Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture

O Buachalla: An Appreciation

This annual lecture honors the memory of Breandán Ó Buachalla (1936-2010), who was the inaugural Thomas J. and Kathleen M. O'Donnell Chair of Irish Language and Literature at the University of Notre Dame. Ó Buachalla was instrumental to the success of both the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Department of Irish Language and Literature.

About Ó Buachalla

This annual memorial lecture provides an opportunity to recognize a premier scholar of Irish culture, literature, and linguistics.  On the occassion of the inaugural Ó Buachalla lecture in 2014, Christopher Fox, then-Director of the Keough-Naughton Institute, said "Breandán  "Breandán had mythic, larger-than-life status in Irish language and Irish Studies circles where he was known as 'The Great Ó Buachalla,' the scholar who had written the most important book on Irish-speaking culture in the last fifty years, his classic 800 page study of Jacobite Ireland."

When Breandán Ó Buachalla took the Thomas J. and Kathleen M. O’Donnell Chair, he became the first new endowed chair of Irish in North America since the Hibernian Chair at Catholic University in 1896 — a point of which he was proud. Known for his sense of humor, devotion to his family, commitment to his students and intolerance of shoddy work, his presence is felt today. Because of Breandán’s work and vision, the new Department of Irish he built now receives international recognition.

Breandán is “much missed,” said Fox, “but his legacy at Notre Dame will live on in the classroom and in the field of Irish language and literature for many years to come.”

Upcoming Lecture

Pádraig Ó Siadhail, professor emeritus at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, will deliver the 10th annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture titled “Seán Breanach and Irish-language discourse on Afrikaans and Apartheid” at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2024.

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Past Lectures

2022: Clíona Ní Ríordáin — “Contemporary Irish Writing: The Ecolinguistic Turn”

On August 26, 2022, the 2022 Annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture was delivered by Clíona Ní Ríordáin, professor of English at the University Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, where she teaches Irish literature and translation studies and convenes the Master’s programme in Irish Studies.

In the lecture, Ní Ríordáin looked at the way in which the Irish language has been central to a number of recent books within contemporary English language literature in Ireland. Some examples she discussed were Thirty-Two Words for Field by Manchán Magan, Thin Places by Kerry ní Dochartaigh, and The Colony by Audrey Magee. She will trace the trend back to earlier texts, like The Last Geraldine Officer by Thomas McCarthy, and to one of Seamus Heaney's early poems, “For the Commander of the Eliza.”

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2021: Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh — “The Impossible and the Ridiculous: An Enduring Motif in Irish Tradition from Medieval to Modern”

On April 6, 2021, Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh, lecturer in the Department of Early and Medieval Irish at University College Cork delivered a virtual lecture in honor of the late Breandán Ó Buachalla.

The theme of Dr. Ó Dochartaigh's lecture — visual representations of the ridiculous — are widespread in the margins of medieval manuscripts, particularly from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, where snails attacking knights, reading monkeys, and armed hares abound. The theme is also widespread in medieval poetry, popular ballads and later folktales, where these impossibilities or wonders grew into a fully-formed comic genre with sequences of impossible or ridiculous images strung together. An obscure Irish poem may be the sole literary witness of such impossibilities in a medieval Irish context. However, the motif reaches a highpoint in Ireland much later in the Amhrán Bréagach genre, a song-type collected in a number of Gaeltacht areas in the twentieth century.

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2020: Sarah McKibben — “Irish Bardic Poetry and Rhetorical Realpolitik: Early Modern Colonial Maneuvers.”

On Feburary 7, 2020, Sarah McKibben, associate professor of Irish language and literature at the University of Notre Dame and a faculty fellow of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, delivered the 2020 Annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture,

Professor McKibben’s research focuses on Irish poets of the 16th and 17th centuries, who composed compelling artistic expressions of praise and warning — as well as satire — in the face of an antagonistic, expanding Tudor-Stuart state. For her second book focusing on bardic defenses of their practices in the face of attack, she won a fellowship for 2019 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as one in 2018 from the American Council of Learned Societies. McKibben is the author of Endangered Masculinities in Irish Poetry, 1540-1780 (UCD Press, 2010), which received Honorable Mention for the 2010 Rhodes Prize from the American Conference for Irish Studies.

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2019: Peter McQuillan — “Remarks on the History of Social and Political Concepts in Irish.”

Peter McQuillan, associate professor of Irish language and literature at the University of Notre, delivered the annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture on February 1, 2019.

McQuillan holds a B.A. and M.A. from University College, Dublin, and a Ph.D. in Celtic languages and literatures from Harvard. Before coming to Notre Dame, he held the Sir John Rhys Studentship in Celtic Studies at Jesus College, Oxford University, and taught Irish at the University of Regensburg in Germany and at Harvard.

He has published articles in the Journal of Celtic Linguistics and Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium. He is the author of Modality and the Subjunctive Mood in Irish (2002) and Native and Natural: Aspects of the Concepts of Right and Freedom in Irish (2004), an analysis of the transformation of concepts of rights and freedom as expressed in the Irish language.

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2018: Diarmuid Ó Giolláin — “Irish Overdetermination: Strategies for Entering and Leaving the Gaeltacht”

On March 2, 2018, Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, chair of the Department of Irish Language and Literature and concurrent Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, delivered the annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture.

Professor Ó Giolláin's interests include popular religion in Ireland as well as folklore and popular culture in the history of ideas and of institutions. He is the author of Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity (2000), winner of the Katherine Briggs Folklore Prize 2000, and runner-up for the Radcliffe Prize 2001, and An Dúchas agus an Domhan (2005), as well as more than forty articles and papers. Professor Ó Giolláin teaches Irish folklore with an emphasis on narrative folklore.

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2017: Bríona Nic Dhiarmada — “‘Our likes will not be seen again’: Aspects of Irish-Language Autobiography”

On February 17, 2017, Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, the Thomas J. & Kathleen M. O'Donnell Professor of Irish Studies and Concurrent Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame, presented the annual lecture in honor of the late Breandán Ó Buachalla.

Nic Dhiarmada is originator, writer, producer, and executive producer of the award-winning, multipart documentary series on the Easter Rising, 1916 The Irish Rebellion, and its 86-minute feature version, both narrated by Liam Neeson, that were broadcast and screened internationally throughout 2016 and 2017.

Additionally, Nic Dhiarmada has authored over 35 screen plays and 10 documentaries. She is the author of Téacs Baineann, Téacs Mná: Filíocht Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill as well as numerous articles on Irish language literature and culture. Additionally, she is an editor of The Field Day Anthology and co-editor with Máire Ní Annracháin of Téacs agus Comhthéacs: Gnéithe de Chritic na Gaeilge.

A film about the life of Professor Ó Buachalla preceded the lecture.

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2016: Barry McCrea — “Language Change and Social Class in the Novel: Proust, Ó Cadhain, Myles na Gopaleen, Ferrante”

On February 18, 2016, Barry McCrea, the Donald R. Keough Family Professor of Irish Studies and professor of English, Irish language and literature, and romance languages and literatures at the University of Notre Dame, delivered the annual lecture in honor of the late Breandán Ó Buachalla.

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2015: Tomás Ó Cathasaigh — “Man and Bull in Táin Bó Cúailnge

On March 31, 2015, Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Irish Studies in the Department of Celtic Languages and Literature at Harvard University, presented the second annual lecture in honor of the late Breandán Ó Buachalla. Ó Cathasaigh used an article written by Ó Buachalla in the Irish literary magazine Comhar as a point of departure for his talk “Man and Bull in Táin Bó Cúailnge.”

Ó Cathasaigh's work focuses on early Irish narrative literature and his most recent book Coire Sois, The Cauldron of Knowledge: A Companion to Early Irish Saga (2013) was published by the University of Notre Dame Press. Given his work on the use of language in literature and his course work in Old and Middle Irish language and literature, Ó Cathasaigh was an ideal representative of the Irish language and O'Buachalla himself.

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2014: Cormac Ó Gráda — “Gaeilge anois labharfar: Travails of the Irish Language”

On March 27, 2014, Cormac Ó Gráda, Distinguished Naughton Fellow and emeritus professor of economics at University College Dublin, delivered the inaugural Ó Buachalla lecture at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Ó Gráda’s major books include Ireland: A New Economic History 1780-1939 (1994), Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce (2006) and Famine: A Short History (2009). Co-editor of the European Review of Economic History, Professor Ó Gráda is a member of the Irish Economic and Social History Society as well as the Royal Irish Academy, where he received the Academy's Gold Medal in 2010.

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