Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making Ireland Roman: Irish Neo-Latin Writers and the Republic of Letters

A ground-breaking new study of Irish Renaissance Latin was launched by members of the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies, University College Cork, last week.

Foregrounding the research of scholars attached to the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies in UCC, the collection of articles edited by Jason Harris and Keith Sidwell, Making Ireland Roman: Irish Neo-Latin Writers and the Republic of Letters (Cork University Press, 2009), examines for the first time a lost continent of Irish intellectual life from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

Around 1,000 printed books in Latin were written by Irish authors between 1490 and 1750, and a vast manuscript corpus of Latin writing by Irishmen also survives from this period. Although modern scholars have tended to study English and Irish lanugage sources for the culture of Ireland at this time, much of the intellectual output aimed at an international scholarly community was composed in Latin. UCC's Centre for Neo-Latin Studies has pioneered new work in this area, and Making Ireland Roman is the first book to draw together the research of the Centre's scholars. Topics analysed include the earliest traces of the Renaissance in Ireland, the importance of style in writing Renaissance Latin, debates about political and national identities, and the efforts of prominent Irish scholars to record the history of their own country and intellectual traditions.

At a well-attended reception in the University College Cork, the newly-appointed Vice-Head of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies, and Social Sciences Professor Graham Allen of the School of English launched Making Ireland Roman. He commented on the continuing importance of Latin-language training for modern universities and remarked upon the vitality of the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies in UCC. After the launch, Professor Keith Sidwell of the University of Calgary, the former director of the Centre, gave a research paper on the 'lost literature' of early-modern Ireland, focusing upon Irish Latin poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Under its current director, Dr Jason Harris, the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies, School of History, UCC has secured funding from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences to study the earliest stages of the transmission of Renaissance ideas into Ireland. Dr Harris and Professor Sidwell are also collaborating on a large-scale survey of Irish writing in Latin c.1450-1750 which is due to be completed next year. The Centre's Neo-Latin Seminar continues to meet weekly to analyse Irish Latin texts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.