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Graduate Irish Studies conference
continues tradition begun at UConn
March 23, 1998

The 10th Graduate Irish Studies Conference, "The Presence of the Past: 1798-1998," will take place at the University of Connecticut March 27-29.

The conference, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the first major Irish uprising, began 12 years ago at UConn. It was started by graduate students seeking an alternative forum for Irish studies that would emphasize critical analysis and an interdisciplinary approach. This year's conference, organized by English Ph.D. candidates Ellen O'Brien, Joseph Lennon and Barbara Suess, includes papers in literature, history, geography, sociology, music, film and political science.

A panel on "Bridging Irish History and Politics" on Sunday, March 29, at 1 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom, includes Seamus Brennan, representing the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), and Bruce Morrison, a member of the Clinton administration, U.S. political advocate for Irish affairs, and a former Connecticut legislator, who is involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. The Consul General of Ireland also will attend the conference.

Other speakers are Luke Gibbons of Dublin City University, Paul Muldoon of Princeton, Kevin Whelan of the University of Notre Dame, Marjorie Howes of Rutgers, Mick Moloney, a musician and ethnomusicologist, and Thomas Bartlett of University College, Dublin.

Panel presenters and chairs at the conference include more than 80 graduate students from institutions around the country and overseas.

Lennon says "There is a groundswell of interest in things Irish right now in the Northeast and across America." He says there are about 40 million Irish Americans in the United States, including a large Irish American population in Hartford county and in Springfield and Worcester, Mass.

Suess adds that the area of Irish studies at UConn, involving mostly faculty in the history and English departments, is growing. Last year, the University introduced a new concentration in Irish literature as part of the major in English, and Irish literature will be listed as an option in the next edition of the graduate studies catalog. There is also a new reading group, the Irish Studies Alliance, involving faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates.

The conference is sponsored by UConn, the American Conference for Irish Studies, the Irish-American Cultural Institute and the Connecticut Humanities Council. In addition, the Elizabeth Shanley Gerson '48 Irish Literature Program will support two lectures a year in UConn's English department, beginning with a poetry reading by Paul Muldoon on Saturday, March 28, at 8 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. The second lecture in the series will be by Irish novelist Edna O'Brien on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the William Benton Museum of Art.

Conference organizer Ellen O'Brien says she hopes this year's conference will help build Irish Studies at UConn and keep the tradition of an annual conference going. "We are using the resources of UConn to call attention to the resources we have," she says. "The conference brings a lot of attention to UConn and to the English department."

Lennon says that organizing the conference has helped the conference directors establish and reestablish connections not only with the top Irish scholars but with graduate students across America, Europe, and Canada. "Gibbons and Whelan and Muldoon are stars of Irish literature, culture and history academically.

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu