Centre for Irish Studies Seminar Day: On Silence

Projekter: ProjektForskning

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Interdisciplinary Symposium on Irish Studies: “Speaking of Silence”
Center for Irish Studies , April 27th at 5pm
Aarhus University
Organisers: Maria Beville (engmab@hum.au.dk)
Sara Dybris McQuaid (engsdm@hum.au.dk)
The very word “silence” is a paradox. It breaks silence: in speaking silence, we end it. Silence can be understood both as a lack of speech and as an essential part of speech. It is both constructive and subversive. It can be imposed and or embraced. Silence can be respectfully commemorative. It can be induced by trauma and shame.
In its oppressive form, silence can be a means of exclusion and marginalisation from which emerges a hegemonic discourse. As such, it is a powerful political tool employed by ruling elites in the writing of history and the disciplining of society. Yet, from a different perspective we can see that silence is not necessarily a violence. Silence can afford a space for dialogue to begin and for creativity to emerge. As Jacques Derrida claims, silence is the origin, the source of all speaking. “It is that which bears and haunts language, outside and against which alone language can emerge” (1978:54). Language provides silences for every word and silence too inevitably produces language.
There is not one but many silences. For its complexity, silence can be seen as a valuable point of intersection between various and often divergent theoretical discourses. Our interdisciplinary approach, with a focusing Irish context, will provide a rewarding research endeavour. Here in this institute, it is very clear that the research areas of linguistics, political history and literature have the capacity to combine to form a very productive discursive site. By bringing together three different but complementary approaches to silence, we hope to offer a plurivocal framework to renegotiate the term as pertinent in particular to an Irish context. In doing this, we hope to take a step toward accelerating debate on current cultural discussions of Irish Studies.
From Queen’s University Belfast, Dr. Stuart Ross will give a paper entitled: ‘Something Rotten in the State of the Peace Process: Explaining Dissident Republicanism in Northern Ireland”. The paper touches on silence in many different ways; from what has been called peace propaganda, - that is, the exclusion of dissident voices in public discourse, to the more pernicious silencing of dissidents in the shape of threats, intimidation, kidnapping and killling. Also, the silence in political discussion about the gap between what was promised in the peace process and what can be actually be delivered. Illuminating this piece of the puzzle in Northern Ireland will go far in explaining why silence is continuosly disrupted in this context from the margins and quite literally with a bang.
Dr. Stuart Ross’ book ‘Smashing H Blocks – the Popular Campaign Against Criminalization and the Irish Hunger Strikes 1976-1982 is published later this year with Liverpool Press.
From our own department then, Dr. Peter Slomanson will present “On the Great Silence: a gap in Irish historiography and consequences for language education in Ireland”. The transition from a predominantly Irish-speaking society to an overwhelmingly English-speaking society has been insufficiently investigated and analyzed, given the magnitude of the event and the scope of the changes that it represented for Irish society. The event has a name and an evocative one in native Irish language culture: an meath, roughly translatable as "the withering", as of forests and crops. Peter will attempt to answer questions such as what is the basis for this silence? And to what extent are the historical process and the silence around this process unique in Europe?
Finally, Dr. Steven Bond of Mary Immaculate College at the University of Limerick will finally present: "Silence for my brand new riddle!" James Joyce, Ulysses. This paper focuses on the conspicuous silence surrounding René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, amidst scores of lesser philosophers who are mentioned by name. It unearths Descartes' deliberate occlusion in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, behind such idiosyncratic biographical details as dreams of melons and poisonous tobacco/wine infusions. It will pose the question of whether Descartes might not have provided Joyce with a hidden structural framework for his masterpiece previously considered the exclusive remit of Homer's Odyssey.
This paper is an updated version of a plenary talk given to the James Joyce Society - New York - October 2010
◊ A discussion and questions answer session will follow.
◊ The symposium will conclude with wine and other refreshments accompanied by a traditional Irish folk music session
Music…allows sharing with the other(s) in difference before and beyond any word or cultural specificity (Irigaray 2004, 101).
Effektiv start/slut dato27/04/201128/04/2011

ID: 128927347