Past Seminars: 2018-19


21/02/19 – Dr Tamara Radak (University of Vienna)

Entitled ‘”To Infinity…and Beyond?” ‘Endgames’ in the Novels of James Joyce and Flann O’Brien’, Tamara’s talk takes as its point of departure a staple of critical literature on modernism: that modernist novels lack closure as a rule. In her book project, “No Sense of an Ending? Modernist Aporias of Closure”, Tamara complicates this idea by arguing that modernist novels do not display a lack of closure so much as an irresolvable yet productive tension, or aporia, between openness and closedness. When taking a closer look at representative examples (in this talk, the works of James Joyce and Flann O’Brien), the often-neglected complex interplay between closure and what Barbara Herrnstein Smith terms “anti-closure” in modernist novels becomes apparent. Drawing on recent work in new modernist studies by Rebecca Walkowitz and Douglas Mao, Sean Latham and Gayle Rogers and others, the talk will investigate how thinking through modernist “aporias of closure” – a phrase coined by J. Hillis Miller in a more general context – can help us to critically re-investigate modernism as a concept.

Tamara Radak received her PhD from the University of Vienna in 2017 and is currently preparing a monograph on the topic of Modernist Aporias of Closure in the works of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen and Flann O’Brien. Her work has appeared in James Joyce Quarterly, European Joyce Studies, Irish Studies in Europe, The Review of Irish Studies in Europe and in Flann O’Brien: Problems with Authority (Cork UP, 2017). With Paul Fagan and John Greaney, she is currently preparing an edited collection titled Irish Modernisms: Gaps, Conjectures, Possibilities.

13/02/19 – Collette Nic Aodha (NUI Galway)

In our most creative session to date, Colette Nic Aodha shares her creative and critical work. Colette’s work takes inspiration from modernist David Jones in relation to liminality and disability, and her presentation explores Jones’s modernism by way of performing her own poetry—in crucial aspects a response to and development of Jones’s. This is combined with a visual art display, including Jones’s original art and catalogues.

Colette’s poetry and visual art compositions speaks to some of the unique (linguistic) modernist processes of the ‘maker’ David Jones and his innovations of form and design. Colette composes and crafts these as a response to her scrutiny of Jones’s papers, literary manuscripts and visual art in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Tate Britain and The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

An award-winning poet, Colette writes in both Irish and English. Colette has completed two undergraduate B.A. programmes in NUIG, as well as two Master of Arts degrees, in Irish and English, and is currently studying for a PhD with the English department at NUIG. Colette also has a Higher Diploma in Education and spent many years teaching at second level, as well as in the  Department of Irish Studies at NUIG. Colette has fourteen publications which include a volume of short stories, Ádh Mór, as well as an academic study of the blind poet Anthony Raftery. She has one volume of English poetry, Sundial, which was published by Arlen House Press, she also has two dual language collections of poetry by the same publisher: Between Curses: Bainne Géar, and In Castlewood: An Ghaoth Aduaidh. Her work is on the syllabus in Primary, Secondary and Third Level Colleges. Colette’s latest collection (bilingual) is titled Bainne Géár: Sour Milk, which is available in hardback and softback, published by Arlen House, 2016. Colette also gives poetry workshops to students of all ages. Her forthcoming collection Réabhlóideach will be published by Coiscéim early in 2019.

31/01/19 – ‘New Directions in Yeats Studies’

We are delighted to welcome two early career researchers from the University of Limerick for this occasion. Our first speaker, Iva Yates, is a doctoral candidate at UL, whose interdisciplinary PhD project is titled ‘The Golden Comb: A Novel and Critical Analysis’. Iva holds a BA in English from Boston College and an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of York. Our second speaker, Dana Garvin, is also a PhD candidate at UL. Her current research focuses on the visually symbolic intricacies contained within the Yeatses’ Automatic Script and the mostly unpublished drawings and illustrations embedded throughout the entirety of the extant pages. Dana is working towards a complete indexing and system of categorisation for this visually striking material as well as a dissection of the material within the framework of visual rhetorical analysis.

Iva Yeats, “Female Nations: Cathleen Ní Houlihan and The passion according to Antígona Pérez’s Triadic Structures and Blood Sacrifice”
In 1968, Puerto Rican playwright Luis Rafael Sánchez brought to the stage La pasión según Antígona Pérez (The passion according to Antígona Pérez). The play’s title character, Antígona Pérez, is based on Sophocles’s Antigone and represents Puerto Rico as a nation struggling to be part of Latin America yet trapped in the vise of the United States. On the other hand, in W. B. Yeats’s play Cathleen Ní Houlihan, the Poor Old Woman represents an Ireland that hopes to break free from British rule yet has been unable to do so. However, at the promise of a rebellion, she transforms from an old woman into a young one; the symbol of a new beginning. These two plays, written at different times in the twentieth century, both use women to depict the island nations that have been subjected to colonial rule by different empires; the Spanish and then American in the case of Puerto Rico, and the British in the case of Ireland. In both instances, a blood sacrifice is required to achieve freedom but how this is achieved and the result of said sacrifice differs. This paper examines both plays from a transnational/ postcolonial perspective, and looks into how Ireland’s and Puerto Rico’s parallel histories converge, how the plays use triadic structures for the required blood sacrifice, how they differ in outlook, and how this is portrayed in the texts through the intersection of gender and nationalism.

Dana Garvin, “Dissecting Mysteries & Exploring Sequences in the Automatic Script”

This presentation examines the visual aspects of George and W. B. Yeats’s automatic script. The automatic script served as the foundational material that would eventually become Yeats’s A Vision. While this research does exist in a state of evolutionary progression, this presentation gives an overview of the script and will highlight some of the key visual elements, drawings, and illustrations that exist throughout the extant pages. The discussion will primarily focus on the overarching patterns within some of the more prominent illustrations and the underlying meanings behind those images. Throughout the presentation, a strong emphasis will be given to George Yeats’s role in the creation of this material and her contribution as not only interpreter but also as artist. This discussion will provide the primary areas of categorisation for the whole of the automatic script illustrations and will highlight the main purposes of said drawings. Additionally, the presentation will include information on some of the unique visual trademarks of some of the key communicators as well as highlight some portions of previously undiscussed, hidden symbolic material that permeates the entirety of the script.

29 November ’18 – ‘Beckettian (Christmas) Encounters’


For our Beckettian Christmas event, we were delighted to welcome Irish Research Council Scholar and PhD. candidate Daniel Curran, who hails from Maynooth University and works in the fields of Irish literature, Modernism, and philosophy. He previously held the John and Pat Hume Scholarship. Daniel’s thesis is entitled ‘Reporting Death in Joyce and Beckett’ and is being completed under the supervision of Prof. Emer Nolan.
He has presented at numerous international conferences and was a guest editor on the Spring 2018 (4.1) issue of The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O’Brien Studies. Daniel has forthcoming publications on Flann O’Brien in Flann O’Brien: Gallows Humour (Cork University Press) and on Thomas MacGreevy in a collection of essays on marginal Irish Modernisms. In addition to his academic work, Daniel is also a writer and editor at the website

Our second speaker, Matthew, Fogarty, is a tutor at the School of English, Media, and Theatre Studies at Maynooth University. He submitted his PhD thesis in Octover, thanks to funding provided by the Irish Research Council. His dissertation, entitled “Friedrich Nietzsche and the Literary Works of William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett,” explores the contrasting ways in which these Irish Modernists engage with Nietzsche’s philosophical vision. His latest article, entitled “‘Most foul, strange and unnatural’: Refractions of Modernity in Conor McPherson’s The Weir,” is available in the 2018 issue of the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. And his book chapter, co-authored with colleagues from the Maynooth University Writing Centre, and entitled “‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on’: Liminality in Undergraduate Writing,” is forthcoming in (Re)Considering What We Know, edited by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle.

20 November ’18 – ‘Irish Language Modernisms’

Our third autumnal session opened to view the much understudied literary modernisms of Irish language writers in the twentieth century. We’re honoured to welcome two speakers from NUI Galway’s Centre for Irish Studies for the occasion: Eoin Byrne and Síobhra Aiken.

MSI-WIP_Irish Language Modernisms_20 Nov 2018

Hardiman and IRC scholar Eoin Byrne spoke about ‘Semantic Succour: The Languages of Irish Modernism’ in the context of the works of Samuel Beckett, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, and Brian Ó Nualláin (Flann O’Brien), illuminating the late-modernist cultural production during Ireland’s postcolonial moment. A multilingual approach to this cultural moment, Eoin’s paper posited, not only strengthens the New Modernist Studies’ ‘vertical expansion’; it also helps in better sketching the blurred borders between modernist and postmodernist aesthetics more generally.

Our second speaker was IRC and Hardiman scholar Síobhra Aiken, who recently curated the exhibition Máirtín Ó Direáin: Fathach File/Reluctant Modernist, held in NUI Galway from March-July 2018, and currently on tour. Síobhra’s talk, entitled ‘“Ní file ach filíocht an bhean”: Towards a Gendered Reading of Irish Language Modernist Poetry’, put the gendered streak of Irish language modernist poetry centre stage. This was a most intriguing event, shining a light on many severely neglected dimensions of Irish modernism and its critical apprehension.

23 October ’18 – Lucia Joyce as Artist and Collaborator


For our second session of the semester, we were delighted to welcome NUIG alumna Siobhán Purcell and Genevieve Sartor (Trinity College Dublin).

The seminar sought to shine a light on Lucia Joyce as a collaborator and significantly understudied contributor to much of the compositional work her father James Joyce undertook in the 1930s, and which led to his probably most obscurantist work, Finnegans Wake.

Our two wonderful speakers were NUI Galway alumna Dr Siobhán Purcell and Genevieve Sartor (Trinity College Dublin), who submitted her PhD thesis last month. Siobhán kicked off the session with a talk that stresses the need to recontextualise Lucia’s letterings, or lettrines. Her presentation highlighted overlooked instances of Lucia Joyce’s contributions—instances which are not at all liminal and silent. Rather, once ‘illuminated’ within their textual context, they embody presence and performativity in that they elaborate dynamics of the written text while complicating any straightforward understanding of the most basic textual elements of print culture: semantics, lettering, typeface, and authorship. At once word and image, the lettrines work as additional contextual signifiers that elaborate the polyphonic nature of Finnegans Wake. In re-contextualising Lucia Joyce’s lettrines–focussing on Pomes Penyeach (1932), The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies (1936) and Storiella As She is Syung (1937)–Siobhán’s paper suggests that reading Lucia’s contributions to these published editions also troubles our collective cultural memorializing of both James and Lucia Joyce, while giving a glimpse of how to recover the obscured and concealed contributions of women and disabled artists to modernism’s legacy.

Genevieve’s talk, on the other hand, brought a third figure into the realm: psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. From 1975 to 1976, Lacan delivered a seminar series on James Joyce that claimed that Joyce represents a new future for psychoanalysis. Lacan believed that Joyce could have been psychotic but was able to cure this possible condition by traversing the Oedipal framework through writing Finnegans Wake. Genevieve’s presentation contextualised Lacan’s convictions before suggesting the possibility of revising Lacan’s late work through an original and biographically-driven argument. While Lacan was presenting his seminar that praised Joyce for having overcome psychosis, the author’s allegedly schizophrenic daughter Lucia was living in Northampton as a resident of Saint Andrew’s, the sanitorium where she remained until her death in 1982. Lacan refrains from mentioning Lucia in any detail—nor did he make the effort to visit her. Similarly, there has been no scholarship on Lucia in relation to Lacan’s work on her father in either literary or Lacanian study. Through a selective look at pre-publication content in Finnegans Wake that shows how Joyce textually represented Lucia’s schizophrenia through time, this talk showed that a focus on her can shape new ways to productively advance Lacan’s work on Joyce and his claims on the future of the clinic.

For our first session of the Academic Year 2018/19, we were honoured to welcome two distinguished Yeatsians, Dr Adrian Paterson, lecturer in English at NUI Galway, and Dr Jack Quin, an IRC-funded postdoctoral fellow in the School of English and Department of Art History at Trinity College Dublin.

MSI WiP Oct 2018

Adrian’s talk on ‘the sleeps’ of W.B. and George Yeats fleshed out one of the most curious modernist collaborative practices that sprang of the couples’ lifelong interest in what W.H. Auden dismissively calls the ‘mumbo jumbo of magic’. The Yeatses’ joint sleep experiments began in earnest in a railway carriage somewhere in Southern California. This renders their ‘sleeps’ a classic modernist collision of old and new, tradition and technology, science and psychology, which could have happened at no other time. Nonetheless the ‘sleeps’ represent a highly unusual collaboration, for they were, apparently, in communication with the dead: ‘My teachers did not seem to speak out of her sleep but as if from above it, as though it were a tide upon which they floated’. With several handwritings, combined entries, after-the-fact recollections of sleep conversations and visionary dreams recalled, the sleep records are more involved, second or third-hand renderings of vocal communications. The central problem is one of credit: how to credit the validity of these communications, and how to assign adequate credit to the collaborators? Concentrating on the mechanism of the sleeps, Adrian argued, helps us discover how the Yeatses’ collaborations engage with contemporary theories of mind and changing notions of time and perception and technology in a world feeling the intimate presence of the post-war dead, and finds that an interest in the sleeps’ own process contributes to a self-consciousness characteristic of modernism that found its way into poetry – which, like ‘All Souls’ Night’ or Yeats’s poem ‘Fragments’ does, considers how truth might come from ‘out of a medium’s mouth’.

Jack’s talk on ‘Poet-curators: Poetry in the Municipal Gallery (Revisited)’ unwrapped Yeats’s engagement with the visual arts within the context of the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin. The Gallery, established by Hugh Lane in Harcourt Street and later relocated to the stately Charlemont House, is steeped in history. Over the years its walls were populated by iconic portraits of great Irishmen and women, like Antonio Mancini’s Lady Gregory (1906), John Butler Yeats’s John Millington Synge (1905), and Orpen’s Nathaniel Hone (1905); alongside John Lavery’s various historical and allegorical depictions of Irish history, from St. Patrick’s Purgatory (1930) to a study of The Trial of Roger Casement (1916), and The Blessing of the Colours (1922). W.B. Yeats’s late, great gallery poem meditates on the same painted “images of thirty years” reconfiguring art history as Irish history: “come to this hallowed place / Where my friends’ portraits hang and look thereon; / Ireland’s history in their lineaments trace”. Jack’s paper revisits the context of Dublin’s hallowed gallery from the 1930s to the 1960s, alongside the poetry and art writing of a succeeding generation of Irish and Northern Irish poets. Yeats’s writing on the visual arts confronted successive Irish poets from MacNeice and Brian Coffey, to Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon. As Neil Corcoran has noted, these poets variously engaged with Yeats’s legacy through ekphrastic and gallery poems that may be competitive but also to certain degrees tributary, self-reflexive, or tutelary. For John Hewitt, the Northern Irish poet most deeply embedded in the machinations of the art gallery, Yeats’s legacy is negotiated in nuanced terms with submerged allusions to mutually admired artworks. By identifying the artworks in a number of ekphrastic poems and gallery poems, Jack’s paper illustrated some of the more profound dialogues with Yeats’s legacy and the art scene in modern Ireland.

For the final Session of ‘Works in Progress’ taking place in the Summer Semester of 2018, we were delighted to welcome Melinda Szűts, a second-year IRC-funded Postgraduate Scholar at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance. Melinda spoke about the influence of early modern theatre spaces on the development of Irish stagecraft at the turn of the century, both in the context of the Elizabethan Revival and the Irish Literary Revival. Her paper discusses the changes W.B. Yeats’s new concept of space dramaturgy brought to performance practice and architecture in the Abbey and Peacock stages, and how these changes influenced the culture politics of the Irish national theatre.

WiP Melinda MSI jpeg

For our second Session of the Summer Semester, we were delighted to be joined by Tiana M Fischer, whose talk explored the experience of modernity in the context of modern mysticism. The focus was on the interconnections between the Weltanschauungen of two notorious mystical modernists called WB, their Kabbalistic Thought, and esoteric works.

Works in P

The Inaugural Session of ‘Works in Progress’ took place on 21 March 2018, featuring two fantastic speakers. Zsuzsi Balázs, our first speaker, took us into the modernist world of ‘Androgynous Spectacle and Fascism’.

Ida as Saint Sebastian

Ida as Saint Sebastian

 Zsuzsi is a first-year PhD student and IRC-funded Postgraduate Scholar at the NUI Galway’s O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance. Her talk addressed the role and political significance of androgynous spectacle in 20th-century ultranationalist politics. The discussion included George L. Mosse’s ideas of the cult of respectability and the ideal of manliness and the male body with regard to Italian Fascism; the androgynous sensibilities in W.B. Yeats’s, Luigi Pirandello’s and Gabriele D’Annunzio’s theatre; and the cultural and political relevance of Ida Rubinstein’s performance in D’Annunzio’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien.

Edith Wharton (The World’s Work, 1905)

Our second speaker was Gaby Fletcher, a second-year PhD student of the Discipline of English. Gaby, too, is an IRC -funded Postgraduate Scholar. Her research examines how Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein and Edith Wharton engage in a critique of idealised notions of women used by American social reform campaigners. Gaby’s talk, entitled ‘Protesting the New Woman: Edith Wharton’s The Fruit of the Tree‘, challenged overall dismissive readings of Wharton’s 1907 novel, which stress the text’s being  overburdened with too many contradictory subjects and characters. Such views are a huge underestimation of the book’s success, however. Taking this into account, Gaby argued that contradictions of action and character are actually purposeful: the novel embeds a self-referential focus of fiction within the narrative, to protest contemporary constructions and readings of woman that proliferated around discussions of the New Woman.

Works in Progress