Abstract for Hilary Week One
Joyce’s Maamtrasna Revisited: Language Matters
Writing of current attitudes to bilingualism, Doris Sommer has observed: ‘Some educators and politicians consider nonelite bilinguals to be damaged raw material that needs to be pressed into simple and transparent form before it can bear complexity.’ This paper will take as its subject the Maamtrasna murders (1882) and the trial of the Irish-speaking Myles Joyce, as discussed in James Joyce’s 1907 essay ‘Ireland at the Bar’. It will revisit the infamous trial and execution, and the ensuing and contested narratives, from the perspective of language shift in late nineteenth-century Ireland. An examination of the dynamics of monolingualism and bilingualism within that historical moment offers an opportunity to discuss more generally how and why ‘language matters’ in Irish cultural studies.
Professor Margaret Kelleher, Chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama, University College Dublin