a brilliant alternative to the traditional Irish Itinerary circuit in a digital version. From Spain, Irish Studies scholars as Pilar Villar-Argáiz and Marisol Morales-Ladrón participated in this transnational project hosting two interesting programmes. In September, Villar-Argaiz in Episode 5 talked to poet, translator and novelist Theo Dorgan and they discussed love poetry, Greek mythology, his translations of García Lorca, and the power of Irish language. Likewise, Morales-Ladrón in Episode 11 interviewed Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue, discussing among many other topics women in Irish history and the author read fragments from her latest novel The Pull of the Stars (2020).

Many events commemorated a very different and unusual Bloomsday. At the University of Seville, Ricardo Navarrete and his team organized a special online Bloomsday event. Author of the clever article “Cómo perder el miedo a leer a Joyce/ How to lose the fear of reading Joyce” (The conversation.com, 2019), Navarrete organized the “Ciberbloomsday” with a documentary on Finnegan’s Wake and a summary of the best moments of last year’s XXX anniversary of the Spanish Association James Joyce, and the updates of the active webpage Iberjoyce, where every Sunday there is a commentary on a fragment of Finnegans Wake. Also the Zaragoza Bloomsday 2020: Entre el amor y la esperanza/ Between love and hope can be found in Youtube. It offered a mixture of music and literature with Celtic Airs, a group that has been for many years exploring the Celtic culture through music. Its members coordinated by Ana Hornero (Department of English Studies, University of Zaragoza), – also offered a special concert later in December, celebrating their special anniversary: 20 years of Celtic music in Spain (2000-2020).

Apart from all that, there has been a myriad of publications that show that 2020 has been a busy year in spite of the circumstances. From north to south, Spain proves the scholarly quality and variety of publications. From the dynamic group of scholars in Galicia a special monographic volume on Irish Studies in the journal Oceánide (vol. 13, 2020) was edited by María Jesús Lorenzo Modia et al. with many AEDEI members as contributors. Also David Clark Mitchell showed his expertise on crime fiction with an article in the volume Sins of the Fathers: Recent Crime Fiction and the Challenges of Policing a New Northern Ireland (Peter Lang, 2020), and with an a review of John Banville’ The Secret Guests in ABEI Journal (2020). He has also contributed to important entries to the Dictionary of Literary Biography in the volume on 21st-century Irish Fiction (Farmington Hills/Gale, 2020) with writers such as Colin Bateman, John Boyne, or Liz Nugent, as Margarita Estévez has done likewise with Deirdre Madden. Luckily, Estévez has amplified her already vast research on Molly Bloom, analysing this character’s representation in Joseph Strick’s and Sean Walsh’s films in her publication within the volume Page to Scree/Vom Buch Zum Film. Modification and Misrepresentation of Female Characters in Audiovisual Media (Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, 2020). Another interesting interdisciplinary contribution was the article on the Ulster Museum in Belfast by Antonio Río Vázquez (University of A Coruña) and Cecilia López Prego, a relevant architect in Galicia: “Preciso, ampliado, redibujado, recordado: Una revisión del proyecto de Pym y Lawson para el Ulster Museum” (VAD, vol. 2.1, 2020.)

New and very interesting titles came up in the volumes of the collection Studies in Irish Literature, Cinema and Culture (Edward Everett Root Publishers), coordinated by Pilar Villar-Argáiz, Kathryn Laing, and Sinéad Mooney. Among them, the thought-provoking volume by Constanza del Río and José Carregal (Revolutionary Ireland, 1916-2016: Historical Facts and Social Transformations Re-assessed, 2020), with contributions of some AEDEI members, discusses the concept of revolution in Ireland from different perspectives (history, sociology, film and literary studies). Also, in August, Gustavo Adolfo Rodríguez’s chapter “Shaw’s Ireland (and the Irish Shaw) in the International Press (1914-1925)” was included in the volume edited by Audrey McNamara and Nelson O’Ceallaigh Ritschel, Bernard Shaw and the Making of Modern Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).

Many more publications can be found in the annual compilation that María Jesús Lorenzo Modia (University A Coruña) kindly and patiently puts together every year for the IASIL bibliography published in the Irish University Review. I also remain grateful to the three readers that have gently accepted to prove their expertise by reviewing the three works that follow.