New Beginnings

Perspectives from France and Ireland

by Máirtin Mac Con Iomaire (Volume editor) Eamon Maher (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection XVI, 334 Pages


This collection emerged from a conference held in TU Dublin at a time when the theme of «New Beginnings» seemed particularly apposite. In the few years prior to the gathering, COVID-19 had brought the world to almost a complete standstill. The need to recalibrate, to find new and more effective ways of dealing with the climate crisis, domestic and international politics, literary expression, and technology, was clearly felt by everyone. The fourteen essays deal with literary figures such as Jonathan Swift, George Moore, Colm Tóibín, Richard Murphy, Seamus Heaney, Michael O’Siadhail, Sally Rooney and Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Other issues broached are the diplomatic work carried out by Seán T. O’Kelly as Ireland’s envoy to Paris when an independent Ireland was seeking international recognition; depictions of the AIDS crisis in Irish theatre; the Neganthropocene in the French TV series Zone Blanche; new opportunities for learning through digital archives; strategies to save the rural Irish pub; innovative strategies employed by Ireland on the world stage, and the use of science to manipulate the French public’s beliefs about COVID-19. The diversity of material and approaches guarantees that New Beginnings will appeal to a large number of readers.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword by Orla McDonagh
  • Introduction: New Beginnings: Perspectives from France and Ireland
  • Part I Wording New Beginnings
  • 1 From Gulliver’s Travels to The Quick: Trans-Temporal Literature as Life Form in a Pandemic
  • 2 New Beginnings in Reading (Irish) Literature: A Gastrocritical Look at George Moore’s ‘Home Sickness’ and Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn
  • 3 An Irishman in Paris: Seán T. O’Kelly as Dáil Envoy, February 1919–April 1922
  • 4 ‘A taste for black sole’: Richard Murphy, Patricia Avis, Tony White and the Red Bank Restaurant
  • 5 Seamus Heaney’s New Beginnings in ‘The Riverbank Field’ and ‘Route 110’
  • Part II Contemporary Representations of New Beginnings
  • 6 ‘Welcoming the Difference’: Michael O’Siadhail and the Gift of Tongues
  • 7 Disrupting the Stigmatizing Cultural Narrative of AIDS through Contemporary Irish Theatre
  • 8 ‘So What Else Is New?’ The Case of Sally Rooney’s Normal People
  • 9 ‘This is a female text, I think’: ‘New Words’ and Franco-Gaelic Sources in Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat
  • Part III New Beginnings in the Post-Digital Age
  • 10 Nature, the Post-Digital, and the Neganthropocene in Zone Blanche (Black Spot)
  • 11 Surfing the Irish Folklore Commission’s Schools’ Collection: New Beginnings in the Democratisation of Learning through Digital Archives
  • 12 Learning from the UK Experience: How the Social Entrepreneurship Model Can Help Save the Rural Irish Pub
  • 13 Ireland’s Newly Found Influence in the Twenty-First Century: New Beginnings on the World Stage?
  • 14 Hold-Up: A Conspiracy of Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

←ix | x→ ←x | xi→


The editors would like to express their sincere gratitude to all the contributors for their professionalism in meeting deadlines and for taking on board our editorial suggestions. It was a pleasure to work with them.

The majority of the essays in this collection emerged from the successful AFIS conference that was held on the Tallaght Campus of TU Dublin at the end of October 2021. We wish to acknowledge the Centre for European Studies (CEUROS) and the Jean Monnet Professor in European Cultural Studies at the University of Limerick, Joachim Fischer, for sponsoring an excellent round table around the theme of France, Germany and Ireland in a future European Union. We are also immensely grateful to Ursula Donovan and her colleagues in Hospitality for their invaluable help in organising lunches and the wine reception. Drs Patricia Medcalf, Brian J. Murphy and Sarah Nolan were energetic members of the organising committee and Dr Damien Roche and Dr Dominic Dillane and their respective Schools supplied assistance with the staging of the conference and the publication of the proceedings.

L’Ambassade de France en Irlande provided wine for the book launches and reception and helped defray the costs of our keynote speakers, Anne Goarzin, Brigid Laffan and Donal Ryan. Dr Dorothy Cashman, Anke Klitzing, Dr Elaine Mahon, Dr John D. Mulcahy and Dr Eugene O’Brien acted as invaluable sounding boards during the editing of the proceedings: all errors that persist, however, are down to us and us alone.

We wish to thank Paul Butler for supplying us with the cover image, which really brings out the core theme of the book.

Dr Orla McDonagh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, agreed to open the AFIS conference that was held on the Tallaght Campus of TU Dublin at the end of October 2021 and was kind enough to supply a thought-provoking Foreword.

←xi | xii→Tony Mason and all the staff at Peter Lang have been efficient and helpful at every step of the way.

Last, but not least, míle buíochas/un grand merci/many thanks to our long-suffering wives and families for their unstinting support of this endeavour: without them, it would be neither worthwhile nor possible.

Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire and Eamon Maher

←xii | xiii→


It is interesting to reflect on what has changed in the world since the AFIS conference took place in TU Dublin’s Tallaght Campus in October 2021. The theme of the 2021 conference – New Beginnings from a Franco-Irish Perspective – sparked conversation about multiple levels of new beginnings at the time. It was the first in-person conference that many participants had attended in at least two years, as the world emerged from the previous year and a half of pandemic existence. New Beginnings was also a particularly relevant theme for TU Dublin, as we were engaged in the birthing of the first Technological University in Ireland. We were involved in the new European University of Technology, another new beginning for higher education in the European context. And a return to on-campus delivery was taking place as we were learning how to operate alongside a virus that had forced the world to rethink on a scale not seen in almost a century.

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of the positive and negative aspects of humanity. We witnessed how people all over the world rose to the personal challenges it brought, we saw to what degree governments, health organisations and civic societies responded, we experienced how some actors exploited the pandemic without regard for the impact of their actions on others, and we saw individual moments of heroism, quietly carried out without fanfare, for the good of another. Today, as I write these words, we hear advertisements across the media encouraging people to re-enter their social lives, evidencing that while some cohorts in society have fully returned to their pre-pandemic lives, others have been forever changed by it and need support to fully return to their new beginning. In higher education, we see evidence of this in our student populations, many of whose first years in university were conducted fully online and for whom the return to onsite lectures and exams has been a challenging new beginning.

←xiii | xiv→Since October 2021 we have seen new beginnings in one of the most impactful moves to restructure work since the 40-hour work week was introduced: blended working. The positive impact of what had been an emergency new beginning during the pandemic led to the swift adoption of new legislation across multiple jurisdictions, a ripple effect positively impacting millions of lives in terms of family life, stress level, energy expenditure, commuting time and much more. Research that can measure and objectively evaluate these impacts will continue to develop but it is already clear that this new beginning is here to stay.

In 2022, Ireland celebrated the centenary of the founding of the Irish State, a momentous anniversary of one of the most important new beginnings in our history as a country. On the date of writing this, American President Joseph Biden is scheduled to visit Ireland to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday agreement, a new beginning that was crucial in ensuring peace on this island. Against the backdrop of Brexit, a new beginning currently challenging the stability of the peace so hard-won a quarter of a century ago, we are reminded that as we inhabit the planet, it is not one new beginning that is needed for humanity to progress and thrive, but multiple new beginnings.

A year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of the Russia-Ukraine War and over 8 million Ukrainians entered refugee status across Europe, a highly traumatic new beginning for all the families involved. An extraordinary response across Europe has seen refugees welcomed as far as Sherkin Island in West Cork, European countries moving quickly to new energy sources to avoid an over-reliance on Russian gas and a continent’s unified response to the war on a level not seen since World War 2.

In Higher Education, we are grappling with the impact of artificial intelligence, arguably another new beginning, even though AI itself is not new. With the recent launch of ChatGPT, the Higher Education sector is having to consider issues of academic integrity and the manner in which to respond to technology developments that both aid and challenge teaching, learning and assessment. Given the forecast for technology development in the years to come, there is no doubt that we will experience an infinite number of new beginnings ahead.

←xiv | xv→During my welcome remarks at the conference at the end of October 2021, I spoke about my belief that universities and academics have a profound societal responsibility to contribute, not only to research, innovation and education in specific disciplines, but also to inspire people to be unafraid of difference, to help people develop the confidence to be open to learning about other ideas and ways of life, and ultimately, to develop a shared understanding of humanity on the planet. I theorised that whether we as human beings would solve climate change, or would be doomed to repeat cycles of war and disease, would succumb to racially-based supremacy groups and conspiracy theorists, or would be able to safely navigate the digital media space, would depend on our collective ability to handle opposing ideas, to think for ourselves, to know how to debate, to recognise truth from fiction, to collaborate with those most different from ourselves, to embrace the unknown, to be unafraid of failure and to develop resilience. I spoke of the advent of AI and robotics and remarked that our future lives would certainly include significant change and that in order to thrive, we would need a portfolio of coping mechanisms.

In that portfolio we need an ability to understand, contextualise and respond to all new beginnings yet to come if humanity is to collectively thrive into the future. The work in this edited collection, and the ongoing collaboration and debate emerging from the gathering of minds in AFIS more broadly, is part of the evolving tapestry of renewed beginnings that will ensure that humanity continues to move in the right direction. I cannot imagine a more fitting marker of this 20th anniversary year of the first Franco-Irish conference held in Tallaght back in 2003.

Dr Orla McDonagh,

Dean, Faculty of Arts & Humanities

TU Dublin

April 8, 2023

←xv | xvi→


You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

– Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable

The last lines of Samuel Beckett’s text, The Unnameable, underline the difficulty of continuing on a path whose destination is unclear and which regularly is a source of pain and frustration. Fresh starts, therefore, often involve a repetition of the same drudgery, or else can be a prelude to a new and more fulfilling life. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus’ character is reduced to rolling a rock to the top of a hill, only to watch it once more rolling down to the bottom. Sisyphus is then required to start his task all over again. Camus, strangely, tells his readers that we should imagine Sisyphus as being happy, explaining that at least his life has a structure and a purpose.

The October 2021 Association of Franco-Irish Studies (AFIS) conference held in the Tallaght Campus of Technological University (TU) Dublin, brought scholars together at a time when the theme of ‘New Beginnings’ seemed particularly apposite. For most attendees, this was their first in-person conference in over two years. During that period, COVID-19 had brought the world to almost a complete standstill, with people being confined for long periods to an area of between one and five kilometres from where they lived, hospitals facing unprecedented pressure as people turned up in ICUs suffering from severe respiratory ailments, which sometimes ended in death. Personal protective equipment became essential for frontline staff in hospitals and other places housing the aged and the vulnerable; everyone was required to wear a mask in public, and the drive to find a vaccine led scientists from all over the world to share findings in their common quest to find a way out of a crisis that knew no borders. Pictures of deserted cities and grounded aircraft, of empty buses and trains, of people discovering woods and greenways close to their homes that they had never known existed, highlighted the extent to which the world had been utterly transformed. The post-COVID situation in which we now find ourselves does not mean that the virus has gone away, merely that we are now learning to live with its consequences, which are far less lethal because of the vaccines that are now available. So, ‘new beginnings’ do not imply that we leave behind all that has come before, but rather that they offer a different angle on existence, one that will inevitably draw on what has come before.

Bearing in mind Ireland’s long history of emigration, the editors were struck at the similarity between the Emerald Isle and Algeria, a long-time colony of France, as Ireland had been of Great Britain. In the same way as huge numbers of Irish men and women flocked to London in their search for gainful employment, so too did many Algerians with the same motivation arrive in various cities around France, and particularly Paris, the great metropole of the French Empire. The experience was mixed in both cases, but generally speaking the host country tended to be an inhospitable place where opportunities were extremely limited. The inability of many Algerians to speak French proved a major stumbling block to social and professional advancement, as was the huge concentration of immigrant communities in HLMs (Habitation à loyer modéré), high-rise apartment blocks, where many continued to dream of the home country, which in their hearts they knew they would most likely never see again. These banlieue ghettoes would over time become a hotbed of social dissent and revolt, as second-generation immigrants began to see how discriminated they were as so-called French citizens. The much-lauded Contrat Social was viewed as a convenient means of pretending there was equality, while at the same time ensuring that the elites continued to dominate. The seething resentment felt by many immigrant communities during the 1980s and 1990s is powerfully captured in Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 black and white film, La Haine, which traces the fate of three disaffected young men (an Arab, a Jew and a Black African) during the riots of the 1990s. They all end up either dead or else facing a bleak future because of the impossibility of breaking out of the ghetto in which they find themselves imprisoned.

Two award-winning novels, Ahmed Kalouz’s Avec tes mains (2009) and Alice Zeniter’s L’art de perdre (2017), the English translation of which won the 2022 International Dublin Literary Award, capture certain aspects of Algerian immigrant families’ negative experience of France. Writing for Kalouz and Zeniter is about giving a voice to the voiceless, to those uprooted individuals who came to France full of hope, only to find themselves subjected to a regime which was intent on exploiting them and treating them as second-class citizens. The title of Kalouz’s novel (which in English means ‘With your hands’) reveals the utilitarian purpose served by the author’s father Abd el-Kader, born in an Algerian douar in 1917 and whose hands were used to erect dams and various other utilities around France, just as they had been employed during the Second World War fighting in the French army. El-Kader noticed how recruiting staff reacted to the category Français Musulman on his papers. From that moment on, he knew he and his fellow countrymen would be treated differently:

En fin de compte, vous n’avez plus de pays. Ni considérés comme des citoyens de France, ni comme des gens d’ailleurs. Sans préambule, en deux mots on vous invente un état civil ayant cours nulle part. Simplement deux mots qui falsifient votre histoire.1

[At the end of the day, you no longer have any country. Neither as citizens of France, nor as people from elsewhere. Straight off, in two words you are given a status which doesn’t have meaning anywhere. Just two words which totally misrepresent your history.]


XVI, 334
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (May)
Literature cultural theory Franco-Irish links New Beginnings Perspectives from France and Ireland Eamon Maher Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2023. XVI, 334 pp., 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Máirtin Mac Con Iomaire (Volume editor) Eamon Maher (Volume editor)

Dr Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire is a senior lecturer at Technological University Dublin, chef, culinary historian, broadcaster and ballad singer. Co-founder and chair of the Dublin Gastronomy Symposium, he also chairs the Masters in Gastronomy and Food Studies in TU Dublin. He co-edited «Tickling the Palate»: Gastronomy in Irish Literature and Culture (Peter Lang: 2014), «The Food Issue» of The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies (2018), and in 2021, guest edited a special issue of Folk Life on Irish food ways. Máirtín also co-edits the European Journal of Food Drink and Society. In 2021 and 2022, he was awarded a Research Ally Prize by the Irish Research Council. Eamon Maher is Director of the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies in TU Dublin. He is General Editor of Reimagining Ireland and Studies in Franco-Irish Relations and has edited and co-edited several books in both series. He is currently working on a monograph in English on the French priest-writer Jean Sulivan (1913–1980).


Title: New Beginnings
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352 pages