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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

César Vallejo and the Future of Irish Studies

wrote to Robert Bridges once with the dreadful confession that he had begun to ‘doubt Tennyson’. I don’t feel bad about it at all, but reading the programme of the recent IASIL (International Association for the Study of Irish Literature) conference in Dublin, it strikes me that I… hate… Irish… Studies. There’s the proposal in the call for papers to address how the twenty-first century is ‘impacting’ on Irish culture for a start, not to mention the good old ‘monolith of Catholic nationalism’ that pops up a few lines later, still eroding endlessly after all these years like a piece of radioactive waste, but with ever-increasing urgency just because the country has a few more Romanians about the place these days, furrowing the brow of every Irish Studies academic who drives past them on that roundabout they’ve been camping on on the M50.

The list of conference papers mentions ‘Irish’ 147 times, and is full of Japanese, Germans and Italians reimagining and rethinking Irishness in the work of Eavan Boland, Seamus Heaney and all the rest of the Irish Studies tea-towel first eleven. It all makes me want to take these people aside at customs in Dublin airport and explain how, unlike our dastardly neighbours, we Irish may not have gone around invading the rest of the world, but not only has our global conspiracy to make you read Brian Friel instead (and enjoy the experience) gone swimmingly, we’ve also succeeded in distracting your attention from the fact that unlike you, with your interest in us, we, frankly, couldn’t give a shit about you. Leaving aside of course all those world-famous Irish figures in Luxembourg Studies and Hungarian Studies and their academic blockbusters Inventing Luxembourg and Revising Hungarianism.

Here’s my modest proposal. Kidnap all the plenary speakers at the next IASIL conference and don’t let them out of the library until they’ve each written a book about their favourite Bolivian/Moldovan/Cambodian poet. Impose a blanket ban on the words ‘Ireland’, ‘Irish’ and ‘Irishness’, ushering in a renaissance in the study of W.B. Yeats’s use of the spondee, punctuation in Seamus Heaney, and line-breaks in Thomas Kinsella. Offer emergency counselling services in National Megalomania Deficit Disorder for academics who choose to go cold turkey.

Beckett did not write Watt, nor Flann O’Brien The Third Policeman, nor Vallejo Trilce, to have their work discussed in terms of ‘Ireland’, ‘Irish’ and ‘Irishness’. Certainly not Vallejo. That’s because he was Peruvian, and not Irish at all. And thank God for that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A chara,

I have a copy of Vallejo's Posthumous Poetry. Great poet and not only was he Peru's national poet but he was a great communist as well!

Which leads me to ask - what header is trying to link him to Ireland?

Whats the jist of the theory?