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.

Reading in the Digital Age

As a digital native coming from a background in English literature and Computer science, I’m interested in exploring how the digital age has impacted the way we as a society read and engage with literature.

I will pursue research that aims to examine the ways in which society’s reading has transformed since the digital age. In the article How We Read Now: Close, Hyper, Machine N. Katherine Hayles notes how, in the past twenty years, reading of print has significantly declined. I wish to expand on Hayles’ theories by conducting thorough research into the ways in which the hypertext and the mass availability of digital sources have facilitated a swift decline in the reading of traditional print sources. Owing to this, my research will explore how the vast amount of information available to us through hypertext encourages skim-reading as opposed to the traditional method of close-reading when engaging with a printed text.

Moreover, I will analyse how the vast popularity of smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices such as laptops have changed the ways in which we engage with literature and film; it is not uncommon for an individual immersed in the digital age to watch television while playing computer games, participating in social media, reading online articles, and/or texting and I wish to study the impact this has on the way we read. As opposed to using digital tools to research literature, I wish to examine the ways in which digital tools have impacted how we engage with literature as a whole.


Narrative Though Digital:

I have always been interested in collections; collections can be anything from photographs to diaries. Each collection tells a story – an untold true story or simply an interesting life story. I am big into autobiography particularly those who lived before my time. I enjoy looking at personal artistic journals as well because often they tell more about the person than they actually tell us themselves.

In the next few months, I will be studying how people created a narrative story and how it can apply in my own research on Nancy McCarthy’s Collection, which I am hoping to develop. I will be observing the ways people conserved the artifacts and how this was done prior to the digital period and up until now.

Studying stories will be a tricky one as “stories” are so broad and I am interested in gathering “real” sources and plan to create a narrative by using these digital artifacts and showing the collection online. I hope to go on and do research about the personal lifestyle e.g. socialite, traveler, chemist etc and try to understand her life journey if possible but my main interest is in the use of the “primary” source and in transforming them into a story.

On reflecting on this collection I am transported into a ‘magic circle’ as if I were transferred back to Nancy McCarthy’s time and it becomes present to me. I am hoping to create the same feeling though the digital experience. Digitisation is really important today due to the nature of the artifacts. These stories needed to be shared so this collection will be re-recorded forever and I hope people will continue to feel the same way as I do.

Caroline Bowen.

Changes in Children’s Culture as Consumers

Can you see a change in how children view products nowadays compared to our generation? With the amount of exposure children have to the media, are they able to differentiate between the programme they watch and an advertisement? I have a lot of questions, being a communicator, marketer and especially, a mother.

You can see evidence of these questions now in the run-up to Christmas. The mad dash to get the presents, shelling out the money for the top-class gifts. But in reality, do they really need them or have they been told by the media and peer pressure that they do? This is how children’s culture is today. A fast moving, commercialised, digital age for the “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001).

I am hoping to question how the change in children’s culture (particularly of children before the ages of 13) has shifted the strategic planning of marketers in publishing, when looking at children as consumers. The market for this age was always a large one, but has changed radically in areas of how to market a book. It is no longer just a book, it’s a brand, it’s a concept, and it’s a digital tool. Children always liked the idea of a story, but what about when they finished the book?

I will also look into the idea of how this shift has filtered into the learning environment of primary schools. With more children reading from a tablet or laptop, has hyper reading effected their cognitive skills when it comes to learning?

Maeve Ahern

Electronic Literature

Hello everyone! My name is Aisling Burke, I am a recent graduate of University College Cork with a BA Single Honours in English with Computer Science. As a student whose background is predominantly based on English literature, I am keen to explore how digital technologies are now being exploited in order to explore new forms and genres of literature. My current areas of interest include: digital literature, intertextuality, combinatorial literature, publishing, and E-ink technologies.

An interesting area that I have recently come across is electronic literature. Katherine Hayles provides a concise description of e-lit as literature that is “digital born”, a first-generation digital object that has been created on a computer and that is usually meant to be read on a computer, as opposed to print literature that has been digitized. (Electronic Literature: What is it?) The Electronic Literature Organization which was set up in 1999 to encourage the teaching, reading and writing of literature as it changes in the digital world, adds further clarity by defining e-lit as “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.”

In contrast to print literature that appears on a page, electronic literature is designed to engage the reader’s senses. The reader experiences the literature in a range of ways which incorporate sight, sound, touch and interactivity. The reader/user also plays a part in the narrative, which transforms the narrative from a static linear text to a dynamic and sometimes fragmented one, thus allowing a new form of engagement with the text. Therefore in electronic literature the reading process becomes active and exploratory rather than passive and predetermined (Swiss, Electronic Literature: Discourses, Communities, Traditions, 288).

Electronic literature incorporates a diverse range of forms in its construction of narratives which include: hypertext fiction and poetry, kinetic poetry, computer art installation, chat bots, computer generated stories and poetry, collaborative writing and interactive fiction.  For a comprehensive description of the above mentioned forms it is highly recommendable to visit the Electronic Literature Organization’s website. Electronic literature is an embodiment of the ever growing influence of the web and internet on society and culture. The many genres and forms which electronic literature incorporates illustrate the current fascination with films, computer games, narratives, graphics, animations, social media and the digital in general.

E-lit, in my opinion, should not be viewed as separate from print literature but as a new innovative extension that has arisen from the influence of print literature. Like all new experiences the past will influence the present, and I believe this is particularly true of electronic literature, a novice of e-lit will view and judge the literature based on their past influences and knowledge of traditional print literature or as Katherine Hayles (Electronic Literature: What is it?) more eloquently puts it “readers come to digital literature with expectations formed by print, of necessity e-lit must build on these expectations even as it modifies and transforms them.”

Traditionally, in print literature there are two fundamental components, the author and the reader, however, e-lit is designed to be read on a computer thus introducing another paramount component, the computer. A paramount aspect to understanding e-lit is the incorporation and use of code. Print books have an organised structure, for example, a table of contents, page numbers, end-notes, chapter titles and so forth, similarly, e-lit that is run through computing code has a structure and set of rules which it must follow. Unlike traditional print narratives, electronic literature cannot be read/played until it is run through properly executed code. Thus, e-lit is both a literary and technical creation. As the complexity of code has evolved over the years so too has the complexity of e-lit progressed. In comparison to recent aesthetically pleasing and complex works, the first examples of e-lit tended to be far more basic, with large blocks of text, few animations, graphics and colours (Hayles). Hayles further argues that while hypertext is considered the distinguishing feature of the earlier works, later works utilise complex navigation schemes and interface metaphors which has led her to categorise the earlier works as “first generation” and the later works as “second generation”. The categorisation system not only exemplifies the evolution of the use of technology in literature, it also serves as a useful tool to the literary scholar when taking a critical approach to electronic literature. An understanding of both print literature and of code is important in digital humanities research.

As with traditional print literature preservation and archiving of e-lit are vital. There is a strong possibility that certain forms of e-lit may become unplayable after a time due to new platforms being introduced. As a result a number of preservation and archiving databases and websites have been established in an effort to counteract the threat. The Electronic Literature Collection which is a publication of the Electronic Literature Organisation is one such website. Other organizations include:

Undoubtedly, computers are playing an increasing role in our lives, a clear understanding of the roles which digital culture plays in society, individual lives and in the scholarly community as a whole are paramount, as Espen Aarseth notes: “the emerging new media technologies are not important in themselves, nor as alternatives to older media, but should be studied for what they can tell us about the principles and evolution of human communication” (17). It is paramount to draw on traditional literature and its associated scholarly studies and criticisms in the digital humanities. It is also vital that the traditional is merged with recent and evolving modes of networked and programmable media, in order words it is essential to “think digital” (Hayles). E-lit is enthralling as it shows the evolution that writing and publishing has undergone. Not only can you now access literature in print, you can access and experience literature in new and exciting ways online, whether good or bad, new experiences are always a learning tool and electronic literature is important in the digital humanities as it is writing in a new form that may be attributed to digital culture.



Works Cited:

“What Is E-Lit?” The Electronic Literature Organization. The Electronic Literature Organization, 1999. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” The Electronic Literature Organization. The Electronic Literature Organization, 02 Jan. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Swiss, Thomas. “Electronic Literature Discourses, Communities, Traditions.”Memory Bytes: History, Technology, and Digital Culture. Ed. Lauren Rabinovitz and Abraham Geil. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. 283-304. Print.

Exploring the new ways of sharing knowledge

Lorenzo_Valla_aport011Since the entrance of the humanities into the digital world, philology has been changing, and in my opinion the most significant shift involves scholars’ aims and ways of thinking.

In the past, choices had to be made as to whether to edit and publish a version of a manuscript, even an error-ridden one, based on one single version, or to try to produce the ‘best’ edition using many different versions, when either choice necessitated the inclusion of footnotes to accommodate the extra material. In the current technological age, digital tools allow us to move beyond these kinds of issues. One of the best examples of this concept is John Bryant’s fluid text edition of Herman Melville’s Typee. The aim is no longer, or not necessarily, to produce definitive, static, scholarly editions restricted by the  boundaries of print. Culture is becoming more democratic than ever, and scholars are sharing knowledge and ideas via many different platforms, allowing potentially every internet user to share in, and collaborate with these ideas. An example of this collaborative culture may be seen in the Transcribe Bentham project, promoted by UCL.

I come from a  background of philology and literary critique, and in the coming months I intend to explore how philologists can, and have already, placed themselves within this framework and study these new interactive and democratic ways of producing and sharing knowledge. Moreover, I propose to contribute by working on archival material and thinking about engaging ways to share my findings. The project I am interested in is the creation of a portrait of Tilly Fleischmann, who was a musician, teacher, and writer. She was born in Cork and studied piano in Munich with two students of Franz Liszt. Some information about her can be found here. I am fascinated by her character, as she is a figure who, in a certain sense, belongs to the “female genealogy” we need in the world of today– to use the terminology of the feminist scholar Luce Irigaray. You can follow how my research is progressing and where my readings are bringing me on my website, which bares the appropriate name of Wibbly wobbly literary stuff.

My interest in these new, digital ways of sharing knowledge prompted me to apply for an internship with the CELT project. Currently I am working on a brief report written by Lorenzo Magalotti regarding the journey he made to Ireland as entourage for Cosimo III de’ Medici in 1669. I am proof-reading the original version, from the Italian Renaissance, taking care of the XML markup, and translating and summarizing the introduction. These are simple tasks, but the work is pleasing and interesting, and above all, the idea of bringing a contribution in the sharing of culture, even if in a small part, satisfies me greatly.


2000, University College London-Gower Street- London- WC1E 6BT Tel: +4420 7679. “UCL Transcribe Bentham.” N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

Burke, Carolyn, Naomi Schor, and Margaret Whitford. Engaging with Irigaray: Feminist Philosophy and Modern European Thought. Columbia University Press, 1994. Print.

Fleischmann, Ruth. “TILLY FLEISCHMANN NÉE SWERTZ (1882-1967).” N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2015.

Melville, Herman. “Herman Melville’s ‘Typee’ : A Fluid-Text Edition.” Text. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.

Image source

de, Boissard, Jean-Jacques; Bry, Theodor. Lorenzo Valla, Humanist. N.p., [object HTMLTableCellElement]. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.