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Writing Gay Irish Lives – 30 Oct
30th October 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
In light of social and legal changes in Ireland over recent years the ILS is drawing together Irish writers to consider the representation of queer people in Irish literature. Our panel will be reflecting on London as a place of escape, queer representation in Irish writing, homosexuality in the discourse of what constitutes Irishness, and the integration of queer characters and narratives into the wider culture. Here in London the 50-year anniversary since it stopped being illegal for two men (criminal law, until Section 28, targeted only men) to be in a relationship in England and Wales has been widely celebrated, the law changed in Scotland and Northern Ireland later – not until 1993 was same-sex sexual activity decriminalised in Ireland. Historically many Irish queer people felt compelled to emigrate in search of a more supportive social climate, the attraction of London was obvious as a metropolitan centre associated with tolerance of sexual diversity and established queer communities. Yet now Ireland now has gay marriage (passed by 62% vote share), a young, openly gay taoiseach and progressive trans recognition legislation – the influence of Catholic dogma has clearly waned. The rich and varied work of our panel will be discussed in the context of these changes and each writer will read from their work.
Dr Michael G Cronin
Michael G Cronin is a Lecturer in English, specialising in twentieth-century and contemporary Irish literature and in sexuality studies. He received his MA from the University of Sussex, having studied on the renowned Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change programme. He subsequently completed a doctorate on the twentieth-century Irish Catholic bildungsroman at Maynooth University, where he was an IRCHSS Government of Ireland scholar. Along with Impure Thoughts, he has published essays on twentieth-century and contemporary Irish fiction, and on contemporary Irish sexual politics. He was Guest Editor of a special issue of Irish Review (Irish Review 46, Autumn 2013) on Irish Studies in the wake of the 2008 crash. He is currently working on a project provisionally entitled ‘Revolutionary Bodies: homoeroticism and the political imagination in Irish writing’.
The critically acclaimed poet, short story writer and novelist, Mary Dorcey was born in County Dublin, Ireland. She is a member by peer election of ‘Aosdana’ the Irish Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1990 she won the Rooney Prize for Literature for her short story collection: ‘A Noise from the Woodshed.’ Her bestselling novel Biography of Desire (Poolbeg) was published in September of 1997 to critical acclaim and reprinted three times. She was writer in residence at Trinity College for the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies for ten years where she gives seminars in contemporary English literature and taught a creative writing course. She also taught for four years at University College Dublin. Dorcey’s most recent collection is Perhaps the Heart is Constant after All. (Salmon Poetry. October 2012)
The Chair of our panel is Barry McCrea, a novelist and scholar of modern European, Latin American, and Irish literature. He most recent book is Languages of the Night: Minor Languages and the Literary Imagination in Twentieth-Century Ireland and Europe (Yale University Press, 2015), which won the American Comparative Literature Association’s René Wellek prize for the best book of 2016. He is the author of The First Verse, a novel, winner of a number of awards including the 2006 Ferro-Grumley prize for fiction and a Barnes and Noble “Discover” prize, and of In the Company of Strangers: Narrative and Family in Dickens, Conan Doyle, Joyce and Proust (Columbia University Press, 2011), which won the Yale Heyman Prize for scholarship in the humanities.Professor McCrea holds has a BA in Romance languages from Trinity College Dublin, and a PhD in comparative literature from Princeton. Before joining Notre Dame, he taught comparative literature at Yale University, where he was appointed full professor in 2012. Professor McCrea teaches fall semesters in the Rome and Dublin Global Gateways and spring semesters on campus.
Jamie O’Neill was born in Dún Laoghaire in 1962. He left for England at the age of 17 and lived and worked in England for two decades, he now lives in Galway. His first novel, Disturbance, was published in 1989 and followed by Kilbrack in 1990. Thereafter O’Neill struggled to write and on parting company with both his agent and publisher he took the job as a night porter at the Cassell Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Surrey from 1990 up to 2000. His critically-acclaimed novel, At Swim, Two Boys (2001) earned him the highest advance ever paid for an Irish novel and frequent claims that he was the natural successor to James Joyce, Flann O’Brien and Samuel Beckett. At Swim, Two Boys was re-issued this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The novel describes a burgeoning love between two teenage boys, Jim Mack and Doyler, childhood friends – “cara macree, pal o’ my heart” – in the early years of the 20th century in Dublin. They meet again some years later in a flute band as 15-year old Doyler teaches Jim to swim. They make a pact – on Easter Sunday 1916, they will swim to Muglin’s Rock to claim it for themselves and for Ireland.
Cherry Smyth is a poet, novelist and art critic. Her first poetry collection When the Lights Go Up (Lagan Press, 2001) traces her move from Ireland to London and the negotiations of identity required in a new country. One Wanted Thing (Lagan Press, 2006), her second volume, is less concerned with loss than with a buoyant affirmation of love, acceptance and the wider issues of the fall-out of events like 9/11 and 7/7: how these changed our world-view. In Test, Orange (Pindrop Press, 2012), she brings together a range of poetic forms from haiku to longer free-verse poems dealing with things we face in a female body. In 2000–01, Cherry was writer-in-residence in a women’s prison and published their extraordinary work in A Strong Voice in a Small Space (Cherry Picking Press, 2002), which won the Raymond Williams community-publishing prize in 2003. She has been teaching writing poetry in the Creative Writing Department of the University of Greenwich since 2004. She was appointed a Royal Literary Fellow, 2014-2016. Her novel Hold Still (Holland Park Press, 2013) charts the role of Irish woman Jo Hiffernan as muse to both Whistler and Courbet.
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