Campus News - October 1, 2001

Irish Renaissance festival underway

By Carolyn Gonzales

The UNM English Department presents, “The Irish Renaissance, 1890-1932,” an interdisciplinary cultural festival including public lectures, an academic course, an evening of Irish myth, music and storytelling, exhibits, an Irish film weekend, and dramatic presentations as part of the exploration of Irish culture. Estimated attendance is 1,320 for the events scheduled through Nov. 14.

“The Irish Renaissance was a period of national awakening and rediscovery that led up to Ireland’s political independence in 1922,” says Hugh Witemeyer, professor of English and program coordinator with Mary Power.

“Between 1880 and 1916, intellectuals – artists, writers and others – decided to break away from Great Britain culturally,” says Witemeyer, adding that they revived Gaelic tradition through folklore and the ancient myths and legends of heroes and heroines.
“The Irish language itself was revived. People took language classes in an effort to preserve the endangered language,” he says. Witemeyer also says that new literature was derived from old Irish myths and legends and from current peasant life.

Two plays by Augusta Lady Gregory will be presented that come out of that initiative at the Abbey Theater in Dublin. The plays, “Spreading the News” and “Hyacinth Halvey” will be performed Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at Theatre X in the UNM Center for the Arts. They are “clever and very funny” says Witemeyer, adding that a voice coach born in Dublin was brought in to give instruction on accents.

The Southwest Film Center will screen two films on Friday-Sunday, Oct. 19-21 in room 2018 in the Center for the Arts. “Michael Collins” depicts Ireland’s war of independence from British rule. “A Love Divided,” a best picture winner from the Monte Carlo Film Festival, looks at a Protestant-Catholic couple and the question of the children’s education.

Irish folk music will be performed on Sunday, Oct. 28 from 5-7 p.m. at Kelly’s Brewpub and Maxwell Museum will present Irish Dance: The McTeggart Irish Dancers demonstrating jigs, reels, hornpipes and ceilidh steps, on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.
English Professor Mary Power offers English 459/559, “The Irish Renaissance.” The course is already underway and the reading and writing assignments will complement topics presented in the public lecture series.

The lecture series is the hallmark of the entire event. The lectures are presented every other Monday between Oct. 1 and Nov. 12. All are scheduled in Anthropology Lecture Room 163 at 7 p.m.

Kicking off the series Monday, Oct. 1, Elizabeth Cullingford, University of Texas at Austin, presents “From Renaissance to Revolution: The Politics of Culture in Ireland, 1880-1916,” an overview of the cultural activities and political backgrounds of the Irish Renaissance.

The second lecture, “Staging Ireland: Contested Images from the Revival to the Rising” scheduled for Oct. 15, features Nicholas Grene, Trinity College, Dublin, who will give an account of the Irish nationalist theatre movement and the surrounding controversies.

On Oct. 29, Zack Bowen, University of Miami, will present, “Music and Politics: The Arts and Irish Rebellion,” a description and performance of Irish music of the period that carries patriotic overtones.

Concluding the series on Nov. 12, Tracy Mishkin, Georgia State University, presents, “The Irish Renaissance and African-American Writers.” Mishkin will look at the influence of the Irish Renaissance upon cultural movements that followed, including the Harlem Renaissance in New York in the 1920s and 30s.

An Irish Renaissance exhibition of photographs, books, posters and other artifacts at Jonson Gallery is also featured in October.
Jonson also hosts a reception following the first three lectures with music by Celtic harper Michele Buchanan.

The program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), colleges of arts and sciences and fine arts and the English and theater arts departments.

Visit www.unm.edu/~english/irish or call 277-6347.

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