Friday 7 April 2017

FREE BOOK Briody, The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970: History, ideology, methodology

The link, below, should take you to Mícheál Briody's lovely and important book about The Irish Folklore Commission, and Séamus Ó Duilearga (James Hamilton Delargy) - now freely available on OAPEN...

The Irish Folklore Commission 1935-1970: History, ideology, methodology Briody, Mícheál Finnish Literature Society / SKS, Helsinki

The OAPEN Library contains freely accessible academic books, mainly in the area of humanities and social sciences.  Mícheál Briody's book has heretofore been a little difficult to get hold of, but - now - there it is, freely available online at OAPEN.

The blurb on the web site has clearly been written by someone who knows the book, and knows the background.

The Irish Folklore Commission was always underfunded.  Nevertheless it shaped how Irish folk cultures should be studied, collected and preserved - very important, in my view, was the decision to seek mentors and methodology, not in the USA or in England, but in northern Europe, especially in Sweden, but also in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Germany.  There was also in that time, in those disciplines, in those countries, an understandable privileging of the oral - which is of interest to those of us who study the orality/literacy interface...

In something that I drafted recently, thinking about Irish Emigrant Letters, I wrote this...

"The approach of the Irish Folklore Commission privileged the study of the people of rural Ireland, mostly the rural poor. This focus on the ‘ideal peasant’ seems to come from at least three directions. First, there is Ireland’s use of the ‘ideal peasant’ for political and literary purposes (Hirsch 1991 and Markey 2006). Second, there is the guidance, philosophical and methodological, given to the founder of the Irish Folklore Commission, J. H. Delargy (Séamus Ó Duilearga) by wider European scholarship, especially by ethnography, and especially by his mentors in Sweden, Finland and Estonia (Briody 2007). And third, there is that curious imbalance within scholarship, especially within European scholarship, which privileges the oral above the written. There are many ways to unpack that imbalance – but the simplest might be to cite Derrida’s critique of Levi Strauss (Petrovi 2004). (We are not the first to have brought Derrida to a crux within Irish scholarship. See Duddy (1996). The exception to this pattern is of course the privileging of writings in the Irish language by representatives of the rural Irish, notably the Blasket Islands autobiographies (Quigley 2003 and Ross 2003).  It remains a strange imbalance – a privileging of ‘the people’, or the ‘peasantry’, which ignores the people’s own writings, and when, as Arnold Schrier points out, the vast majority of the people were literate (Schrier 1958, 22). And all these methodologies involve the creating of secondary texts, notes taken by interviewers, transcriptions of tape recordings..."

Arnold Schrier is not mentioned in Mícheál Briody's book, but the Irish Folklore Commission were helpful partners in his study of Irish Emigrant Letters, and his rescue of the letters themselves, the material letter.  See Schrier, A. (1997). Ireland and the American Emigration, 1850-1900. Dufour Editions.
Originally 1958, but my copy is the reprint.

And Arnold Schrier's pioneering work was developed further, and expanded, by Kerby Miller, in books and many articles - and many acts of kindness to younger scholars.  We have a tradition.

Patrick O'Sullivan

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