From its campus in beautiful Hickory, North Carolina, Lenoir-Rhyne University is proud to host the 2021 Southern Regional Conference of ACIS: the American Conference for Irish Studies. The event opens on Thursday, March 18, 2021, and it concludes on Saturday, March 20, 2021.
This conference, the 31st organized by “ACIS South,” is different from its predecessors, for the worldwide coronavirus pandemic obliges us to gather virtually. While we regret the loss of in-person camaraderie, we also recognize and embrace the exciting possibilities that the online platform provides. We can be more international, inclusive, and diverse than ever before — an appropriate state of affairs as we continue to mark the 175th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s sojourn in Ireland.
The conference theme is Walk on Air: The Politics and Poetics of Transcendence and Terror. This capacious theme recognizes Seamus Heaney’s participation in the 1992 Southern Regional ACIS Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne University. On that occasion, he uplifted participants with his down-to-earth otherworldliness. His poem, “The Gravel Walks,” was published in a limited edition as a keepsake. That poem includes the line, “So walk on air against your better judgement.”
Heaney quoted from “The Gravel Walks” in his 1995 Nobel Prize lecture, Crediting Poetry. Furthermore, “Walk on air against your better judgement” serves as the epitaph on his gravestone in Bellaghy, County Derry. On that town’s Main Street is the marvelous Seamus Heaney HomePlace, which we are delighted to count among the participants in the 2021 ACIS South Conference. Heaney’s daughter, Catherine Heaney, is also contributing.
As detailed elsewhere on this website, other compelling guests feature, in addition. They include, as plenary speakers, the historian Roy F. Foster, the novelist Colm Tóibín and the New Yorker journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, all renowned figures in their respective fields. And we are excited to hear an address by Ireland’s third Consul General for the Southeastern United States, Ciara O’Floinn, who took up her Atlanta-based post in August 2020. Top-quality Irish traditional music, specially selected to explore our conference theme, “Walk on Air,” will be performed by the Grammy-nominated Joanie Madden and Cherish the Ladies, celebrated by the New York Times for “[e]xpanding the annals of Irish music in America” with a repertoire that “is passionate, tender, and rambunctious.”
We warmly welcome you, too.
ACIS South is the Southern Regional Chapter of the American Conference for Irish Studies. The Chapter serves the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. However, its meetings have always attracted folks from around the world. Those contributing presentations must be members of the American Conference for Irish Studies. Membership is reasonably priced (and deeply discounted for students); it may be purchased online.