Category Archives: In the news

‘It wasn’t the Italy I dreamed of’… Remembering the Risorgimento 150 years later

‘It wasn’t the Italy I dreamed of.’ 2011 marks 150 years since Italy was unified as a nation, and the words of a disaffected Giuseppe Garibaldi in his later years still seem to cast their shadow over the commemorations. Italy has always had a troubled relationship with nationalism. Unified only since 1861 in a campaign which despite Garibaldi’s best efforts, did little to capture the popular imagination, the creation of the Kingdom of Italy didn’t manage to prise people’s loyalties from their own town, city or region, and onto the nation. The unification was seen as something carried out by politicians and soldiers, which had nothing to do with the lives of ordinary Italians, and the creation of a legal ‘Italy’ in 1861 could do very little to make Sicilians, Neapolitans or Venetians feel ‘Italian’. In the twentieth century, it was only Mussolini who managed to inspire some level of popular patriotism in Italians, and the distaste for his brand of patriotic pomp and where it led, meant that nationalism was once again discredited after 1945. 150 years later, I was interested to see how the Unification would be celebrated, or simply marked, across the country. Would the lack of popular enthusiasm for a united Italy both then and since, and the popular disaffection which followed be forgotten as officials seized the chance to glorify their nation’s past? Or would a more balanced, less celebratory tone be allowed to emerge? Continue reading

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Humanities research… what’s the point?

By Niamh Cullen Last Friday the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences celebrated the 10th anniversary of its foundation. The council, as many postgraduate and postdoc readers will know, has been of enormous benefit to Irish universities, … Continue reading

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Making Monsters of Men

Imagine a world where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, every hour and minute of every day. From a cacophony of voices to an interminable buzz in the background, it’s always there, inescapable. How would people react if they had to live in a world like this, where privacy, solitude, and even silence were mere abstract and utopian notions? It is with such a scene that Patrick Ness opens the first book of his Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go. Continue reading

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Tony Judt: A passionate historian remembered

We think we have learned from enough from the past to know many of the old answers don’t work and that may be true. But what the past can help us to understand is the perennial complexity of the questions. (Tony Judt, Reappraisals)

Historian of twentieth century Europe Tony Judt, who died last Friday, will be remembered as one of the most sane, wise and passionate voices of twentieth century intellectual life. Professor of European history at New York University and historian of the twentieth century, his influence extended far beyond the reaches of academe. Continue reading

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In defence of book publishing

A new utopian world awaits all us avid readers, I learnt today. The tyranny of publishers and bookshops will soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to the internet, and the opportunities that it offers for electronic publishing, authors no longer need traditional – or any – publishers. Gone are the days when the profit hungry publishers and booksellers exploited writers by packaging and selling their creative output, while giving far too little in return. Now, authors themselves control the industry, because they alone write the words that sell the volumes. “Content is king, and only authors provide the content.” Continue reading

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What are you reading? Suggestions please…

By Niamh Cullen At the moment, I’m working my way through three books; two novels and a sort of history book. Last week, I started reading Portugese novelist Jose Saramago’s Seeing. I had already read two of his novels a … Continue reading

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Knowledge Economy or the Economising of Knowledge: The Meaning of Education

Third level education is a contentious subject in Ireland these days; it seems that just as more and more people flock to gain access to it, there is less money to pay for it. However, urgent as the struggle to balance the budget is, there are in reality much more fundamental issues at stake in Irish education. The number of students attending university has risen dramatically in the last few decades, from 11% in 1955, to more than half the population in 2003. Expressions like ‘the knowledge economy’ are worn out from use in media debates, and everyone seems to be convinced that education is the key to lifting Ireland out of recession in the long term. However, when we talk about the kind of education we wish Irish universities to focus on, opinions begin to diverge. Recent articles in the Irish Times by Tom Garvin and Salter Sterling show how this debate is at the forefront of the public consciousness; however the questions of what should be taught and what kind of research projects should be done in universities, as well as how these should be financed, managed and justified, are ones of global import. In her address to the Royal Irish Academy on Wednesday evening, Harvard university president Drew Gilpin Faust made an eloquent and impassioned contribution to this debate. Continue reading

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