M. Teresa Caneda-Cabrera
University of Vigo, Spain | Published: 17 March, 2022 | Views:
ISSUE 17 | Pages: 178-194 | PDF | DOAJ | https://doi.org/10.24162/EI2022-10906

Creative Commons 4.0 2022 by M. Teresa Caneda-Cabrera | 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.

If 2020 will always be remembered as the year when Covid 19 turned our world upside down, 2021 was the year we were all looking forward to as we hoped for a new time of healing and recovery. Still overwhelmed by the grief and loss we had experienced in the previous months, forced to live in the middle of unprecedented uncertainty on a global scale, one of the major challenges of 2021 has been (and continues to be as I write these lines in 2022) our having to cope with constant insecurity on many levels and in many different ways. In my role as the new chronicler for the section “Irish Studies in Spain”, I wish, first of all, to recognize and celebrate the fact that we have managed to develop extraordinary capacities to resist, to be resilient and to produce resources that have enabled us to connect, to communicate and to collaborate productively despite an ever-changing scenario of unpredictable and often adverse circumstances.

As announced by María Losada Friend, in the prior issue of Estudios Irlandeses, many academic activities which should have taken place in 2020 were cancelled or postponed for 2021.This was the case of the 19th International AEDEI Conference: “Silences and Inconvenient Truths in Irish Culture and Society” organised by both the research project INTRUTHS FFI2017-84619-P (AEI/ERDF EU) and the research group NETEC that I coordinate, held finally as a virtual event hosted by the University of Vigo on May 27-28. Although, initially, we were all extremely disappointed at the idea of missing the camaraderie and academic nourishment that AEDEI meetings always provide, the 19th International AEDEI Conference proved to be another lively online event which (even if it could never aspire to replace the spirit of our in-person gatherings) provided ample food for thought and inspiration and managed to transform the annual conference of the Asociación Española de Estudios Irlandeses into a virtual meeting livestreamed for a global audience.

More than sixty papers, distributed in approximately twenty panels focusing on silence (denounced, revised, broken and resisted), were presented by delegates representing the work on Irish Studies being done at a large number of relevant academic institutions throughout Spain and also Portugal, France, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Turkey, Mexico, the US and Ireland (North and South). The conference program, which grouped papers together thematically, featured a panel session devoted to the anthology Her Other Language (2020) of writing by women from the North of Ireland on the subject of domestic violence and abuse which was followed by a lively discussion. This panel was organised and chaired by poet, translator and academic Lorna Shaughnessy and included the live participation of editors Ruth Carr and Natasha Cuddington as well as video-clips of several contributors reading from their work, recorded specially for the occasion. Keynote speakers included poet Mary O’Malley, whose engaging reading and moving reflections on “the hospitality of the imagination” appropriately set the tone for the rest of a conference held after inhospitable months of lockdown; the distinguished American professor and renowned Joycean scholar, Vincent J. Cheng, whose insightful “Silence, Ireland, and James Joyce” resonated powerfully with several panel discussions and other lectures; the film director Maurice Fitzpatrick whose thought-provoking and timely “The Northern Minority” shed new light on the ongoing debate over negotiations and power in Northern Ireland and the journalist Caelainn Hogan, whose compelling discussion of Ireland’s “shame-industrial complex” highlighted the relevance of the topic of silence and inconvenient truths in Irish culture and society and fittingly marked the closing of the conference. Doubtless, the support provided by institutions and funding bodies like the Irish Embassy in Madrid, EFACIS and the Department of English of the University of Vigo, together with the encouragement and generosity of all the plenary speakers and panelists, who participated in technical rehearsals, was essential to guarantee that this conference, like the eighteen previous editions, would provide (albeit virtually) a productive forum for debate and discussion with eloquent and stimulating responses. For those who missed it, the 19th AEDEI International Conference can be accessed at: https://tv.uvigo.es/series/60db1e52d5e35a5917581a39

The good health of Irish Studies in Spain throughout 2021 has been maintained thanks to the efforts of individuals, many of them hard-pressed academics, and institutions which continued to organise virtual events and participate in online activities. The year started with a fascinating virtual exchange of ideas around Irish culture hosted by the Irish Embassy in Madrid to mark St. Brigid’s Day: an online discussion on Irish Women in Literature with writer Emilie Pine in conversation with AEDEI President Pilar Villar Argáiz. Another online event of the series, held a month later, also enthusiastically introduced by former Ambassador Síle Maguire and conducted by 2021 John Broderick writer-in-residence Keith Payne, provided a most interesting discussion of Tim Fanning’s The Salamanca Diaries: Father McCabe and the Spanish Civil War. In February, under the auspices of the EFACIS Itinerary, which carried on as a “digital itinerary” supporting lectures, seminars, book clubs, and other related events, Pilar Villar Argáiz organised the readings of novelist Donal Ryan and poet Colette Bryce in conjuction with the MA Programme in English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Granada.

One more year, a new issue of Estudios Irlandeses, number sixteen, saw the light on Saint Patrick’s Day. The new editorial team led by Marisol Morales Ladrón (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, put together an exciting volume which featured a large number of scholarly articles, on a rich variety of topics (posthumanism, sexual abuse, transnational precariousness, subjectivity), genres (Irish-language tales, photography, non-fiction essays, satire) and writers (Mia Gallagher, Claire Boylan, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Emer Martin, Anne Enright and John Banville among others). The new issue included an interview, a translation, a think piece and the year in review in Spain and around the world, and also a new section, an annual report on literary and cultural events in Ireland.

Ireland’s national day was commemorated throughout Spain in different and unusual ways. El Arpa Media hosted an online event with the participation of Madrid-based Irish actor Denis Rafter, as well as Irish musicians living in Madrid and members of the pop-up Gaeltacht group. Partnered up with the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL), they provided illustrated slides of historical Irish words related to Spain and recited a Tagore poem translated by Yeats, accompanied by Indian dancing. In Barcelona, the Iomramh Association celebrated the launch of a new currach, the iconic traditional rowing boat of Ireland, which Irish artist Mark Redden built from salvaged materials during the pandemic. The boat, named Saoirse, or Hope in Irish, is destined to help combat plastic pollution in the sea by serving as a scientific research vessel. On the same day, in A Coruña, the Amergin Institute celebrated an altogether different launch: a volume of essays in honour of its founder, Antonio R. de Toro Santos, who acted also as director of this Irish Studies institute until 2018. Among other colleagues and friends, the volume editors María Jesús Lorenzo Modia, Miguel Alonso Giráldez and Eduardo Barros Grela participated in this emotive event.

Also in March, the María Zambrano Centre of Transatlantic Studies UMA-ATECH of the University of Málaga awarded the first Kate O’Brien Prize of the Centre of Transatlantic Studies of the University of Málaga to Pilar Iglesias Aparicio for her work “The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and the Centres for the Protection of Women in Spain: Examples of the Sexual Repression Policy and the Punishment of Women”. The second prize was awarded to “‘In Word and Deed’: Literature and Revolution in Modern Ireland and Spain–1913-39”, by James Heaney, from Carlow College (Ireland). Later in the year, on June 28, the María Zambrano Centre hosted a virtual talk by award winner Pilar Iglesias in which the scholar and activist provided overwhelming revelations of a shared institutional (Catholic) culture of abuse as she explored policies of punishment and repression of women in Ireland and Spain in the twentieth century.

In April, Auxiliadora Pérez Vides and José Carregal Romero (University of Huelva) organised, via Zoom, the “International Seminar: Cultural Waves in Ireland and Irish Studies” in collaboration with research projects Bodies in Transit 2 and INTRUTHS, research group Teoría y Estudios Culturales and several other funding bodies and research centres linked to the University of Huelva. The stimulating programme of this two-day seminar, attended by an international audience, included well-known scholars such as Carolina Amador Moreno (University of Bergen), Maureen O’Connor (UCC), Gerardine Meaney (UCD) and the writer Catherine Dunne. The next several months witnessed more encouraging developments in relation to the international and interdisciplinary character of Irish studies in Spain with AEDEI members participating at a myriad of events (ACIS 2021, ABEI webinar series, German-Irish Studies Itinerary, 27th International James Joyce Symposium, XVI Symposium of Irish Studies in South America, EFACIS 2021 and AFIS 2021) and many gatherings and seminars being organised at different institutions. In September, the Centre of Irish Studies Banna/Bond at the University of La Rioja hosted the “IV International Seminar on Contemporary Irish Literature and Film”, with speakers Stephanie Schwerter, (Polytechnic University of Hauts-de-France), and writer Emer Martin, followed in December by the “IV International Seminar in Irish Theatre and Performance” with the participation of Loredana Salis (Università di Sassari) and David Clare (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick). Both events were organised by the head of the centre, Melania Terrazas Gallego. At the University of Santiago de Compostela, the Research Project “The Animal Trope: An Ecofeminist Analysis of Contemporary Culture in Galicia and Ireland” led by Manuela Palacios hosted the lecture “Witness Trees: Postcolonial Landscapes in Irish Poetry”, by Lorna Shaughnessy (National University of Ireland, Galway).

The intellectual energy generated by Irish Studies in Spain from different geographical areas and cultural fronts is clearly illustrated also by the publications on a diversity of topics which saw the light in 2021. These include the translation of Eoin O’Duffy’s Crusade in Spain (1938), annotated and introduced by Carlos Villar Flor, in the collection “Armas y Letras” published by Amarú Ediciones (Salamanca); A Different Eden/Un Edén diferente: Ecopoetry from Ireland and Galicia, a timely bilingual anthology of Irish and Galician eco-poetry edited by Keith Payne, Lorna Shaughnessy and Martín Veiga and published by Dedalus Press and a new Spanish translation of Lessness/Sans by Árdora Ediciones (Madrid) containing four versions of the same text: Beckett’s original Sans (1969), translated by Loreto Casado, and Beckett’s original Lessness (1970), translated by José Francisco Fernández. The field of Beckett Studies has been exceptionally fruitful this year with two edited collections of essays by the leading scholar José Francisco Fernández from the University of Almería, Samuel Beckett and Translation (Edinburgh University Press) edited by Fernández and Mar Garre García, which includes especially commissioned contributions by three translators who worked with Samuel Beckett, and Translating Samuel Beckett Around the World (Palgrave Macmillan). This unprecedented critical volume reveals unknown aspects of Beckett interacting with translators of his work in countries such as Argentina, Israel and Italy and provides examples of Beckett’s presence in China, Turkey, India and Pakistan.

In November, AEDEI board member José Carregal Romero published his monograph Queer Whispers: Gay and Lesbian Voices in Irish Fiction with UCD Press. Praised by Emma Donoghue as “an intelligent and insightful analysis” and “a crucial study”, Queer Whispers is the first comprehensive survey of gay and lesbian-themed fiction in Ireland, from the late 1970s until today. The book, launched online with author Carregal Romero and critically acclaimed fiction writer and poet Mary Dorcey engaging in lively conversation with novelist and scholar Eibhear Walshe, was attended by proud Spanish colleagues and a representative of the Irish Embassy, First Secretary Paula Molloy, who congratulated the author on his achievement. Queer Whispers is but a remarkable example of how the work of Irish Studies scholars in Spain contribute to reflect the rapidly changing realities in Ireland.

On a more personal note, as I conclude my first report of Irish Studies in Spain I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new Irish Ambassador, his excellency Frank Smyth, whom I had the opportunity to greet in person when he visited Vigo last November. We were specially honoured to host him at the Faculty of Philology and Translation of the University of Vigo where he met with students of Irish Studies, from our undergraduate and graduate programmes, and confirmed his wish to continue working together to keep the connection between the Embassy and AEDEI alive and vibrant. The AEDEI community hopes to meet him officially on the much awaited occasion of the next conference in the beautiful Unesco World Heritage city of Burgos in early June. We all look forward to gathering again at what promises to be a most memorable (in-person!) event, the 20th International AEDEI Conference “Ireland in Transformation (1922-2022)”.