Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory

Transitions and Transformations

by Marguerite Corporaal (Volume editor) Christopher Cusack (Volume editor) Ruud van den Beuken (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XII, 348 Pages
Series: Reimagining Ireland, Volume 79


Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory presents the latest research from Irish studies scholars across a variety of disciplines, including history, literature, theatre, photography and folklore, and generates new and challenging insights into the dynamics of cultural remembrance in Irish society. Featuring contributions by leading researchers in the field such as Guy Beiner, Graham Dawson and Emilie Pine, this collection demonstrates how the examination of Irish cultural legacies can illuminate our understanding of processes of identity formation, heritage policies, canonization, musealization and the transgenerational and transcultural inflections of the past. Investigating topics such as trauma, contested politics and commemorative practices, and exploring recent theoretical developments, the volume offers an interdisciplinary overview of the recent cross-fertilization between memory studies and Irish studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Transitions and Transformations (Marguérite Corporaal / Christopher Cusack / Ruud Van Den Beuken)
  • Irish Memory Studies: Trends and Topics
  • Future Directions
  • The Outline of this Volume
  • Bibliography
  • Part I: Commemorative Practices
  • 1 Remembering the Drapier and King Dan: The Sectarian Legacies of Swift and O’Connell in Edward Longford’s Yahoo (1933) and Ascendancy (1935) (Ruud Van Den Beuken)
  • ‘Leave the Dean in the obscurity he deserves’: Jonathan Swift Contested in Yahoo (1933)
  • ‘My blessing on the pistol and the powder and the ball!’: Daniel O’Connell and Political Violence in Ascendancy (1935)
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 2 Remembering Wildgoose Lodge: Gothic Stories Recalled and Retold (Tracy Fahey)
  • Remembering Wildgoose Lodge: The Project
  • Project Origins: Discovering the Variants
  • Conducting the Research: Fieldwork as Homework
  • Analysis of the Variants: The Curses
  • Analysis of the Variants: The Ghost of Biddy Richards
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 3 The Easter Rising 1916: Photography and Remembrance (Gail Baylis)
  • Production
  • Display
  • Uses
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part II: Contested Politics
  • 4 Hauntings of the Irish Revolution: Veterans and Memory of the Independence Struggle and Civil War (Eve Morrison)
  • Survival of the Supernatural
  • Veterans’ Accounts and Popular Memory
  • Patrick Boland and Michael Coen
  • Guests of the Nation
  • Bridget Noble
  • Bibliography
  • 5 Autobiography or Fiction?: Unravelling the Use of Memory in Francis Stuart and John McGahern (Eamon Maher)
  • Bibliography
  • 6 Notes on Studying Public Policies of Memory: The Parades Commission in Northern Ireland and the Institutionalization of Memory Practices (Sara Dybris McQuaid)
  • Policy Studies and Memory Studies
  • The Parades Commission in Northern Ireland as a Case in Point
  • Determining the Past and the Present
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 7 The Irish Republican Movement and the Contested Past: ‘Official Memory’ and the Politics of Dissent (Stephen Hopkins)
  • Collective Memory and the Irish Republican Past
  • The ‘Leading Group’ and Republican Organizational Culture
  • Orthodoxy, Dissent and Control of the Past
  • Constructing and Challenging Republican ‘Official Memory’
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part III: Memory and Trauma
  • 8 Memory, Public Space and the Body in Ireland: Locating and Negotiating the Asylum in Edna O’Brien’s Short Fiction (Niamh NicGhabhann)
  • Negotiating the Asylum in Edna O’Brien’s Short Fiction
  • Public Space, Morality and the Female Body
  • Bibliography
  • 9 The Witness and the Audience: Mary Raftery’s No Escape (2010) (Emilie Pine)
  • Mediating the Report
  • Status of the Witness
  • Collective Witnessing
  • Bibliography
  • 10 Perpetual Stagnation and Transformation: Ballyturk and The Walworth Farce as Memorial (Re)Inscription (Nelson Barre)
  • ‘Remember nothing! Say the line!’
  • ‘You’ll learn to forget – we did before’
  • Performance and the Creation of a World
  • Bibliography
  • Part IV: Theoretical Developments
  • 11 From Restoration to Reinscription: The Great Famine in Irish North-American Fiction, 1847–1921 (Marguérite Corporaal / Christopher Cusack / Lindsay Janssen)
  • Displacing the Famine
  • Relocating Ireland
  • The Famine Past as a Tool of Social Integration
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • 12 Memory, ‘Post-Conflict’ Temporalities and the Afterlife of Emotion in Conflict Transformation after the Irish Troubles (Graham Dawson)
  • Regimes of Temporality and the Politics of Time in ‘Post-Conflict’ Northern Ireland
  • ‘Post-Conflict’ Temporalities of Emotion in the Northern Ireland Troubles
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography
  • 13 Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Disremembering (Guy Beiner)
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


Figure 1: ‘Working’ glass plate for the repositioning of Tom Clarke’s portrait. Keogh Brothers. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Figure 2: ‘Irish Rebellion, May 1916’ postcard of Tom Clarke, 1916. Powell Press. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Figure 3: ‘Working’ glass plate for Cornelius Colbert. Keogh Brothers. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Figure 4: Joseph Mary Plunkett. The hybrid image shifts relations of mediation. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

| xi →


This volume is a product of the Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory: Transitions and Transformations conference, which was held at Radboud University, Nijmegen, between 31 March and 2 April 2015, as part of the ERC-funded research project Relocated Remembrance: The Great Famine in Irish (Diaspora) Fiction, 1847–1921 (grant agreement no. 262898-FAMINE). Most of the chapters in this volume were first presented as papers at this conference.

We would like to acknowledge the generous financial support offered by several partners, which was vital for the realization of the conference and this volume: the European Research Council, the Embassy of Ireland in the Netherlands, Radboud University’s Department of English and the university’s Institute for Historical, Literary and Cultural Studies.

We would like to thank all contributors to this volume for their stimulating scholarship. We are grateful to Jeanne Lenders for assisting us in editing the chapters. Finally, we would like to express sincere thanks to Eamon Maher, series editor for the Reimagining Ireland series, and Christabel Scaife, our editor at Peter Lang, for their support of this publication, their excellent guidance throughout its development and the pleasant collaboration.

Marguérite Corporaal

Christopher Cusack

Ruud van den Beuken

September 2016

| 1 →


Introduction: Transitions and Transformations

In ‘Home Sickness’, a story from George Moore’s collection The Untilled Field (1905), the old emigrant James Bryden reminisces about his childhood village in the West of Ireland: the bar-room in New York’s bowery is ‘forgotten […] and the things he saw most clearly were the green hillside, and the bog lake and the rushes about it, and the greater lake in the distance, and behind it the blue lines of wandering hills’.1 Bryden’s nostalgia for his native community demonstrates the fact that emigrants’ identities are often hyphenated, that is, divided between homeland and host society.2 Simultaneously, the local-colour tale illustrates the significant role that memory plays in Irish and Irish diaspora cultures and societies – a phenomenon that Emilie Pine has described in The Politics of Irish Memory as the ‘Irish cultural obsession with the past’.3

Over the past few years, the centrality of remembrance to Ireland’s political and cultural landscape as well as to Irish communities worldwide could not be overlooked. The launch of an annual international Famine commemoration day in 2009, which takes place on both sides of the Atlantic, illustrates the urge to remember even the most painful aspects of what Jan Assmann terms the ‘fateful events of the past’.4 Moreover, the fact that, upon the successful end of the bailout in December 2013, ← 1 | 2 → Finance Minister Michael Noonan stated that Ireland’s financial crash was ‘the greatest crisis that this country has experienced since the famine’,5 bears witness to the ways in which present conditions in Ireland are often translated into what Oona Frawley has called the narrative ‘scripts’ and tropes of past forms of remembering.6

Additionally, the present ‘decade of centenaries’ underscores the urge to re-enact and politicize the past, fostering grand narratives about the emergence of Ireland as a postcolonial nation. The 1916 centenary commemoration saw a wide range of activities that sought to transmit the memory of the past event to present generations, including a nationwide Proclamation Day at schools on 15 March during which flags were hoisted and the Proclamation was read, as well as three exhibitions in Dublin at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, the General Post Office, and the Rotunda Hospital respectively. Such scheduled events often evoke the past with a view to creating a heightened awareness of national identities: for example, Comhrá 2016, a series of seminars organized by Conradh na Gaeilge, commemorated the importance of the Irish language and the role of the Gaelic League as a source of inspiration for the Easter Rising.7

Serving to enhance a sense of national identity, the Easter Rising is also being commodified: visitors to one of the three Dublin exhibitions can purchase memorabilia such as mugs, badges, coins, as well as statuettes; T-shirts featuring the Proclamation along with images of the ravaged GPO can be ordered; and even chocolate bars in wrappers depicting the 1916 martyrs are widely available. Such manifestations of memory on the commercial market illustrate what Bill Brown in A Sense of Things (2008) calls the material objectification of the cultural past,8 that often embodies a ← 2 | 3 → national consciousness, and that can function as a strategy through which painful as well as celebratory ‘emotions […] can be objectified’.9

This commercialization of 1916 memory and the souvenir industry that thus sells ‘Irishness’ has elicited a variety of responses. The commodification of the Rising has been satirized by Ulster artist Rita Duffy in her project The Souvenir Shop, which exhibited Mexican grave candles that venerate Patrick Pearse, and which gave visitors the opportunity ‘to buy a vintage-style paper cutout “make your own Markievicz” doll’.10At the same time, the legacies of the Easter Rising have been appropriated by Sinn Féin in its launch of the party’s own programme of events to mark the centenary, including a re-enactment of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral at Glasnevin cemetery on 1 August. The promotional film they aired to announce this commemorative programme ends with the slogan ‘Join us in building their republic – your republic’, a clear politicization of 1916 memories to rally further support for the party’s republican ideals.11 This reveals the dynamics of recollection according to which ‘[m]emory is used strategically: not merely to explain the group past but also to transform it into a reliable identity source for the group present.’12

Irish Memory Studies: Trends and Topics

In recent years, scholarly interest in Irish memory has continued to grow exponentially. This was partially motivated by the ‘memory fever’ in the humanities,13 but also by the legacies of the Troubles, institutional abuse ← 3 | 4 → and the aforementioned ‘decade of centenaries’. Oona Frawley’s four-volume Memory Ireland series (2010–2014) and the Irish Memory Studies Research Network, established at University College Dublin, are just a few examples illustrating the mnemonic trend in research on Irish and Irish diaspora societies. While this research on Irish memory has addressed significant ‘figures of memory’,14 or ‘cruxes’15 in Ireland’s past, such as the 1798 rebellion, the Great Famine, the Easter Rising and the Troubles, it has also directed attention to three no less relevant issues: popular memory, transgenerational memory, and contested and/or traumatic memory.

Memory studies experts, including Jefferson A. Singer and Martin A. Conway, have made a distinction between ‘availability’and ‘accessiblity’ of memory, showing that not all recollections are institutionalized and preserved,16 and other memory scholars such as Aleida Assmann have pointed to the crucial role of canonization in the preservation, dissemination, and public recognition of memories.17 Popular forms of memory – in oral traditions and folklore – are often not among those canonized recollections of the past, but in the case of Ireland, these alternative mnemonic registers have played a significant role in shaping people’s identities.18

Several recent seminal studies have explored the reverberations of the past in Irish folklore. Guy Beiner’s award-winning Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory (2007), for example, examines the memory of the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion in vernacular or ‘folk history’, taking as its starting point Maurice Halbswachs’s ← 4 | 5 → well-known concept of ‘social memory’.19 Ray Cashman’s Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border: Characters and Community (2008) also elaborates on Halbswachs’s influential work, investigating the role of popular memory in the stories that people tell each other in Aghyaran, a mixed Catholic-Protestant border community in Northern Ireland, during wakes and ceilis. As Cashman shows, these remembered tales about local characters play a role in processes of identity and community formation that transcend religious sectarianism.20

Research on transgenerational mediations of memory has received new impetus from the introduction of terminology that helps explain processes of memory transfer across time. Marianne Hirsch’s ‘postmemory’, a term that describes the ways in which a past is reconfigured by the children of those who directly experienced an event,21 and Alison Landsberg’s term ‘prosthetic memory’, which extends Hirsch’s concept to anyone who has indirect memories of an event,22 have been adopted by various Irish studies scholars. For instance, Richard S. Grayson and Fearghal McGarry’s recent collection of essays, Remembering 1916: The Easter Rising, the Somme and the Politics of Memory in Ireland (2016) contains contributions by Guy Beiner and Fearghal McGarry that deal with the ‘postmemory’ of these 1916 events.23 Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin’s Flowing Tides: History and Memory in ← 5 | 6 → an Irish Soundscape (2016) investigates the cultural memory of Irish traditional music, focusing especially on Co. Clare as a site of musical memory and employing the notion of ‘prosthetic memory’ to describe how musicians worldwide relate to these musical legacies.24

A strong engagement with theoretical frameworks on memory can also be found in research on problematic episodes from the Irish past. Emilie Pine’s aforementioned The Politics of Irish Memory (2011) discusses the cultural memory of institutional abuse in film and drama against the background of trauma theory. Her book also contains a chapter on the controversial cultural legacies of Bobby Sands and the other IRA hunger strikers, and much research in Irish studies that deals with concepts of traumatic pasts concerns the Northern Irish Troubles. Graham Dawson’s Making Peace with the Past?: Memory, Trauma and the Irish Troubles (2007) examines the function of memories of political violence in Northern Ireland before, during, and after the Good Friday Agreement. His study provides examples of how competing narratives of the past, whether in the form of personal or cultural memory, operate in contexts of ‘political transition’.25 Similarly, Cillian McGrattan’s Memory, Politics and Identity: Haunted by History (2013) traces the role of memory related to violent, disruptive events (such as Bloody Friday and Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland) after the peace process, while also addressing the complex issue of truth recovery.26

The existence of competing memories in relation to troubled pasts was also central to the exhibition Art of the Troubles (2014), at the Ulster museum in Belfast. Displaying works of art created during and after the Troubles, which reinterpret the events in retrospect, the exhibition included ← 6 | 7 → contributions by artists from both loyalist and republican, Protestant and Catholic backgrounds, such as Philip Napier, John Keane, and Rita Duffy. Significantly, the exhibition was co-curated by staff from the Institute of Irish-British Studies at University College Dublin, and complemented by an academic conference on the subject that was hosted by the museum. Art of the Troubles is by no means the only project aimed at translating and disseminating the past and making visible processes of memory in which academics specializing in Irish history, literature, or culture played a pivotal role. In fact, one of the current trends in Irish memory studies is a progressive integration of academic discourses on memory studies and cultural practices through collaborations between social and cultural institutions and scholars. Examples are, inter alia, the present partnership between the National Museums of Northern Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast, and the University of Ulster in the establishment of the First World War Coordinating Centre, Living Legacies; the contributions by historians Mary Daly and Emmett O’Connor to the six-part documentary series Citizens’ Lockout, 1913–2013 that was broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1; and the participation of scholars such as Luke Gibbons and Fearghal McGarry in documentaries shown as part of the 1916 Rising exhibition at the GPO Witness History Visitor Centre in Dublin.

Central to many such explorations of the Irish past is the language of trauma. Indeed, since the Great Famine’s sesquicentenary in the 1990s, the notion of trauma has become a dominant paradigm in the study of Irish cultural memory. As numerous scholars of collective trauma have shown, the notion that a community or society has undergone a trauma contributes to social cohesion and the construction of cultural identities. In the words of Jeffrey C. Alexander, ‘[p]rojected as ideologies that create new ideal interests, trauma narratives can trigger significant repairs in the civil fabric’.27 In the Irish (and Irish-diasporic) context, the Famine in particular has been imagined as what Dominick LaCapra calls a ‘founding trauma’, ‘the valorized or intensely cathected basis of identity for an ← 7 | 8 → individual or a group’.28 Nevertheless, the use of trauma as an interpretive category for the study of the Irish past can be problematic. While the notion of cultural trauma has been a useful instrument both in shaping and analysing narratives about influential events such as the Famine and the Troubles, many commentators do not differentiate between individual psychological and collective cultural trauma, and uncritically appropriate the (largely Freudian) language of psychological, individual trauma, with its focus on psychological repression and ‘working through’, using what Joseph Valente describes as ‘a loosely psychoanalytical model of repressed memory syndrome’ to construe how certain events have impacted on Irish society and culture.29 While it is beyond the scope of this introduction to address this topic in greater detail, scholars working on Irish memory must be aware of the problematic nature of the discourse of trauma in relation to Irish culture. Critics such as David Lloyd, Margaret Kelleher, Emily Mark-FitzGerald and Oona Frawley have interrogated and complicated the use of the rhetoric of trauma in the Irish context, and their work demonstrates how important it is to remain critical about the concepts and terminology we use to make sense of the past.30

Future Directions

One of the major developments in memory research is a focus on transnational or transcultural memory. Rooted in the premise that ‘migrants carry their heritage, memories and traumas with them’, which ‘are transferred and ← 8 | 9 → brought into new social constellations and political contexts’,31 scholars are increasingly interested in the emergence of shared, transnational memories between countries of birth and settlement. More recently, however, scholars have interpreted transcultural memory beyond the context of emigration, to include any form of shared recollections that transcend communal borders or acts of memory transfer between societies. In her contribution to the collection Transcultural Memory (2014), Astrid Erll, for example, argues against any approach which ties memory to ‘clear-cut territories and social formations’, since it ‘circulates across […] and also beyond cultures’,32 and Lucy Bond and Jessica Rapson have defined transcultural memory as ‘the travelling of memory within and between national, ethnic and religious collectives’.33 Furthermore, scholars such as Michael Rothberg have particularly looked at the interactions and intersections between different memory cultures, arguing in favour of a perception of the public sphere as a fluid space in which memory is essentially ‘multidirectional’.34

The transnational turn in memory studies in general has also left its imprint on Irish memory studies, and the past few years have seen the publication of some important studies that broaden the issue of memory to include diaspora communities. Emily Mark-FitzGerald’s Commemorating the Famine: Memory and the Monument (2013) examines Famine memorials in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, the United States and Australia from a comparative perspective, thereby laying bare important transnational mnemonic registers.35 Cian T. McMahon’s study ← 9 | 10 → The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press (2015) also employs a transnational scope by showing how memories shared by communities of Irish in Ireland, Australia, and North America were revived in the popular press to create a transcultural sense of identity.36

While such studies make important strides in looking beyond Ireland in their investigation of recollection and commemoration, the general focus in scholarship and cultural initiatives remains primarily tied to the idea of a rather monolithic shared Irish culture and identity. Conversely, the ways in which Ireland’s pasts have been reconfigured by contact with the recollections of other cultural communities – through the settlement of Irish people in other parts of the world, through the arrival of immigrants in Ireland, and through the present-day media – could receive further attention in Irish memory studies. Overcoming the sense of insularity that emanates from many recent projects, such as the newly established diaspora museum Epic Ireland in Dublin (2016) which mainly focuses on Irish cultural memory as an export product and fails to address the contributions by immigrants to Irish reimaginations of the past, might yield refreshing insights on the complex dynamics of memory and encourage Irish studies in general to move beyond the postcolonial and national paradigms that have dominated the field.

The Outline of this Volume

This volume is divided into four parts. The first part, ‘Commemorative Practices’, comprises three essays which analyse the ways particular figures and events in Irish history have been commemorated – or reappropriated – by means of a variety of cultural expressions. Ruud van den Beuken’s essay explores the representation of Jonathan Swift and Daniel O’Connell in two plays by Edward Longford that were performed at the Dublin Gate ← 10 | 11 → Theatre in the 1930s. Van den Beuken argues that Longford’s historical plays use complex memorial strategies to reflect on the sectarianism of Ireland in the contemporary Irish Free State. Tracy Fahey’s article reports on a research project which studied the folkloric memory of the burning of Wildgoose Lodge in 1816. Considering a number of varying oral accounts of this agrarian crime that have been transmitted from generation to generation, Fahey casts light on the dynamic between ‘official’ historical narratives and local folkloric memories, and underscores the usefulness of such social memory. In her article on the role of photography in the commemoration of the leaders of the Easter Rising, Gail Baylis explores how this quintessentially modern technology contributed to the mediation of the memory of the insurrection and the martyrization of its commanders. In her essay, she thus combines a focus on the materiality of memory with its politicization.

The essays in the second part, ‘Contested Politics’, consider the role of politics in the commemoration of certain historical events, looking at a variety of modes of recollection. Eve Morrison’s article addresses the interfaces between various types of representations of the War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War, including personal testimonies and folklore. Paying particular attention to images of haunting in her source material, Morrison shows the value of approaching such sources from a variety of angles. In his essay on the work of Francis Stuart and John McGahern, Eamon Maher explores the dialectical relationship between autobiography and fiction in their works. Maher is particularly interested in the ways memories of the War of Independence and the Civil War impinge on the oeuvres of these writers, and how the problems inherent to recollection influence their works. Located at the intersection between political science and memory studies, Sara Dybris McQuaid’s article uses the Northern Irish Parades Commission as a case study for an integrated methodological framework which combines these two disciplines. Analysing how the policies of the Parades Commission interact with (sectarian) cultural memory, McQuaid concludes that such dynamics can only be fully brought to light by means of a synergetic approach. Concluding this section, Stephen Hopkins analyses the tension between the ‘official’ republican memory that was formed and disseminated following the Good Friday ← 11 | 12 → Agreement by Northern Irish republican leaders, and ‘dissident’ memories which counter this formalization of accounts of the past. Hopkins suggests that the conflict between official and dissenting accounts of the past will not abate as long as the republican movement’s traditional goal has not been realized.

The third part, ‘Memory and Trauma’, looks at the inscription of memory and trauma through fiction and theatre. Niamh NicGhabhann’s article uses Edna O’Brien’s short fiction to explore the ways the representation of public space interacts with the construction and dissemination of memory. Focusing on the depiction of the asylum in O’Brien’s work, NicGhabhann argues that such public spaces both produce and are invested with meaning in a variety of ways. Emilie Pine’s essay demonstrates how documentary theatre can play an important role in the negotiation of traumatic pasts, such as the child abuse in Irish institutions run by the Catholic Church as exposed by the 2009 Ryan Report. Theorizing the notion of ‘theatrical witnessing’, Pine argues that plays such as Mary Raftery’s No Escape (2010) contribute to the development of cultural memories and public awareness about important social issues. In his essay on two plays by Enda Walsh, Nelson Barre reflects on the connection between memorialization and performance, arguing that Walsh’s plays problematize the notion of a stable historical truth. As Barre shows, repetition and performance function to create personal realities which can be highly variable and depend on the continual revision of memory and the past.

The final part, ‘Theoretical Developments’, features contributions which suggest directions that Irish studies scholars might explore in the future through various critical engagements with memory theory. Concentrating on Irish North-American fiction, the article by Marguérite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack and Lindsay Janssen demonstrates how the cultural memory of the Great Famine in fiction has developed over time and across space. Analysing how memory is reconfigured transnationally and transgenerationally, their essay demonstrates how a dynamic approach to memory studies and theories about (diasporic) cultural identity might benefit the study of the Irish past. Graham Dawson’s expansive contribution surveys the temporalities of memory in post-conflict Northern Ireland, highlighting the complex interplay – and often conflict – between ← 12 | 13 → past events, memories of these events and future aims which complicate Northern Irish efforts to come to terms with the legacies of the Troubles. In so doing, his article also considers the ways affect and emotion influence the move towards social reconciliation. Concluding this volume, Guy Beiner’s essay theorizes the notion of disremembering and suggests a number of ways it might be applied in an Irish studies context. Beiner introduces the notion of ‘social forgetting’ to conceptualize the tension between private remembrance and public silence, and, by extension, the dialectic between memory and amnesia, which marks not just Irish engagements with the past but is in fact a core element of any memorial culture.

Taken together, these essays showcase the fecundity of Irish memory studies. Moreover, in the ways they engage with recent developments in memory theory and critically interrogate the manifestations and functions of memory in Irish and Irish-diasporic culture and society, they also suggest many avenues for further research. While this volume thus shows that Irish memory studies is thriving, it also intends to underline the editors’ belief that Ireland’s history and contemporary society, no less than its multifaceted culture and its transnational legacies, will continue to lend themselves to innovative critical engagements. After all, the old hairy chestnut has it that ‘the Irish never forget’. And yet, while sometimes the Irish actually do forget, in Ireland, too, Mnemosyne is mother to all Muses.


Alexander, Jeffrey C., Trauma: A Social Theory (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012).

Assmann, Aleida, ‘Canon and Archive’, in Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, eds, Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 2008), 97–109.

——, and Sebastian Conrad, ‘Introduction’, in Aleida Assmann and Sebastian Conrad, eds, Memory in a Global Age: Discourses, Practices and Trajectories (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 1–16.

Assmann, Jan, ‘Collective Memory and Cultural Identity’, New German Critique, 65 (1995), 125–33. ← 13 | 14 →

Bammer, Angelika, ‘Introduction’, in Angelika Bammer, ed., Displacements: Cultural Identities in Question (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994), xi–xx.

Beiner, Guy, ‘Making Sense of Memory: Coming to Terms with Conceptualizations of Historical Remembrance’, in Richard S. Grayson and Fearghal McGarry, eds, Remembering 1916: The Easter Rising, the Somme and the Politics of Memory in Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 13–23.

——, Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007).

Bond, Lucy, and Jessica Rapson, ‘Introduction’, in Lucy Bond and Jessica Rapson, eds, The Transcultural Turn: Interrogating Memory Between and Beyond Borders (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 1–26.

Brown, Bill, A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

Cashman, Ray, Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border: Characters and Community (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008).


XII, 348
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (February)
Irish studies Cultural memory Contested politics Memory studies Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. XII, 348 pp., 4 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Marguerite Corporaal (Volume editor) Christopher Cusack (Volume editor) Ruud van den Beuken (Volume editor)

Marguérite Corporaal is Associate Professor in English Literature at Radboud University Nijmegen. She was Principal Investigator for the ERC-funded project Relocated Remembrance: The Great Famine in Irish (Diaspora) Fiction, 1847–1921 (2010–2015) and she is Director of the NWO-funded International Network of Irish Famine Studies (2014–2017). Christopher Cusack is a PhD candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen and lectures at HAN University of Applied Sciences. He co-edited Recollecting Hunger: An Anthology (2012) and Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine (2014). Ruud van den Beuken is a lecturer at the University of Groningen and Radboud University Nijmegen. In 2015, he was awarded the Irish Society for Theatre Research (ISTR) New Scholars’ Prize. He co-edited Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine (2014).


Title: Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory