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Reimagining Irish Studies for the Twenty-First Century

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Edited By Eamon Maher and Eugene O'Brien

This landmark collection marks the publication of the 100th book in the Reimagining Ireland series. It attempts to provide a «forward look» (as opposed to what Frank O’Connor once referred to as the « backward look») at what Irish Studies might look like in the third millennium. With a Foreword by Declan Kiberd, it also contains essays by several other leading Irish Studies experts on (among other areas) literature and critical theory, sport, the Irish language, food and beverage studies, cinema, women’s writing, Brexit, religion, Northern Ireland, the legacy of the Great Famine, Ireland in the French imagination, archival research, musicology, and Irish Studies in North America. The book is a tribute to Irish Studies’ foundational commitment to revealing and renewing Irishness within and beyond the national space.

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10 ‘Monuments of Its Own Magnificence’: Musicology within Irish Studies

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HARRY WHITE

In a 2017 post on the popular science website Edge.org, Steven Pinker provides an answer to the question, ‘What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?’ as follows:

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in an isolated system (one that is not taking in energy), entropy never decreases … Closed systems inexorably become less structured, less organized, less able to accomplish interesting and useful outcomes, until they slide into an equilibrium of gray, tepid, homogeneous monotony and stay there.1

Pinker’s acknowledgement of this forbidding state of affairs (one which, on a bad day, might apply to any number of long-term scientific or scholarly enterprises, not excluding musicology in Ireland), is not, however, an end but a beginning, at least insofar as it leads him to a conclusion which is as transcendent and optimistic as it is far-reaching and (proverbially) universal:

The Second Law of thermodynamics defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.2

Human life as a rearguard action against the otherwise overwhelming and inevitable disintegration of the universe may not be to everyone’s taste as an implicit principle of behaviour, but the resilience of this principle has a long history, even if it is not often formulated with such lapidary (not to say optimistic) grace, and especially not at the present moment,...

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