Monday 8 January 2024

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University (Continued)


Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University (Continued 2024)

January 7 2024

My thanks to the friends and colleagues who noticed the anniversary of the start of my relationship with London Metropolitan University, and my role there, Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies...

And, yes, London Metropolitan University and I have (quietly) agreed that we should continue our relationship for a further year.  We have plans.

My thanks to Don MacRaild, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, and Lynn Dobbs, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of London Metropolitan University. 

I must also thank the patient staff of London Metropolitan University, especially in the Library and in Research Support - who have been so helpful in difficult times.

Our thing, this Visiting Professor thing, began towards the end of 2019.  Then and early in 2020 I held a series of meetings in London - making links, exploring ideas and possible projects.  I walked and talked.  London, with its complex past and present, and its many academic strengths, ought to be a world centre for Diaspora Studies.  It isn't.

Well, as you know, all plans were kiboshed by the pandemic.  I wrote a (rather sad) little note, which is still there on my blog...

And I am still sad.  Here are some rock pools of sadness, chosen from many such pools...



Notre Autre Voisin...

It was always obvious, and was even more obvious in 2020, that, if we wanted to develop Irish Diaspora Studies in London, in the South of England, we should reach out to our colleagues in France.  Especially in Northern France, a few hours away.

And this was working well.  For example, our colleagues at the University of Caen, and Caen University Press, made available to us, as a gift to London Metropolitan University, a selection of their books in our field.  The books arrived just in time to be locked away, as the virus crisis took hold.

But we have, thankfully, stayed in touch online with our colleagues in France - there have been online gatherings.  Always in Irish Diaspora Studies, when I am struggling to explain a train of thought, perfect examples present themselves.  I think here particularly of Nathalie Sebbane's presentation, the thought behind her book about the Magdalene Laundries...  See...

Sebbane, N. (2021) Memorialising the Magdalene Laundries: From Story to History. Peter Lang .

For me, in the background, in this conversation with Ireland's Other Neighbour, is a developing project about differing national and scholarly/academic approaches to Irish matters -  it is an 'Irish Diaspora Studies' critique of 'Irish Studies'.  I have quietly collected the material for many years...

This must now be, in part, a dialogue with the 2021 Handbook edited by Renée Fox and colleagues...

Fox, R., Cronin, M. and Ó Conchubhair, B. (2021) Routledge International Handbook of Irish Studies. Routledge.

...especially a dialogue with Michael Cronin's chapter 3, 'Irish Studies in the non-Anglophone world'.

This is that Michael Cronin, of Trinity College Dublin - whose work on translation we admire and use.

Not Mike Cronin, Boston College, one of the Editors of the Handbook - who is also admired.  Mike Cronin's own chapter in the Handbook is Chapter 10, 'Connections and capital: the diaspora and Ireland’s global networks'.

Similar dialogue with Michael and Mike. And all good wishes...

Thus we are in meditation with a remark by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, that 'Irish Studies' was invented by Joseph Campbell at Fordham, in 1926...  See p11 of...

Campbell, J. and Ní Chuilleanáin, E. (2001) ‘As I was Among the Captives’: Joseph Campbell’s Prison Diary, 1922-1923. Cork: Cork University Press.

We look at the different underpinnings, intellectual and structural, in different places, in the development of Irish Studies and Irish Diaspora Studies.  And specific difficulties...



The Theology of Diaspora...

My notes on this began, long ago, with a reading of Nicholas Lash...

Lash, N. (1982) A Matter of Hope: A Theologian’s Reflections on the Thought of Karl Marx. Longman and Todd.

There have been notes shared, over the years, with a number of colleagues - I think now of Thomas O'Loughlin, in Nottingham.  And, more recently, Aidan Beatty, in Pittsburgh

Where would I begin nowadays?  Maybe with Jeremiah 29, which is both an Emigrant Letter (as we now understand these things) and a Diaspora Policy (as we now understand these things).

Or Diaspora This Worldly/Theology Next Wordly?

Certainly the Theology of Diaspora is something that needs to be refreshed, and there is enough interest to develop some kind of exploration and gathering.

(Recently, in a discussion elswhere, I made the interdisciplinary point that when the word, 'diaspora' moved from Greek literature and history - it is used mostly in histories - to the Greek language version of the Bible, it changed disciplines.  It moved from history to theology.)



Rhyme And...

In recent times I have worked a lot alongside colleagues in what are broadly called the Digital Humanities.  I am the guy who asks the obvious questions - I do this because it is part of my role to collate the obvious answers.

It is complained, perhaps fairly, that too often the Digital Humanities represent a solution in search of a problem.  For this very reason I collect problems that will welcome Digital Humanities solutions.  These can be problems within Irish Diaspora Studies, or problems that can be given an Irish Diaspora Studies spin.

And so to Rhyme...  I am unusual amongst the poets of my generation in that I am comfortable with traditional poetic techniques.  I know how they work, and I know how to make them work...

I won't go into detail here - but we are in a strange golden age of Rhyme.  Rhyme has spread into cultures with no previous history of popular rhyming verse.  It might be the influence of Rap, or it might be the influence of John Skelton and Edith Sitwell...

But the obvious starting point - the spin - for us, today, is with W. B. Yeats.  And I can give my standard lecture on Yeats and Rhyme.

To my joy - when I began planning work for the Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies - I found myself exchanging notes with Marjorie Perloff, who seems as active and charming as ever.  (I am not.)

Her early book on Yeats...

Perloff, M. (1970) Rhyme and Meaning in the Poetry of Yeats. Paris: Mouton

...has always seemed to me to offer a Digital Humanities approach.  Avant la lettre.

And now the software is in place, and I am in touch with the software developers - and we can test my observation.

Marjorie Perloff herself explains that behind her thesis, and the subsequent book, is the approach of Craig LaDrière, at the Catholic University, Washington.  LaDrière looked, in the study of literature, for things to measure - we are familiar with this approach in the social sciences and in the development of social policy.   I guess that LaDrière himself has pretty much disappeared from view - the Ezra Pound specialists might know the name.  LaDrière did some nice work on genre.  In her Memoir, p226, Marjorie Perloff comments that this focus on the 'ontology of poetry' put the Catholic University students, in a curious way, 'ahead of the game' in later developments in the worlds of theory.

There are moments when Marjorie Perloff's Memoir offers footnotes to Irish Diaspora Studies - like the series of chances that took her to the Catholic University, Washington, to sit alongside all those nuns and Christian Brothers, and study under LaDrière.  LaDrière would always arrive late to give his lectures, and would always begin his lectures by reciting the Hail Mary prayer.  In French.

Marjorie Perloff's own Memoir is a powerful, thoughtful, moving classic of Diaspora Studies - it is a book I would be happy to bring to a seminar.  I will be fulsome.

Perloff, M. (2004) The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir. New Directions Books.

It asks the question:  what does a little 4 year girl, of Jewish heritage, fleeing across the Atlantic from Anschluss Vienna, need to know?  It recounts how German-speaking Gabriele became English-speaking Marjorie - as Amerika became America.  The Memoir's Epilogue includes little nods to Terry Eagleton, on Wittgenstein of course, and to Yeats...



And so forth...


The Diaspora Dictum  Do what you can, where you are.  As opportunities arise, and when I am asked, I am getting back into the habit of academic lecturing and presentations - and have not done too badly, really, with projects about the Emigrant Letter, Ireland and the BBC, Jonathan Swift, Denis Johnston, Samuel Beckett, and more.  The themes outlined above give a flavour.  

I continue, as usual, the collation of research material and research advice.  Here in Yorkshire, I have given my support to the revived Bradford Irish Society - who have asked me to give a lecture on the Irish origins and interests of the Brontës.  That is the sort of thing I can do - an Irish Diaspora Studies approach.  Of course.


Patrick O'Sullivan

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies

London Metropolitan University 

January 7 2024

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