Well what a ride this has been, as they say back in the day, surprisingly, (not that word)… it has been a blast!! I choose the title for my final blog as a tribute/nod to my modernities colleagues, because they get to study the surreal, out there stuff, I decide to have a piece of the action too. The title for my official blog portfolio is taken from the opening lyrics of another soundtrack to my youth, The Atrix, The Moon is Puce.
The mind never ceases to amaze, for instance, its ability to ignore data which is important but subconsciously, it does not want to acknowledge, for instance, the word ‘blog’! The word is there in all the MA literature, prefaced by the words ‘research journal’, which to my mind conjures up an image of pen and paper; so when the the realisation dawns that I am required to create a ‘blog’ on the ‘internet’, and set up a ‘Twitter’ account, it comes as, well, a bit of a shock. I value privacy greatly, so personally, the concept of engagement with social media and the digital universe is very alien. The other major hurdle to overcome are ‘the machines’, digital gadgets, devices, be that software or hardware, because my starting point is a beach, my preferred activity, collecting seaweed, and gadget, an egg topper.
So the first hurdle is to get set up on WordPress and Twitter and for that I owe a debt of gratitude to a fellow MA student, Annie Curran, without whom God knows what the results may have looked like. I very much suspect that Annie’s experience resembles Amy Shumer’s experience with her mother.
My blog portfolio is a reflection, a critique of my sixteen published posts over the last six months and it attempts to analyse the extent they have contributed to my research exploration. My first post, Digging last October stated:
This notebook aims to act as a record of the literary, ideological, theoretical, and other potential challenges I will, no doubt, encounter on my research exploration. At this moment I have no clear idea what my thesis will be about. The landscapes of nationalism, Catholicism/religion, politics, and gender, within the context of Irish writing and film, are areas that arouse particular interest. That is all I have at the moment.
The tone is, certainly tentative, unsure and in parts a tad lyrical (!) but it sums up pretty accurately my starting point.
In my second post in October I decide, firstly, to jump in at the deep end and get on top of the many technical elements associated with the task such as: incorporating images, creating tags, categories, embedding videos, citing works, etc, etc. Secondly, I decide to attempt to start finding ‘my voice’; we are encouraged to incorporate a strong personal element in our blog posts, along with a high standard of expression and, hopefully, to generate some ideas. Nothing challenging in this assignment!!!! The post is titled A Glass of Lemonade and a Packet of Crisps and I explore some thoughts on what determines being Irish and Irishness. I try to keep the tone light. This is my first attempt at bringing a personal element into my writing.
A warning ; what follows is best described as a brain dump, an attempt to get some thoughts down on paper and to see where it leads…
I am a child of the diaspora, both my parents emigrated in the 1950s. Unfortunately they only got as far as Birmingham, where all my siblings and I were born. In 1970, when I was nine, they had the notion to return to Ireland. Frankly, I thought I had landed on Mars. Even though we ‘speak the same language’, my parents and all my relatives are Irish and I had spent holidays in Limerick with granny and grandad. Nothing, I mean nothing prepared me for how alien I found Dublin and by extension Ireland. It was crystallized in a most innocent and ordinary event. Not long after arriving my aunt being the lovely woman she is, offered me a glass of lemonade and a pack of crisps, which I duly and delightedly accepted. The ‘lemonade’ was red, actually it was day-glo orange, and the crisps, were the vilest crisps I had ever tasted, Tayto cheese and onion…..I knew there and then that I had entered a very, very different world, which still, on occasion, as I found that day, is hermetically sealed.
October passes and I feel I have achieved a lot, in terms of the task’s requirements (800 words a month!) but also and, more importantly, in attempting a different style of writing that is not the purely academic, but one which has a lighter, more personal tone but still retains, hopefully, a scholarly vibe. November sees two posts, one inspired by our Irish film module, Was John Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’ the ‘Riverdance’ of the 1950’s? In this first blog post I examine two phenomenon of Irish cultural output, John Ford’s The Quiet Man and Riverdance. I enjoy writing in this manner and my confidence is building. While still very much in exploratory mode, I observe growing interests in the political, ideological and cultural contexts in the posts:
Interestingly, Irish women break European statistics for emigration during the 1950s; J.J. Lee highlights an example: “of every 100 girls in Connaught aged 15-19 in 1946, 42 had left by 1951” (377). The prospect of an Irish woman finding a fine strapping American hero like Sean Thornton aka John Wayne, getting her own cash, a house, and on her terms in 1950s Ireland was, frankly, the stuff of a Hollywood dream factory.
The second of the posts, What the world needs now is love sweet love…lets have a chat about nationalism, is very much prompted by two specific events, the death of Leonard Cohen and the election of Donald Trump as the USA’s 45th President. It comes on the back of Brexit and a rise in right wing, pro-nationalist, anti-immigration political movements across the world. At this early stage in the MA in Irish Writing the concepts of nationalism, republicanism, colonialism, patriotism, and patriarchy, dominate and I become increasingly aware there is criticism and theory that I can relate to and criticism and theory I struggle significantly with.
Ireland is a country with first hand experience of nationalism, having achieved its independence from Britain. It also cost us a civil war and a partitioned country. But what did we do with our revolution when we got it? What sort of country and society did we create for our citizens? What do we value? Have those values changed? What can the study of Irish writing and film teach us or tell us about our selves and what we might do with our revolution? One observation I note is that many theorists support the concept of nationalism, for example, David Lloyd (see his essay “The Spirit of the Nation”). Personally, his definitions of nationalism have a far too excessively purist positioning for my tastes.
December begins with some initial feedback which is positive and I breath a sigh of relief. Posting blogs takes a back seat in December due to other assignment deadlines. January sees seven posts go live, December’s backlog finally see the light of day. The invisibility of women in Irish literature, film, society, and culture is a theme beginning to emerge as a serious source of interest to me. Nor is it a theme confined to the past. Two posts both relating to TV dramas highlight this theme. The first, To Walk Invisible, covers the BBC’s drama on the Bronte sisters and the woman writer behind it Sally Wainwright.
It highlights how the Brontes use invisibility to gain recognition and acceptance of their work in a deeply patriarchal society. I question the visibility and recognition of Sally Wainwright as one of the foremost female writers working in contemporary television and of Irish women working in theatre, who are not given appropriate visibility in Ireland’s 2016 centenary celebrations. I feel very strongly about this topic and the writing challenge is how to comment on the issue in a measured way, without being overly strident, but not wimping out either.
It is somewhat ironic that the Bronte sisters believed they had ‘to walk invisible’, that is to assume male pseudonyms, in order to get published and be taken seriously as writers, and that a writer of the talent and caliber of Sally Wainwright is not as well known (granted my survey cannot be held as concrete evidence but I would lay a bet..), or is branded a feminist, simply because she creates work with strong female leads. Even more ironic is that the ‘feminist accusation’ seems to not understand the meaning of feminism, which is equality for men and women in all circumstances. How can she allegedly, write ‘weak male characters’ and at the same time be branded a feminist? Why are male writers rarely if ever branded feminist writers? Surely, all Sally wainwright can be guilty of is making a contribution to addressing a massive imbalance of women in the arts […]
We have just past the celebrations of 2016, where we witness Ireland’s national theater program, ‘waking the nation’, to commemorate the centenary of 1916, evoke the ire and fury of the nation’s female theatrical community by the invisibility bestowed on them by this program. It leads to the creation of the ‘waking the feminists’ movement whose aim is to achieve gender equality in Irish theater.
Maybe a goal for 2017 could be to understand why women still walk invisible.
The second post, also carries on the theme of women’s invisibility in relation to the centenary celebrations. Covering Dr Heather Laird’s research seminar, Reading Rebellion: Women, History, and Commemoration.
Laird proposes one of the most disappointing representations of the women in Rebellion is the motivation of their involvement in Ireland’s armed struggle, to win independence, originates solely from their relationships with men. Whilst that may have been true of some women, I concur with Laird; the evidence contradicts that motivation for a significant number of approximately 200 women who took part in the rising […]
So I recommend an alternative, also made by RTE, and screened on Sunday 20th March 2016, called Seven Women, (the RTE player link is attached, catch it before they delete it). This documentary features, the stories of seven women, involved in the events of 1916. Narrated by Fiona Shaw, from inside the GPO, interspersed with academic observations, archive photos and film footage, and enacted by seven female actresses, the women’s stories are brought vividly to life. What is particularly interesting, is these women’s stories, recorded by the bureau of military history at the time, remained sealed for fifty years, another example of the silencing of Irish women’s voices and of the state’s intent to keep women invisible within the institutions and history of the state. They tell stories of women from both sides of the rebellion and give the viewer a real sense, through hearing their stories in their own words, of what motivated them and what their experiences may have been like. This, I humbly suggest, is an example of the potential that a ‘history from below’ can achieve and why Irish women should not tolerate their voices being silenced and their history being made invisible.
Another research seminar post in January covers Maureen O’Connor’s Animal Souls and Votes for Women: Vegetarianism and Suffrage in the work of Fin-de-Siele Irish Feminists:
O’Connor argues these women understand the body is political. Ireland and the Irish have often been associated with animal and female in order to reinforce the British, imperialist, male, superior position. Women are placed outside, excluded from the system, inhabiting different spheres from men, mainly the domestic. It is not difficult to see why these first wave Irish feminists, who want to re-balance or disrupt the status quo, are drawn to concepts and ideologies that are deemed as ‘other’, such as vegetarianism.
Reviewing the research seminars brings a new set of challenges. There are no handouts so I have to rely on my abilities to take comprehensive notes. The concepts are new, challenging, and there is a lot of detail, orally delivered. It is a daunting task to report the seminar content effectively and with, hopefully, an appropriate degree of accuracy, and more importantly, with enough interest to engage the reader. To my amazement I enjoy the challenge and learn a great deal, and a positive comment goes a long way to reassuring I am on the right track.
Finally, in January I complete a number of posts that bring different writing challenges, firstly, observations on Donald Trump. The posts are a record of some of the new administrations ‘initiatives’, such as ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’. How to moderate personal opinion is the challenge here, I suggest, more work is required! I also post a couple of Literary reviews, which focus on literary texts covering Irish cultural criticisms and historical accounts. I feel extremely unqualified to undertake such work. I focus on works I find to be of value and interest and that may be useful to other colleagues.
These posts coincide with a taught module covering literature on gender and sexuality. One of the texts we cover is by the Irish female playwright, Marina Carr, Woman and Scarecrow. Carr’s work I find particularly fascinating, not least because of her subversive females, who use death as a weapon to free themselves from intolerable and oppressive lives. Irish women writers, the theme of invisibility, and how they depict the challenges facing Irish women are gaining increasing interest in terms of where my area of research interest is heading.
February kicks off with a whole new digital challenge the UCC Wikipedia Editathon. As an assignment we are tasked with editing a Wikipedia page, one that relates in some way to our research interest, to create a post outlining the experience and to live tweet the event. I choose to edit Marina Carr’s page as I am now seriously considering completing my thesis on some aspect of her work and the quality and quantity of the information on her page is not of an acceptable standard.
As we have only two hours to complete our assignment and the work required on the article is considerable I, therefore, have to decide what areas to focus on. I decide to introduce a section heading on her early life, to edit the existing information and provide sources; this involves a major deletion of the existing information. I also decide to introduce another section providing a detailed, accurate, and chronological record of Marina Carr’s work. I have prepared a detailed further reading list, but do not have time to add this. I decide on these particular items as they will be of most use to someone trying to get an understanding of the scope of her work, her contribution to Irish writing, and her achievements to date. I provide screen shots of the page before and after my editing.
I fail miserably on the day with the tweeting element, #editwikilit2017. I am very engrossed concentrating on the task, remembering the technical requirements of editing and as I am very conscious that my typing speed is slow I just keep going. Also my phone appears to have no signal, it took me another month to figure out what exactly was going on with my phone and it didn’t occur to me that I could tweet from my laptop. So the digital challenge continues and March brings arguably the challenge of all challenges, The UCC Textualities Conference 2017.
Before I review the related post I just want to mention the post I most enjoyed writing. It was inspired by a poem written by Professor Graham Allen, ‘Bright Star, Elegy for David Bowie’. It inspires my most personal post to date, ‘Bright Star, Elegy for David Bowie and other star people’.
Reading Allen’s elegy transports me back to the fair city of Cork in 1979/1980 and to the memory of a beautiful star man I had the privilege to know for a short while, by the name of Finbarr Donnelly. We are both 18 and Finbarr is lead singer of a band called the Nun Attax.[…]1979/1980 was as grim a time as it is possible to imagine in Ireland, economically, politically, and socially. Trust me you really had to be here to know how bad it was. As 18 and 19 year olds we hated the darkness that permeated Ireland at the time, epitomized by the ever increasing Dantean circles of sectarian violence north of the border, we hated it all, the bombings, murders, shootings, knee-capping, tarring and feathering, but most of all the utter incompetence of governments on both sides of the divide to find any political solution. Father Ireland offered no jobs, no future, no hope. If you are gay, pregnant, or simply under thirty, Father Ireland only has the door to show you or a stick to beat you with. Mother England, however, offers us jobs, wages, hope, havens, futures and above all music!! We want to find the light not the dark, so we find music.
I wrote this post in no time at all, it just flowed, and surprise , surprise I loved writing it. I realise when a subject really interests me, like in this post or ‘Reading Rebellion’ or ‘To walk invisible’, I find it so much easier to write and I want to write. In this post I try to capture and convey something of the cultural landscape of Cork back in 1979 and I think it is a reasonable attempt.
The final writing challenge and, arguably, the most difficult was ‘live blogging’ one of the panels at the MA students Textualities 2017 conference.
I think it is fair to say I brought a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘live blogging’. I watch with envy as my fellow students touch type their ‘live blogs’ there and then, mine however sees the light of day at 11pm that evening! The writing challenge is similar to the research seminar but more intense, as there are four speakers, presenting their areas of research interest and it is incredible how much information they can cover in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. There is also a question and answer session to report. I have a whole new appreciation for journalists. I am extremely conscious of the need to record accurately my colleagues presentations, and I give it my very best effort.
In summary I can honestly say, hand on heart, that despite all my reservations, difficulties, and fears this blog has been, without exception, the most enjoyable experience of the MA. I have learned an enormous amount about writing and created a piece of work, while it is not going to set any literary world’s on fire, is one I am actually proud of. I have developed a writing habit, through regular posts. I have experienced different writing challenges, which force me to try out different styles, and tones. I experience writing from a more personal perspective and I intend to continue writing in the future in some form or another. It has helped me to work through ideas and determine I want to focus my thesis on an Irish woman writer, Marina Carr and to explore why death features so prominently in her work. So my final thanks goes to Dr Donna Alexander who I personally hold responsible for this challenge and who must take the credit for the adventure. Unfortunately, I had a classic Amy Shumer ‘mom moment’ in Dr Alexander’s presence; it is on a par with the ‘cord moment’ (you’ll have to check out the clip), but that’s one little anecdote that shall remain between us!
Allen, Graham. ‘Bright Star: Elegy for David Bowie”. The Madhouse System. Cork: New Binary Press, 2016.
Alexander, Donna. “#Edit WikiLit 2017: Storify and Responses“. 20th Mar. 2017. WordPress. http://www.donnaalexander.org/. Accessed 26th Mar. 2017.
Atrix. The Moon is Puce. You Tube, uploaded by Micheal Ross, 8th June 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awG_PuUeToE
Carr, Marina. Woman and Scarecrow. Meath: Gallery Press, 2006. Print.
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James, Epr. “Digging”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/digging/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “A Glass of Lemonade and a Packet of Crisps”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/a-glass-of-lemonade-and-a-packet-of-crisps/. Accessed 25th Mar. 17.
— “Was John Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’ the ‘Riverdance’ of the 1950s?” Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/was-john-fords-the-quiet-man-the-riverdance-of-the-1950s/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “What the world needs now is love sweet love…lets have a chat about nationalism”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/what-the-world-needs-now-is-love-sweet-love-lets-have-a-chat-about-nationalism/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “To Walk Invisible”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/to-walk-invisible/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “There is another man in my life”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/there-is-another-man-in-my-life/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “Reading Rebellion: Women, History, and Commemoration”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/reading-rebellion-women-history-and-commemoration/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “Trump Watch: A Fake news Special”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/trump-watch-a-fake-news-special/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
—- “Literary Review: The Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Culture”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/literary-review-the-cambridge-companion-to-modern-irish-culture/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “Literary Review: Ireland the Autobiography”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress.<https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/literary-review-ireland-the-autobiography/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “Animal Souls and Votes for Women: Vegetarianism and Suffrage in fin-de-siele Irish Feminists”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/research-seminar-animal-souls-and-votes-for-women-vegetarianism-and-suffrage-in-the-work-of-fin-de-siele-irish-feminists/ Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “Trump Watch: Fake news…No Really”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/trump-watch-fake-news-no-really/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “UCC Wikipedia Editathon”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/ucc-wikipedia-editathon/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “‘Bright Star: Elegy for David Bowie’ Graham Allen…and Other Star People”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/bright-star-elegy-for-david-bowie-graham-allen-and-other-star-people/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
— “UCC Textualities Conference 2017#textualities17, Live blog panel 3”. Streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork: Digging Irish Writing and Film, WordPress. <https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/ucc-textualities-conference-2017-textualities17/. Accessed 25th Mar. 2017.
Laird, Heather. “Reading Rebellion: Women, History and Commemoration”. Department of English Research Seminar. 16th November 2016. University College Cork.
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Lloyd, David. “The Spirit of the Nation”. Theorizing Ireland. Ed Claire Connolly. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2003. 160-172.
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O’Connor, Maureen. ‘Animal souls and votes for women: vegetarianism and suffrage in the work of fin-de-siecle Irish feminists”. Department of English Research Seminar, 23rd November 2016. University College Cork.
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To Walk Invisible. You Tube, uploaded by BBC, 19th Dec. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC8VUfUb-hU
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