2014 Irish Seminar

Location: O'Connell House, Dublin, Ireland

Irish Seminar: 'The Vernacular Imagination'

The Irish Seminar runs from June 16th to July 4th, 2014 based in O'Connell House, Dublin.  

Deriving from a Latin word that signifies a home-born slave (verna), the vernacular has to do with the domestic, the native, the indigenous. Sometimes it is a near synonym of terms such as ‘folk’, ‘popular’, ‘subaltern’, ‘traditional’ and ‘particularistic’. Emphasising a privileged relationship to place, the vernacular stands in implicit (and idealized) opposition to the universal, the classical, the cosmopolitan, the urban, the hegemonic.

Yet the development of modern national cultures has represented a sort of vernacularization of the universal. Herder's Volklieder provided a model for nations with impoverished literary heritages (as Pascale Casanova puts it) to compensate for the lag between themselves and long established national literatures by textualizing vernacular traditions.  From the Romantic period onwards, western culture has constantly integrated bursts of (mediated) energy from vernacular worlds, from the folk poetry of peasants transformed into national epics such as Finland¹s Kalevala, to what James Clifford has called ‘ethnographic surrealism’.

The vernacular world was satirized by the 17th century Gaelic literati and idealized by Gaelic revivalists. Irish modernism, whether in the ‘particularistic’ movement to revive the marginalized vernacular language and create a modern literature in it, or in the engagement of key figures with the popular tradition (Yeats, Lady Gregory, Synge). At the same time Joyce, perhaps the most canonical (and ‘universalistic’) of modern Irish writers, had a much more ambiguous attitude to this vernacular cultural revival (and yet what book is more ‘vernacular’ than Ulysses?).

For more information and to join our mailing list contact oconnellhouse@nd.edu.

Executive Director: Diarmuid O’ Giollain 
Directors: Christopher Fox, Patrick Griffin, Declan Kiberd, Barry McCrea, Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, Robert Schmuhl.

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