Friday, June 22, 2007

Downgrading of Old Irish at UCD

Letter to the editor, Irish Times, 22 June 2007. This eloquently defends the study of OI against budget cuts and UCD's ill-considered (lack of) judgment about relevance of medieval and classically based education. Surely the economy of an Ireland lavishing tax breaks for corporate comers and inviting a half-million immigrants can afford to fund the foundation of their national heritage. Surely?

By the way, this image comes, another blogger tells me (I update the original entry here 6/25) from googling "Irish Australia." I am adding that blogger to my links, in fact. It's by one Bo, gin-soaked at Oxford (wonder if he knows a post-grad peer, my pal Jessica March over at St. John's?) who posts at Atalanta Fvgiens. Sort of a Brideshead Revisited character for the post-Christian age. (Update: too "hobbit-like" for that, he demurs. Stuffed bear's the only tolerable character in the novel; although I liked Pheobe in the BBC-TV series as youthful spinster. I can applaud any Middle Earth preference within reason, and better staunch Tolkien, my own role model as a twelve-year-old finding out that Old English existed at least in academia, than prissy Evelyn Waugh, as the new family bio by son Alexander W. testifies.) Although Waugh too wrote in the dawn of the same. Doubtless both old boys dutifully share the proviso that the Latins had no "v."

My childhood Claremont, smoggy imitator of Oxbridge, had over its little classical-style stone library a carving "Pvblic" that always reminded me of another word, even though I was not even 12 when forcibly deported from that college town into the Valley of the Dirt People, as a couple of shock-joke local d.j.s call what's now the 909 & 818 area codes, especially the former one, which in turn once was the 714's eastern lands of citrus, stucco, chaparral, and once upon a time pre-big-box stores and endless malls and red-tiled subdivisions even far more dirt.

Back to the land of Banba, Eriu, and Fodhla now. Let's hope that if Cambridge can keep OI thriving alongside OE, that the premiere campus of the National University of Ireland can keep pace. Fifty billion dollars invested in Ireland by multinationals lately-- can't Bertie spare a few euro for an OI degree at UCD?

22ú Meitheamh 2007

Downgrading of Old Irish at UCD

Madam, - As a Briton of Irish extraction, who proudly bears a family name not unknown in the field of Old Irish, I have been labouring hard over the past 20 years to persuade the British Archaeological Establishment that the remarkable corpus of Old Irish Literature is a unique window into the culture of the Iron and Bronze Ages of Europe. In consequence I have been following the debate in your columns with some concern. If a body as great as UCD downgrades Old Irish from a full degree subject to a mere module, it necessarily signals a lack of respect for a great and ancient tradition.

The history, law, placenames and poetry of Old Irish are unrivalled in Western Europe, and the law in particular demonstrates the underlying Indo-European Common Law which predates (and gave rise to) the Roman Ius Non Scriptum of the early Republic, as well as the English Common Law.

The majestic appreciation of this rich culture can never, in my view, be replaced by any regime for "contextualising the subject anew" in a broader 'modern' degree. In these circumstances I cannot help but give what support I can to Prof Liam Breatnach (June 19th) and the other distinguished signatories to the letter March 13th. To paraphrase the tenth century poet Eochaid Ua Flainn: "Listen, learned men, so glad,/ with a stout ship of knowledge,/ till I have told what I have learned/ of every generation who took Ireland."

Without a grounding in Old Irish, I greatly fear that a degree in 'Celtic Civilisation' would be a Bád gan stiúr nó cú gan eireabul (a boat without a rudder or a hound without a tail). - Yours, etc,

TIMOTHY CONCANNON, Buriton, Hampshire, England.

1 comment:

Bo said...

Fionnchu, a chara,
thanks for the comment and the link on my blog. My real name is Mark, btw, and I'm a junior lecturer in Celtic at Oxford. Your blog is great!

Brideshead Revisited!? Hmmm....not really me, I'm too hobbit-like, lol.

Your friend Jessica's name rings a bell, but I'm not sure why.

all the very best,

PS I found the illustration by googling 'irish australian', I think.