Teresa Caneda-Cabrera (University of Vigo)
If 2022 marked the end of a full decade of centenary commemorations in Ireland, it also marked the beginning of what Public Health agencies around the world proclaimed as a gradual “return to normal”. Thus, whereas we continued learning to live with COVID-19 during the past year, we also witnessed with relief how many of the restrictions affecting international mobility were finally removed as schools, businesses, indoor activities and leisure travel resumed. Against the background of the previously cancelled 19th annual meeting of 2020, which was later held online in 2021, the year 2022 was a memorable one for Irish Studies in Spain. At a time when the world gradually began to reopen, AEDEI members successfully managed to gather in person again on the special occasion of the 20th International AEDEI Conference, fittingly devoted to “Ireland in Transformation (1922-2022)” and held on June 2-3 (when mask-wearing was still compulsory in many settings) in the beautiful Unesco World Heritage city of Burgos.
Heartfelt congratulations were expressed by the international crowd of delegates to the University of Burgos organisers, María Amor Barros del Río and her team, not only for the great breadth of contributions which were heard during the two days of the conference but also for the exceptionally enjoyable and generous social programme. The social events included a very warm welcome reception offered by the Town Hall on the eve of the Conference; a reception hosted by the Embassy of Ireland, with the participation of the Ambassador, his excellency Mr. Frank Smyth, who remained a very supportive and friendly presence during the conference; a fascinating night visit to the Burgos cathedral, sponsored by the Cabildo Catedralicio, and a delightful dinner party which provided a perfect closing to the first live (and lively) AEDEI Conference held after months of lockdowns and restriction measures.
The exciting academic programme grouped papers together thematically in sixteen panels under the major concern with the transformations of Irish society in its many forms (independence, partition, conflict, reconciliation, modernisation, internationalisation, globalisation) during the 20th century and up to the contemporary moment. In the context of a conference which explicitly encouraged the use of transdisciplinary approaches, many of the papers emphasized how the field of Irish Studies has incorporated new critical perspectives in conversation with a wide range of other academic disciplines and new theoretical perspectives. Unsurprisingly, the topics of dissent, vulnerability and resistance, revisions from the margins, social and political activism in conjunction with the emergence of alternative forms of artistic and literary expression were all well represented. Keynote speakers included professor Liam Harte whose lecture provided insightful reflections on the intricacies of “experiential storytelling”. At a time when narratives of the self are flourishing, Harte’s discussion focused on how personal memoirs often incorporate public truths about silenced episodes of the past and, thus, provide alternative discourses in the present which may also generate change for the future. A somewhat more pessimistic view on “the end of Irish studies” dominated Gerry Smyth’s thought-provoking “Reflection on a Century of Critical Debate”.
One of the major treats of AEDEI conferences is that they provide unique opportunities for Irish Studies scholars to meet writers face to face and attend public readings. On this occasion, thanks to the support of EFACIS, delegates at the Burgos conference could listen to the Northern Irish writer Jan Carson who, during the course of her frank conversation with María Amor Barros del Río, explained her search for imaginative strategies in order to deal with the overwhelming legacy of trauma in her work. Engaging and inspiring as usual, Mary O’Donnell magically captured her audience during a reading and interview with Elena Jaime de Pablos which fittingly ended a most exciting two-day conference. The Inés Praga awards for best PhD thesis, granted to Cassandra Sian Tully de Lope (University of Extremadura) and Alicia Muro Llorente (University of La Rioja) and MA thesis, to David Sotoca Fernández (University of Extremadura) and Felicity Smith (University of Granada), were announced shortly before the concluding remarks. Doubtless, on the special occasion of the celebration of the twenty years of AEDEI conferences, the admirable task of our gracious hostess at the magnificent venue of the University of Burgos, demonstrated, once again, the immense amount of work as well as the deep emotional and intellectual investment involved in the organisation of our successful annual gatherings.
The vitality of Irish Studies in Spain throughout 2022 was made evident by the large number of individuals and institutions engaged in the organization of numerous and richly diverse events. The online resources that had become so valuable during our successive lockdowns in the previous years continued to be relevant in the first part of 2022 when threats, doubts and insecurities loomed in the background of a scenario of unpredictable circumstances. And so the year started with the readings by novelist Donal Ryan and poet Colette Bryce, on January 21st and 28th respectively, held virtually under the auspices of the MA Programme of English Literature and Linguistics of the University of Granada and thanks to the collaboration between the Granada Centre of Irish Studies and EFACIS. In February, José Francisco Fernández coordinated an online seminar addressed to PhD students on the topic of “Beckett and humour” at the University of Almería. During the months of March and May the Centre of Irish Studies Banna/Bond of the Universities of La Rioja, Burgos, Deusto and Zaragoza, also in collaboration with the EFACIS Irish Itinerary, organised the “V International Seminar on St. Patrick’s Day (Irish Itinerary 2022): Gender Based Violence and The Art of Storytelling”. Melania Terrazas Gallego (University of La Rioja) coordinated a stimulating programme which included lectures, readings and musical and theatrical performances with the participation of writer Emer Martin, the scholar Linda Connelly, the academic and musician Gerry Smyth and the Spanish actor Pepe Viyuela.
One more year, on Saint Patrick’s Day we welcomed the publication of a new issue of Estudios Irlandeses. The editorial team put together an exciting volume which featured a large number of scholarly articles on widely diverse topics (gender and sexuality, environmental activism, race, social welfare, political commentary, translation) and on a great variety of forms and genres (novel, short story, film, comedy, theatre, diaries, music, young adult fiction) and writers (Shane Mac an Bhaird, Thomas Carlyle, Patrick MacGill, Claire Hennessy, Neil Jordan, Rachel Seiffert, Mary O’Donnell and Kevin Barry among others). This new issue, number seventeen, included an interview with Emilie Pine, a think piece on “the decade on centenaries”, the year in review in Spain and around the world, and also an annual report on Irish film and media studies publications and another on film and television in Ireland.
In April, Auxiliadora Pérez Vides and José Carregal Romero (University of Huelva) organised a hybrid event, the second International Seminar of the series “Cultural Waves in Ireland and Irish Studies”, in collaboration with research projects Bodies in Transit 2 and INTRUTHS 2, research group Teoría y Estudios Culturales and several other funding bodies and research centres linked to the University of Huelva. The programme focused on notions of transformation in Irish Studies and featured speakers Eibhear Walshe (University College Cork), M. Teresa Caneda-Cabrera (University of Vigo), Elena Jaime de Pablos (University of Almería). At the University of Extremadura Gustavo A. Rodríguez Martín organised the International Shaw Conference, “Shaw in Europe”, held in in Cáceres on May 25-27. The programme included two plenary lectures by Brad Kent (Université Laval, Québec) on “Bernard Shaw and World Literature” and Audrey McNamara (UCD, Dublin) on “Bernard Shaw: Realism, Women and Ireland”, a workshop on Mrs Warren’s Profession with director Anthony Banks and actors Caroline Quentin and Rose Quentin, the one-man show by Brian Freeland “Bernard Shaw: Playing the Clown” and the book launches of Language and Metadrama in Major Barbara and Pygmalion (Palgrave, 2022), by Jean Reynolds and Bernard Shaw and the Spanish-Speaking World (Palgrave, 2022) edited by Conference organiser Gustavo A. Rodríguez Martín.
May was a very busy month for Irish Studies in Spain with the official launch of two centres. At the University of Alcalá the opening of Alka-Éire, included the participation of representatives of the Embassy of Ireland and a reading by Mary Morrissy, chaired by Marisol Morales Ladrón, head of the new EFACIS associated centre. Within the same week, Pilar Villar Árgaiz and his Excellency, Mr. Frank Smyth, officially launched the new Centre for Irish Studies at the University of Granada. The event converged with the official opening of the Manuel Villar Raso Library and a most interesting seminar on the centenary of the publication of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and James Joyce’s Ulysses hosted by the Department of English and German Philology and the new Irish Studies centre.
Unsurprisingly, in a year that was marked by the commemoration of events and personalities which have been central to Ireland’s modern history and literature in the past century, we witnessed a variety of activities that pondered the legacies of 1922 organised by our numerous and very active AEDEI members throughout the Iberian peninsula. The Departament of Modern Philology of the University of León, the Instituto de Humanismo y Tradición Clásica, SOFCAPLE and the Academia Leonesa de las Artes, Letras y Ciencias put together a series of lectures on the cultural and historical context of Joyce’s Ulysses. The programme included two lectures by AEDEI members Alfred Markey (University of León) and M. Teresa Caneda-Cabrera (University of Vigo) on Joyce’s “Irish world” and “European modernity” in Ulysses respectively. At the University of Santiago de Compostela, Margarita Estévez-Saá organised a two-day event of workshops and round tables to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses with the participation of local staff and Irish Studies scholars from the University of A Coruña, M. Jesús Lorenzo Modia and Antonio Raúl de Toro, founder of the Amergin Institute. The event featured also guest speakers Francisco Navarrete, from the University of Seville, and 2022 National Narrative award winner, the Galician writer Marilar Aleixandre. At the neighbouring University of Vigo, NETEC Research group in collaboration with Irish Studies at UVigo organised the screening of the film 100 Years of Ulysses (Ruán Magan, 2022) followed by a discussion attended by staff, students and the general public. Across the border, at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto, Rui Carvalho Homem was involved in the organization of a most successful international conference, “Relational Forms VII: Remembering and Reimagining 1922”, with Declan Kiberd and Frank O’Rourke as keynote speakers and with the participation of many AEDEI delegates from Spain.
Ireland was designated the Guest of Honour at the Valladolid Book Fair, held on 4-6 June. The varied and rich programme included a roundtable with writers Mary O’Donnell and Jan Carson and the participation of AEDEI President Pilar Villar Árgaiz; Eimear McBride in conversation with Mª José Carrera de la Red (University of Valladolid); Keith Payne in (poetic) dialogue with the Valladolid born poet Rosa M. Martin; an interview with John Banville by Spanish writer Rubén Abella, as well as a discussion on Ulysses, chaired by Berta Cano (University of Valladolid) with the participation of translators and writers Eduardo Lago, Antonio Soler and Diego Garrido. And, precisely, in the year of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Joyce’s modernist masterpiece, Bloomsday was vibrantly celebrated throughout Spain. On June 16th, the Spanish capital took on an Irish air with Soy de la Cuesta and “Tourism Ireland” Bloomsday Madrid-Dublin walking route which recreated a Ulysses tour in the streets, pubs, libraries and shops of Madrid’s most notable literary district. One of the most dazzling events was hosted by the Madrid Ateneo in collaboration with the Irish Embassy and the Bloomsday Society. The evening of reading, music and performance was dedicated to actor and director Magüi Mira, who has famously been performing Molly Bloom’s monologue since the 1980s. Besides the Ambassador of Ireland to Spain, the programme featured a group of illustrious speakers such as Ian Gibson and Antonio Garrigues Walker.
The beginning of the new school year was welcomed at the University of Vigo with the celebration of a Seminar on “Intersectional Vulnerabilities” organised by the PhD Programme IDAES and the MCIN/AEI Research Project INTRUTHS 2: “Articulations of Individual and Communal Vulnerabilities in Contemporary Irish Writing” with a programme which featured, among other speakers, Irish eco-poet Grace Wells. The University of A Coruña together with the UIMP held the event Los caminos Jacobeos e Irlanda organised by David Clark (Amergin Institute) in mid-October, with two exhilarating days which celebrated the links between Galicia and Ireland. Participants included AEDEI members Manuela Palacios, Margarita Estévez-Saá and Pilar Villar Argáiz, and Irish and Galician scholars, writers and musicians, Carlos Seco, Seán Crosson, Dermot Keogh, Elisa Serra, Mónica Amenedo, Martín Veiga and Xosé Manuel Sánchez Rei. As can be concluded, the indisputable good health of Irish Studies in Spain during 2022 becomes evident when one considers the large number of diverse activities throughout the different geographical areas of Spain with AEDEI members participating at a myriad national and international book launches, symposia and seminars (31 Encuentros James Joyce, IASIL 2022, XVII ABEI Symposium & III AEIS Symposium of Irish Studies, EFACIS Irish Itinerary Podcasts, 7th PhD seminar in Irish Studies Leuven) as well as the significant number of publications on a diversity of topics which saw the light this past year. These include a special issue of ABEI Journal on Eavan Boland with Manuela Palacios as one of the co-editors; the volume Bernard Shaw and the Spanish-Speaking World, edited by Gustavo A. Rodríguez Martín (Palgrave, 2022); the monograph Dark Green: Irish Crime Fiction 1665-2000, by David Clark (Peter Lang, 2022) and the volumes The Cultural Politics of In/Difference: Irish Texts and Contexts, edited by Aida Rosende-Pérez and Rubén Jarazo-Álvarez (Peter Lang, 2022) and Deirdre Madden: New Critical Perspectives, edited by Anne Fogarty and Marisol Morales-Ladrón (Manchester University Press, 2022). Congratulations are in order for all authors and editors! I remain most grateful to the four readers that have generously accepted to write the reviews that follow.