Thursday, January 10, 2013

Irish Lit: Week 1

 So ... apparently there IS a first time for everything. My instructor for the course, LIT420: Irish Literature and National Identity, has as part of the weekly requirement a blog post! No kidding! We are supposed to start a blog, use one we already have, or use his. And this means I'll have a whole list of other student blogs to add to my personal blog roll, which I think is very cool, but now I'm all nervous about other students and an instructor seeing my blogs, and two otherwise rather separate universes have just collided. The violence of this collision just about suits the material we've started looking at.

That's the poster from our course site (cool, huh!), and here's the theme for this week's blog post - a quote from Oscar Wilde.
“We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks." Oscar Wilde
I'm a bit stuck on the thought of being "too poetical to be poets." Or, rather, it's got its hook in me. Some kind of bent sliver. It's irritating, but I cannot yet see it well enough to pull it out. I will have to come back to that when I can find the words for what I can only feel at the moment.

"Brilliant failures" - nah. Not going to touch that one either. Not yet, and probably not ever. What else is history but a record of all the brilliance and all the eventual failings of all the peoples of all the ages and nations and kindreds and tongues? That's just a very Irish way to express it.

"The greatest talkers since the Greeks" sounds about right. I've known some Irishmen. They've all been talkers. It's the Irish who are full of blarney, after all. Ireland is where the leprechauns are clever chatterers who will not let you catch them lest they have to show you their gold - and be forced to surrender it to you. This is the isle where local bars keep the talkers sheltered from the local rain, under the eaves and in the warmth where they can ply each other with the stories they can tell.
 To say that the Pub is the center of Irish social life is merely stating the obvious. When its good, the craic is only mighty. Craic (pronounced crack) is that wonderful mix of drink, talk, good spirits, and exuberance that suits ceol so well. Ceol? Song.
Wilde wasn't inventing a national identity - he was just noticing it.

We are in the first week of the term. I know there will be a lot to discover about the words of these people. I already love several of those authors, and the one small classroom scene from War of the Buttons packed enough punch to have haunted me for a long time. The schoolmaster is having the children write in their native tongue. Their own language - and not the language of their English oppressors. To use the words of one's own people, in the language of one's own people - this is a humanizing and ennobling act of self-assertion. The words of the Irish will, I suspect, come to mean rather a lot to me this term. And since my instructor is a madman who requires public blog posts about our course material, all my friends and family will be here while I wrestle with this stuff.

After all . . .

my ancestors were Norse marauders

and my faith is practiced in an Anglican expression

so this is a bit like forming a friendship with a verbose garden gnome (who's really a mighty high king under a spell - and if I ignore that circumstance it will be to my own peril)

1 comment:

  1. Stephanie,

    I love your blog and I have a feeling I'm going to look forward to reading your posts each week. Personally I feel as if Oscar Wilde was being a bit ironic with this quote and that it has layers of meaning rather than an obvious message. But that is what my post is about, so I won't expand on that here.

    I do love your definition of history, though--"What else is history but a record of all the brilliance and all the eventual failings of all the peoples of all the ages and nations and kindreds and tongues?" What a lovely and succinct way of expressing how complicated and not black-and-white history is.