Dalsimer Lecturer Highlights Racism in Ireland

Irish

In Devlin 101, Kathleen Costello-Sullivan, GMCAS ’04 and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Le Moyne College, launched her new book, Trauma and Recovery in the Earliest Twentieth Century Irish Novel.

The novel launch followe d the Dalsimer Lecture, a series honoring the late founder of Irish studies at BC, Adele Dalsimer, that invites speakers to talk about their studies on Irish history. This year’s lecture, Black and Brown Amidst the Orange and Green, Toward a Multiracial History of Ireland, held by Mark Doyle, another Ph.D. graduate from Irish studies at BC, focused on the presence of minorities in Irish history, an obscure and often forgotten part of Ireland that Doyle began studying during his dissertation at BC.

Doyle’s lecture examined the role of minorities, mostly of African and Asian descent, who often face discrimination and doubt about the validity of their Irish identity. Doyle refutes the commonly held belief that the presence of minorities in Irish society is a recent phenomenon. Looking back into history, Doyle finds traces of minority involvement in Irish history through newspaper sources. People of African descent were mostly featured as performers in minstrel shows or choirs, while people of Asian descent were imported as slaves and servants.

Despite American figures such as Frederick Douglas reporting to have felt no racial discrimination during travels to Ireland, Doyle doubts the treatment of non-celebrity minorities was as friendly as Douglas described. Because of the lack of sources and documentation, due to great court fires and destruction of census data in Irish history, much of the information about minorities in Ireland is lost. Doyle explained that much of his work is crowdsourced, as people find brief mentions of minorities in Ireland in other works.

After the Dalsimer lecture, Sullivan introduced her new literary criticism on contemporary Irish literature. Speaking about how Irish literature often focuses on the traumatic event and pain, Sullivan wanted her novel to take a different approach, acknowledging the pain and trauma, but centering on the healing and recovery. Sullivan shifts the traditional narrative of the 20th-century Irish novel to a modern one. In her analysis of trauma narratives, Sullivan finds moments of lucidity and responds to the pain in the novels with clarity and a critical eye. Analyzing six works of Irish contemporary fiction, Sullivan gives a comprehensive account of the canon of the Irish novel through a historical lense.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / For the Heights