Gast Prof Goodbyes

I have completed my Gast Prof. period at Vienna. L Any students who submitted their essays to me in hard copy, these have been graded and the original essay is held by Ulrike Zellinger, departmental administrator. You can access the essay for summary and detailed comments that I have made. According to the regulations, essays have to be retained by the Department.

If you submitted to me by email, then I will reply electronically with an annotated version and your grade. The final grades will be submitted on 1 July, unless you are completing a longer Bachelor’s Thesis. I cannot accept any outstanding work except these theses after Friday 1 July. I have asked for the University to contact you with its online survey for your evaluation of the course and I encourage you to provide feedback. Thank you.

If you email me via my UniWien or my personal website I can provide you with your seminar assessment, essay and overall grades. Do bear in mind that I will take some vacation and have two conference papers to prepare if there is a delay in replying. If you are interested, continue to follow things Irish Studies I’m on Twitter @CISLondon

Many thanks and have a great summer. Lance Pettitt

Kings (Tom Collins, 2008)

For my last seminar class in Vienna, we are viewing and discussing Tom Collins' evocative, painful portrait of Irish men struggling to survive materially and emotionally in London having left the west of Ireland in their youth in the 1970s. The film is in Irish and English is based on Jimmy Murphy's stage play - originally produced by Red Kettle out of Waterford - but played in the Tricycle London. It's a film which is haunted - literally - by the suicide of one of a group of friends, and it stands as exploration of what belonging means, what home is and how people deal with long-term dislocation.  The film was criticised for its use of Irish - the accents were not evenly Conamara - but its visualisation of London, opening out the one room bar set of the stage version - into a series of transitory or sanctuary spaces - street corners, shops, alleyways, as well as cramped bedsits, airport morgue, Church, bars and fast-food outlets - strikes me as capturing well one generation's experience of London. Let's see what the Austrian students make of it.  Here is the trailer.  The full film as Gaeilge is here:

June 9th Vienna - Risings, Reels and Revisionists: 1916 on Film

Risings, Reels and Revisionists: 1916 on Screen

I'm giving the eighth in a collective series of Distinguished Lectures to mark the Easter Rising of 1916 at the University of Vienna on Thursday 9 June, 18.00hrs at Hof 8 in the Institute of English and American Studies. Series participants have come from universities in Germany, Austria, Ireland, France and the UK, and have also included a screening of the 1916: The Irish Rebellion (2015) from Notre Dame University/Keogh Chair of Irish Studies. 

It has often been remarked that to some of those that witnessed the Easter Rising it was like the staging of a play or a theatrical event, and that the “Proclamation of the Irish Republic” pasted up on walls in Dublin city center was mistaken by some to be a play bill announcing some new performance. In my lecture I want to argue instead that the Rising was eminently cinematic. Alongside the obvious national self-defining role of the Abbey theatre, cinema was fast becoming the popular medium for mass communication (news reels), collective pleasure and entertainment (films) that was to be just as decisive as theatre and no less dramatic or engaging. 

I'd like to develop the astute point made by Chris Morash that ‘cinema was being woven into the fabric of Irish life precisely the years that an Irish nation was being defined, fought for and established (Morash, 2010: 153). With my title, “Risings, Reels and Revisionists” I'm going to explore the ways that cinema first reported on and then, successively over the years, how film and TV have represented the tumultuous actions in Dublin on public and domestic screens.

From the Pathe newsreels through to Neil Jordan’s depiction of the devastation in Michael Collins (1996) - shot in real time, real ordinance and thousands of Dubliners as extras - through to the plethora of TV and film documentaries that were released for the centenary in 2016, the lecture will show how film has worked on audiences in each generation, re-visioning plural Risings to something like a mature reflection of its multi-faceted significance in Irish-British history.

As well as illustrating the lecture with film clips, I'll provide script excerpts from Jordan's Michael Collins diary (1996) and unproduced films about Roger Casement and 1916. 


Rat in the Skull - a glossary of slang and terms

Austrian students tackling a reading of Ron Hutchinson's RAT IN THE SKULL for this week's seminar on exile and the Troubles might find this glossary of land useful to help them through the colloquial speech in this drama. 

Rat in the Skull – Northern Irish and London English Vernacular

Glossary and Notes for reading the play                        cf. = compare wit

Big smoke – slang for London

Coppers – Policemen cf. Peelers (constabulary)  coppering = policing

PC – Police Constable, lowest rank. [PC Naylor] DC – Detective Inspector [Nelson, higher.

Note the RUC – Royal Ulster [ugly] Constabulary were separate police force for Northern Ireland; this force was almost wholly staffed by Ulster Protestants and therefor a sectarian organisation. It was disbanded and reformed as part of Good Friday Agreement (1998) as the PSNI – Police Service of Northern Ireland – with positive recruitment to it by Catholics. This is not the case at time of the play.

cf. the Metropolitan the Met – the police force in London

Con – short for ‘convict’  (Copper – con “we can hold on to that one.”, (p. 12)

Hunkers – Hiberno-English = haunches, backside

Paddington Green – a district in London and location for police station

Paddy – English slang for Irish /also Irish familiar version of Patrick.

Michael Patrick de Valera Demon Bomber Roche – note the mocking Nationalist sarcasm of the Irish leader. See also ‘Where’s my giro [unemployed payment scheme] Roche’], p. 14

Goolies – English slang for testicles

Popped his cherry – lost his virginity

Gob/gobbed in – spit saliva in

Turd – shit 

Standing Order – required police procedure

Our patch – jurisdiction

the Federation [of police officers] – a Trade union for policemen

wally – stupid person

GBH – grievous bodily harm (like assault)

Colloguing – to collogue? never heard of this (guess it means collaborating/ plotting)

Photy fits – Derry accent for photo-fits. Composite photograph technology to image suspects of crimes by police.

Army chopper– helicopter

Scowling Mick (Roche) vs ‘Royal Orange Gorilla’ (Nelson)

Had wised me up – kept me informed of what they were planning

Nick – police station/prison 

Stitched up – organized behind the scenes/slightly illegally

On leave – on holiday

Get some in – army slang, meaning gain some good experience.

‘A boiling of coffins’ (p.13) – I’m guessing here – a lot of….

Missus – Mrs, my missus (my wife).   See also ‘old dear’ (wife/mother)

‘Imitation Anglos up at Stormont’ – Official Unionist Party politicians in Government 1921-1972) – clearly Nelson’s is a working class protestant view who disdains the ruling class of his own ‘side’. This is important to bring out in the play and its context in the 1980s as traditional, hegemonic Unionism broke down. (p. 14)

‘A wrong footer’ – Catholic (p.15)

to peek – to look secretly

DPP – British. Director of Public Prosecutions. Body that decides which legal cases the Crown/state will pursue.

To (not) give a monkey’s – to not care at all. Almost always expressed in negative. 



An Irish Imaginary: Some notes

Prompted by students on my MA class at St Mary's University last week, I have put together these notes and suggestions for further reading on this topic. 

My take on the idea of an Irish imaginary is drawn from several sources, some from anthropologists like Ulf Hannertz Transnational Connections (1996) or Arjun Appadurai’s Modernity at Large (1996), but see also Charles Taylor Modern Social Imaginaries (207) and Paul Connerton’s How Modernity Forgets (2009). Appadurai – it seems to me – has given us a rich way of conceptualising things that recognize the huge human movements and the cultural baggage that they trail with them and that collides with where ever they ship up and settle down, even if temporarily to move on, or in putting roots down and bearing another generation.

Appadurai posits the idea of different “- scapes” to explain and analyse the way the people (ethno-scape), ideas (ideologies/concepts = ideo-scapes), images/stories (media-scapes), technologies (techno-scapes) and finance (dosh-o-scapes!) materially circulate in a global cultural economy under what what we can designate the conditions of modernity. Understanding the overlaps and conjunctions of the different “scapes” conjuncture helps to define a particular shared set of narratives, ideas and images by people – an “imaginary” - who affiliate as Irish or who are designated as such by others who are not ‘Irish’. It is akin to a collective unconscious, but without the Jungian psychology. It isn’t fixed; far from it: it shifts over time, and is accented in different locations, and there are dominant, residual and emergent (to use Williams’ famous formulation of analyzing culture) forms of it coexisting at any one moment and the argument is, I guess, that we can “read off” a group of cultural texts or events and trace the outlines of the “imaginary” manifest on stage, on screen, and in the words and talk about what’s on stage or screen, tracing the breaks when one component of the imaginary loses purchase, gives way to competing elements, new forms of the imaginary that seem to answer to – or is it enable? - people’s experience as they migrant, settle down, return, mutate, embed and mature and reflect.

See also Salman Rushdie’s essays collected as Cross that Line. It would also make sense to look at the various works of the philosopher and critic Richard Kearney – e.g. Navigations, The Irish Mind, Migrations and so on. 

Eirexit: Ireland, Empire and British film in the 1940s

Eirexit: Ireland, Empire and British film in the 1940s

Last week I was listening to Wien student presentations on British films about Ireland, WWII and neutrality. We looked at films from Dangerous Moonlight (1942, d. Brian Hurst) to Daughter of Darkness (1948, d. Lance Comfort) amongst others produced by the Ealing Studios such as The Half Way House (1944).

These are extraordinary films, connecting cinematically with different states of mental trauma, “war damage” if you will, in Britain and Ireland during the “suspended experience” of the 1940s and Ireland’s neutrality. Students had read and responded to Clair Wills’ work and that of Charles Barr, and issues of censorship and a febrile atmosphere of suspicion, doubt and uncertainty produced by “total war”.

We briefly considered the inter-penetrating lives and yet contrasting paths of William Joyce and Brendan Bracken as Irish men working for the propaganda Germans and the British sides in the war, so brilliantly captured in Thomas Kilroy’s Double Cross that was produced first in the months following the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985. We got to talking of borders, redrawing them, of new identities tested by them, of political and personal allegiances formed in the aftermath of crisis. Whilst specifically considering relations between Britain and Ireland, specifically the 1945 Labour government’s appeasement of Ulster Unionists in Northern Ireland and the “Eirexit” from Empire formalized in 1949 to the consternation of the British.

Most of my students in Wien are not Viennese, coming from other parts of the country or further afield in Europe. Surprisingly few were fully aware that Vienna was part of a carved up territory occupied from 1945-55, policed in separate zones by the combined Allied and Soviet powers that had vanquished Hitler’s Germany. All of this took place as the United Nations formally came into existence in October 1945. In this context, I said, reading Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1949) alongside Green’s The Third Man (film 1949, novel 1950) made perfect sense. As I queued for my flight home that Friday evening after class I fell into conversation with a young Cypriot legal intern working with the UN office on nuclear power that is based in Vienna. More echoes of history....

O'Casey plays in Vienna

O’Casey in Vienna: Der Preispokal /The Silver Tassie (1954)

There are two interesting essays about O’Casey productions in Vienna in the 1914-1969 period whose references I have come across in the ISAIL bibliography: one by Magarete Rubik (“Those Celts are Crazy” – she’s quoting, not suggesting, this is the case!) ed. Mayer, Novak and Rubik (2012) and the other by our own Dieter Fuchs “That is no Country for Young Men: The drama of Synge and O’Casey in Vienna 1914-1969” (in Anglo-German Exchanges, Leiden: Rodolfi, 2015).

Fuchs’ piece looks at both Synge and O’Casey but the second half focuses on O’Casey. It is a good example of how studying play production outside of Ireland can throw new light on the plays as well as on the place/moment in which the drama was enacted.  This approach has taken off in the last decade or so of scholarship and is, e.g. the basis of the ‘Irish Theatrical Diaspora’ series’ with Nicolas Grene and Chris Morash’s Irish Theatre on Tour (2005) and Peter Harris’s monograph From Stage to Page (2011).

The play I am discussing with students in Vienna this week, The Silver Tassie was performed in the Volktheatre in Wien in January 1954 for instance. What was that audience making of the play, translated as Der Preispokal, in that moment? How were O’Casey’s earlier plays on the Rising and its aftermath and performed in Vienna in the 1930s during its own political strife received? Read Dieter’s work or ask my Staging and Screening Students after our seminar. 

Refrain from Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol

The power and poignancy of this came back to me after a seminar discussion in Friday's class on Wilde and, consulting my copy of Collected Works out fell photocopies of the Hart ed. - sent to me by the poet and teacher, Sean Hutton - letters between Ross and Wilde in 1900 then in Italy:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,

By each let this be heard,

Some do it with a bitter look,

Something with a flattering word.

The coward does it with a kiss, 

The brave man with a sword!

Yeats, Celtic Twilight - "A load of old tosh/tais"

Preparing for a lecture on Yeats, early poetry and critical essays for Wien students, and came across Robert Welch – who died too young – and his essay for the Penguin edition of Yeats Folklore, Legend and Myth (1993). His intro is fizzing with ideas and the glossary at the back I am copying for the Austrian students in my classes. What struck me was (on p.455 if you are looking this up) a reference to Tash: (Tosh) Ghosts,  which Welch cites as Yeats correctly taking from the Gaelic tais (singular).

It struck me that English usage has the phrase ‘what a load of old tosh’ meaning stuff that is unbelievable, nonsense, with no material basis. My chambers has it as ‘bosh, twaddle’ and a secondary meaning being neat/tidy – from Scottish.

Could this be the case of an Irish word that has silently been absorbed into the English language with the vestiges of its Gaelic meaning? 

St Patrick's Day, Vienna and Irish connections

As I said in class, this has been an auspicious week to begin courses on Irish topics in literature for the Proseminar and in theatre/film for the MA seminar. Oddly, on Saturday morning the Irish Patrick’s Day Parade came through campus an Courtyard 8 right past us here. I still haven’t figured out the Irish connection directly with Vienna the city, there were maybe a hundred or more in parade, though the connections with UniWien are clearer academically. See below. I watched the Farrells’ film (not Colin, Keith and his bro, or is it his dad?) called A TERRIBLE BEAUTY and it’s better than I thought it would be. No big star names, no big name academic doing the talking heads stuff really; but the reconstructions pretty good. See @CISLondon for links to buy the DVD. TG4 are behind it, hence the liberal use of Irish.

I have posted up several online links to various radio and TV history/politics documentaries so that you can view these and get more comfortable with this aspect of the course. I recommend the BBC radio links and also the Youtube of the Robert Kee films from 1981. They are a bit old fashioned looking and sounding now, but they are based on great research and are well put together.

For the Proseminar, the radio documentaries this week on Radio 4 BBC were good and there is Part 2 of it on Friday morning again in the coming week.

I mentioned in one seminar at least that I was curious about the Irish links to this city and to the University in particular. Well, one I bumped into Prof Otto Rauchbauer of Uni Wien who was a major reason why there is such a good Irish library collection here for you today. His work in the 1970s and 1980s laid the foundation here for the study of Irish literature – Somerville & Ross’s fiction in particular – and in semi retirement he had been working on an somewhat eccentric individual called Sir John – or Shane Leslie – an Irish aristorcrat, writer/editor and bon vivant from the early-mid 20thC. Rauchbauer published this guy’s biography in 2009 with Lilliput Press, Ireland, called Sublime Failure

Leslie seems to have been involved in the US in Washington in the lead up to 1916 advising the US government on attitudes in Ireland to WWI, Britain and the US becoming involved. My own Brian Desmond Hurst antennae are waving at the sound of this. I'm hoping to go for lunch with Otto during my stay here to see if there were any connections since Hurst and Leslie were both Catholic converts, had a Cambridge connection (Killanin) and Hurst adored Irish aristocrats. 

First day in Vienna at Uni Wien

Fascinating day in the library in Anglistik und American where 'Irish' materials are located. Hof 8 on the vast campus that is UniWien. Many thanks to the highly knowledgable Karin Lach for giving me a fantastic briefing of what's here. My first impression at the end of the afternoon is that this is a fascinating collection and a testament to Wien's commitment through its dedicated scholars to build up Irish books here over two generations. One of the courses, a Proseminar (undergraduate course), that I'm teaching in the coming semester is 'Writing the Revival' and there is an impressive set of primary texts from the 19hC - Somerville & Ross is particularly notable. I'm also in love with the way they have purchased  entire runs of say the Cornell Collected Yeats.. stunning.. and all of Colin Smyth's life's work of publishing Irish materials and more recent book series on Irish Studies. As ever, it is always interesting to see how where authors are placed - within British Literature, within IS, or in IL 'Irish Literature' - a history of the subject in itself. Read Margaret Kelleher's 2011 essay on the shift from Libraries, to Anthologies to Data Bases in Irish Studies today.. setting my afternoon in an admirable critical context. Check out the UCD digital humanities project there under her directorship. 

Vivid Faces - Lecture by Irish Ambassador, UCL Tuesday evening

Looking forward to His Excellency, Dan Mulhall's talk to the UCL Irish Society tomorrow night, here in London.

From Yeats' 'Easter 1916', the title points us towards towards the characters that defined a generation. I'd thoroughly recommend Roy Foster's book VIVID FACES; THE REVOLUTIONARY GENERATION IN IRELAND, 1890-1923. 

6.30pm - Free. No booking required

Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre Wilkins Building Gower Street WC1E 6BT

Welcome to my new site

Hello from London. 

[Feb 12] At last night's Soho press-screening of John Carney's new film Sing Street. "Happy-sad" movie that hits the spot. Teenage first love, let's put a band together plot; engaging ensemble performances from a great cast. Set in Dublin in 1985, in Synge Street - sing street, geddit? - and dedicated to 'brothers every where'. Really is worth checking out when it gets its release here in the UK. If you liked The Commitments and Once, this movie is in the same territory. It looks good, the sound is great and as ever, some of the scenes of music being made at different stages of composition are winning and sweet: some of the tunes catch bitter-sweet torment of teenage love really well.  It is also a film about Ireland and emigration - looking back to the mid-1980s, I wonder what Generation Emigration audiences will make of it?  4/5 stars. Here is the Variety review from its Sundance screening [Sing Street].