A niche subject within a niche subject within a niche subject within a niche subject within a subject………..

As some of you may be sick of hearing at this stage, the subject area I intend to do my dissertation on is that of the experience of Irish speakers in foreign armies. The clue is in the title of my blog. History in general is a very broad field, as is Irish history in particular. It just so happens that I find Ireland’s military history to be the most fascinating aspect of it. Although there is a wealth of literature (and good literature at that) on the subject, it is (in my view) not a fully explored area. At the moment, there is something of a revival of interest in Irish military history, but it seems to focus almost exclusively upon the Irish in the British armed forces, and as well as that (or perhaps because of it), upon the First World War. Why only this country and why only this period? That’s a rhetorical question but I wish it didn’t have to be.

My theory is that there is a basic unwillingness to explore Irish military history and its connections with Gaelic culture in Ireland; this problem does not exist in relation to Scotland, as Titley (2011) points out, because several sets of war memoirs in Scots Gaelic have been published. Hanley (2013) characterizes many of those who focus on the First World War as having an anti-nationalist/anti-republican bias by linking their ‘glorification’ that conflict with an apparent distaste for the Easter Rising. Such thinkers – in relation to Irish history – are termed ‘revisionists’, a group which, according to Whelan (2004), has tended to disregard the value of Irish language sources for historical research. In response to this, I would like to tell the stories of various Irish speakers involved in military conflicts going back to the Middle Ages.

In addition, there is very little literature dealing with the experiences of Irish speakers in any army for any period. So what I’d like to do is put together something which tells their story. Considering the fact that we’re just under half way through the year, I have a very good idea of just how I want to do this. For starters, I’ve put together a blog (which I don’t get to update as often as I’d like!). Every entry I put on it focuses on an Irish speaker who took part in a war. The entry is tagged by the nation he/she fought for, the branch of the service (usually army, but in some cases navy, air force, civilian support/recruitment drives), what period and which conflict(s). Given the subject matter (and my background in translation), I have decided that each blog post should be bilingual.


Hanley, B. (2013, September 11). The fuzzy nostalgia encouraged by Poppy Day facilitates the justification  of war. The Irish Times. Dublin. Retrieved from http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/the-fuzzy-nostalgia-encouraged-by-poppy-day-facilitates-the-justification-of-war-1.1588719?page=2

Titley, A. (2011). Nailing Theses – Selected Essays. Belfast: Lagan Press.

Whelan, K. (2004). The Revisionist Debate in Ireland. Boundary 2, 31(1), 179–205.


Translation and the development of a cultural identity

Translation doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but in a continuum; it is not an isolated act, it is part of an ongoing process of intercultural transfer. Moreover, translation is a highly manipulative activity that involves all kinds of stages in that process of transfer across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Translation is not an innocent, transparent activity but is highly charged with significance at every stage; it rarely, if ever, involves a relationship of equality between texts, authors or systems. (Bassnett, 1990)

In the 1990s, studies in Translation experienced a major breakthrough with the development of Post-Colonial Translation Studies, in which, according to Susan Bassnet and André Lefevere, “neither the word, nor the text, but the culture becomes the operational ‘unit’ of translation” (Lefevere and Bassnett 1990: 8). Translations, like literary works themselves, do not exist without a context and a culture that defines and shapes them, and to which development and shaping they can also contribute.

Taking the Post-Colonial Translation Studies as a theoretical frame, and understanding its critical importance for peripheral languages such as Galician in Spain, I am focusing my research on translation and the development of cultural identity in the figure of Plácido Castro, prominent Galician intellectual and translator who carried out translations of many works by Irish, Scottish and English writers and expressed his desire to develop Galician identity within the frame of Celtic cultures.

In my research I explore a number of questions concerning translation and the development of identity, focusing on Castro’s translations and the context in which they were carried out. Firstly, I would like to ascertain the reasons that encouraged Plácido Castro to translate into Galician. I expect to find a desire to influence in Galician identity and political life, as well as a drive to enrich the Galician literary scene at the time. Plácido was very active in the Galician political life before the Spanish Civil War, and at that time he translated, along with Antón Villar Ponte, Yeats’ dramas Cathleen ni Houlihan and The Land of Heart’s Desire. Both pieces are clearly identified with Ireland and its nationalist cause, which, for the Galician intellectuals of the time, was the perfect frame in which to formulate Galicia’s Celtic identity. However, after the Spanish Civil War, Castro withdraws from political life and focuses on essays and articles about literature, as well as on the translation of poetry. Many of his translations of Irish, Scottish and English poets, such as Yeats, Christina Rossetti and many others originated around this time. He publishes Poesía inglesa e francesa verquida ao galego, along with Lois Tobío and Delgado Gurriarán, and the translation of the Rubáiyat, by Omar Khayyám, from its English translation by Edward Fitzgerald. What arouses the change from drama to poetry in Plácido? Is it only because, as he himself affirms, “There is no language that could defeat Galician in poetic qualities and possibilities” (Ríos, 2013, the translation is mine)? Or is he still trying to contribute to the creation of a Celtic identity through a different channel? Why does he focus mostly on Irish poets, as well as on the Rubáiyat, which was not written in English originally?

Lastly, I would like to explore the impact of these translations in Galician society at the time, as well as their extended impact in the development of Galician identity both past and present. Have Castro’s translations contributed to the self-assertion of the Galician culture and the development of the Celtic identity that he refers to in many of his essays and journalistic writings?


Bassnett, Susan and Harish Trivedi (editors). (1999) Post-Colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.
Castro, P. (1928) La saudade y el arte en los pueblos célticos. El Pueblo Gallego.
Fundación Plácido Castro (2014) Plácido Castro Ramón del Río. [Website, last consult on 20/11/2014].
Lefevere, A. and Bassnett, S. (1990). “Introduction: Proust’s Grandmother and the Thousand and One Nights: The Cultural Turn in Translation Studies”, in Translation, History & Culture. London: Cassell.
Millán, C. (1997) “Nationalism vs. universalism in the 1926 Galician fragments of Ulysses”, in Galician Review 1, 1997.
Ríos, X. (editor) (2013). 101 Máximas e Reflexións de Plácido Castro. IGADI.
Tymoczko, M. (2002) “Translation and Political Engagement: Activism, Social Change and the Role of Translation in Geopolitical Shifts”, in The Translator: Volume 6, Number 1.