2011 International Seminar on John McGahern Announced

Monday, 16 May 2011

NUI Galway and Leitrim County Council have announced that the fifth International Seminar on John McGahern, commemorating the work of the renowned Irish writer, will take place from 21 to 23 July in Co. Leitrim. Last year’s International Seminar attracted more than 150 participants from Ireland and overseas.

The theme of the seminar this year is McGahern and Creativity, and the keynote lecture will be given by Colm Tóibín, whose novel Brooklyn has just been shortlisted for this year’s International Impac Dublin Literary Award.

Dr John Kenny, John McGahern Lecturer in Creative Writing at NUI Galway, says: “The role of creativity in all areas of innovative thinking is increasingly recognised, from the sciences to the arts and the economic endeavours linked with these. We should of course be careful about a catch-all or reductive approach to creativity, but we should also be suspicious about the sort of romantic approach that sees creativity as something indefinably ’special’, as if all a writer like McGahern had to do was walk the lanes of Leitrim waiting for beautiful thoughts to strike him. It is a familiar but vital truth that the creation of literature is at least as much about regular perspiration at the desk as it is about any kind of dreamy inspiration, and McGahern’s devotion to his craft provides an ideal context for the exploration of this idea. Our seminar promises to be an exciting investigation of how McGahern’s own talent and creative force of personality was formidably combined with the clever hard work required to become one of the greats.”

Other speakers at the event will include the poets Gerald Dawe, Paula Meehan and Bernard O’Donoghue. The short-story writer Ēilis Ní Dhuibhne and the poet John McAuliffe will be reading their new work from volume 4 of The John McGahern Yearbook, edited by John Kenny, which will be launched at the Seminar. The Yearbook is a lavishly illustrated hardback and includes proceedings of the 2010 Seminar as well as a range of articles by writers and critics.

The Seminar will also include a feature presentation by educator Michael Lally titled Zen McGahern, and the architectural historian Seán Rothery will be giving a talk on the nature of McGahern’s small towns. There will also be a viewing of McGahern’s screenplay, The Rockingham Shoot, after which a closing plenary lecture will be delivered by Professor Luke Gibbons. The Seminar will involve guided visits to John McGahern’s home places in Aughawillan, Ballinamore and Mohill in Co. Leitrim, and also to Cootehall in Co. Roscommon where a public discussion of McGahern’s first novel, The Barracks, will be held.

As well as appealing to all lovers of McGahern’s own work, the International Seminar will be of interest to literary researchers and to book clubs, to readers of contemporary fiction and modern writing, and to all national and international students of Irish literature and culture.

In addition to the public seminar, NUI Galway has organised the fourth intensive International Summer School on McGahern’s work and its contexts which will form part of the University’s 28th International Summer School in Irish Studies.

The Summer School is designed for advanced level students and researchers who are interested in the writings of John McGahern, his life and times in 20th-century Ireland, and related areas of creative writing. The Summer School incorporates the International Seminar and continues at the County Library, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim the week after the Seminar.

The 2010 Summer School was attended by students from Britain and the United States as well as Ireland. Contributors to this year’s Summer School, directed by Dr John Kenny, will include Professor Denis Sampson, author of Outstaring Nature’s Eye: The Fiction of John McGahern; Dr Stanley van der Ziel, editor of McGahern’s Love of the World: Essays; and Dr Frank Shovlin of the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool. Guest writers, including Kevin Barry, Martin Dyar, Mike McCormack and Belinda McKeon, will discuss the creative as well as critical implications of McGahern’s legacy. Historian Liam Kelly will give a feature talk on the local dimensions of McGahern’s thought and work. There will also be an opportunity at the Summer School to experience local social and cultural events.

Announcing the McGahern events, President of NUI Galway, Dr James J. Browne, said: “The University is pleased to collaborate with Leitrim County Council in the Fifth International Seminar on John Mcgahern, which is designed to recognise and promote the work of John McGahern among scholars and readers of his work. The Seminar location in the heart of McGahern country in Leitrim, provides an unique opportunity to explore and engage with McGahern’s exceptional understanding and literary portrayal of Irish rural life”.

Speaking about the 2011 programme, Leitrim County Manager, Jackie Maguire, said: “Leitrim County Council is delighted to be again working in partnership with NUI Galway in organising the fifth International Seminar and Summer School. The Seminar is an important part of Ireland’s literary calendar and presents a wonderful opportunity for people to engage richly with the work of John McGahern in the heartland of Leitrim”.

For further details on the International Seminar & Summer School on John McGahern contact 091 495442 or visit www.nuigalway.ie/iss.

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