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Reimagining Irish Studies for the Twenty-First Century


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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20 Language, Time and the Improbable in Contemporary Ireland



Utopias are often not only situated on islands. They are frequently the preoccupation of islanders. Thomas More, an Englishman, will imagine his sixteenth-century utopia as an island society. When the Gaelic chieftain and writer Maghnus Ó Domhnaill (1490–1564) in the same period wants to conjure up a vision of beauty and plenty in his prose piece Turas go O’Brazeel, he seeks out the island of Hy-Brazil, reputed to be off the west coast of Ireland. One of the most influential accounts of utopia in the medieval period is attributed to the Irish monk, St Brendan, and his Navigatio Sancti Brendani seeks out the Isle of the Blessed as the utopian end stop for his tired comrades. Brendan has a guide in the form of the Procurator who ultimately leads the Munster saint to the promised island:

At the end of forty days, towards evening, a dense cloud overshadowed them, so dark that they could scarce see one another. Then the procurator said to St Brendan: ‘Do you know, father, what darkness is this?’ And the saint replied that he knew not. ‘This darkness’, said he, ‘surrounds the island you have sought for seven years; you will soon see that it is the entrance to it’; and after an hour had elapsed a great light shone around them, and the boat stood by the shore.1

I would like to suggest that a consideration of the public role of modern languages in contemporary...

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