Press Release

United Islands? Multi-Lingual Radical Poetry and Folk Song

in Britain and Ireland, 1770–1820

Oileáin Aontaithe? Filíocht Radacach Ilteangach agus Amhráin na nDaoine

in Éirinn agus sa Bhreatain 1770 1820

Eileanan Aonaichte? Bàrdachd Radaigeach Ioma-chànanach agus Mith-òrain ann am Breatainn agus Èirinn 1770–1820

Conjunct Islands? Mony-Leidit Raidical Makin an Fowk Sang in Breetain an

Ireland, 1770–1820

13–15 November 2008

The Great Hall, Queen’s University Belfast

Organised by Dr John Kirk, Dr Andrew Noble and Dr Michael Brown


8th Language & Politics Symposium of the Gaeltacht and Scotstacht

Organised by Dr John Kirk and Prof. Dónall Ó Baoill

for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, with the support of the AHRC Research Networks and Workshops Scheme, the AHRC Research Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast Centre for Eighteenth-century Studies, Queen’s University Internationalisation Fund, the School of English, the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, the School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts,  the Linen Hall Library, and Foras na Gaeilge

One of the most prestigious symposia so far to be held in the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast opens tomorrow morning, 13 November, and will run until Saturday evening, 15 November. The symposium is concerned with radical, dissenting poetry from 1770–1820, much of which was published anonymously or pseudo-anonymously, even by established writers such as Robert Burns. The poetry came from every part of these islands and was written in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Scots, English and Latin. Many poems were composed as songs. It is the first time that linguists, folk song scholars, literary critics and historians of radicalism have come together in such a holistic way to discuss the relationship of poetry and folksong with history, at a time long before the broadcasting or a popular press. One of the aims of the symposium is to prepare the way for a major research project on radical poetry from that late eighteenth-century period, which culminated in the 1798 rebellion and the Act of Union in 1801.

Scholars from literally around the world have accepted invitations to come and present overview papers or to take part, including Prof. Iain McCalman (University of Sydney), Prof. Leith Davis (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver), Prof. Katie Trumpener (Yale University), Prof. Julia Wright (Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS) and from Notre Dame University in Indiana Prof. Luke Gibbons, Prof. Kevin Whelan and Dr Brendan MacSuibhne. From England, there will be contributions from Prof. John Barrell (York), Prof. Jon Mee (Warwick), Prof. Bob Harris (Oxford), Dr Catriona Kennedy (York) and, from Wales, Dr Claire Connolly (Cardiff University); from Ireland, speakers will include Prof. Terence Brown (TCD), Prof. Andrew Carpenter (UCD), Dr John Moulden (NUIG), Siobhan Fitzpatrick (RIA), Vincent Morley (Dublin) and Terry Moylan (Piobairí Uilleann); from Scotland speakers include Prof. Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow), Prof. William Gillies and Dr Alex Murdoch (both University of Edinburgh), and Prof. Tom Bartlett and Terry Brotherstone (both University of Aberdeen). In this august company, Queen’s holds its own with presentations from its own world-class scholars of the period Prof. Ed Larrissy, Prof. Brian Caraher, Prof. Edna Longley and Dr Peter Mackay. There will also be a presentation by Dr. Frank Ferguson (University of Ulster).

The symposium is funded by the highly prestigious and fiercely competitive Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Networks and Workshops scheme and is the first of a series of events on radical poetry in the coming year. The second will be the Burns Night on 27 January 2009, at which the main speaker will be Andrew O’Hagan. The symposium has been organised by Dr John Kirk (of the School of English at Queen’s University), Dr Andrew Noble (formerly of Strathclyde University) and Dr Michael Brown (of the Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen). It has received support from the Queen’s Internationalisation Fund and the Queen’s Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

The symposium doubles up as the 8th Language and Politics Symposium on the Gaeltacht and Scotstacht, which is organised annually by Dr John Kirk and Prof. Dónall Ó Baoill (of Irish and Celtic Studies within the School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts at Queen’s University Belfast) as a constituent event of the highly-acclaimed AHRC Research Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies, of which the director is Prof. Cairns Craig (University of Aberdeen), who will also be speaking at the symposium. Further external funding has come from Foras na Gaeilge.

In addition to a rich and exciting programme of top-notch survey papers on both the loyalist as well as radical poetry (especially by Burns and Moore, including contemporary poetry in Irish, Gaelic, Welsh and Latin, and their importance for the historiography of radicalis), there will be two special sessions. The first will be held on the evening of Thursday 13 November in the Linen Hall Library where participants will be given a talk by Siobhan Fitzpatrick (Royal Irish Academy. Participation is by invitation and advance registration – anyone wishing to attend should contact Dr Kirk in the first instance.

Dr John Kirk (chief organiser and Senior Lecturer in English and Scottish Language at Queen’s) has remarked that “the symposium brings to the Seamus Heaney Centre for poetry at Queen’s one of the richest intellectual gatherings ever known in the Queen’s Humanities research. We are proud to host such a highly distinguished group of scholars, among whom are not only many world-class experts but a group of highly promising young post-doctoral scholars only beginning to make their mark. In establishing the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, the university envisaged it as a research centre hosting externally-funded research on poetry. The present symposium could not be a finer example.”