The 2017 New England branch of ACIS met October 13-14 at Husson University in Bangor, Maine. The theme was “Irish Studies, Anti-Globalisation, and Neo-Nationalism.” The conference hosted an intimate group of participants (28 attendees, 17 presenters) in a rugged and remote location, yet every moment of the two days was worthwhile, as the small crowd encouraged much dialogue at the panels and sociable interactions at meals. There were no overlapping panels, offering a colloquium experience that allowed discussion to build. The banquet dinner was especially impressive as Maine lobster was the main cuisine.
This year’s plenaries were particularly interesting. Abby Bender contrasted Donald Trump’s downward escalator ride with Bloom’s apotheosis and the shot off a shovel at the end of “Cyclops”; Bruce Nelson looked at 1913-1923 in Ireland from the perspective of syndicalism and labor, with a sense of how close so much of the country came to a proletarian rather than a nationalist revolution; and Micheline Sheehy Skeffington made us a part of tracing the stops of her grandmother’s lecture tour a century ago and continuing her work of explaining the truth of what happened to Francis Sheehy Skeffington.
Every panel brought its own intriguing angles of interest. For example, we had a panel organized by the University of Connecticut that focused on the theme “Death, Dying, and Metaphorical Matricide in Irish Fiction.” The papers connected well around a single theme and in some cases addressed the same texts, leading to rich discussion after.
Other highlights include a paper by Kelly Matthews that engaged a wide array of archival materials to explore the relationship between Roger Angell and Brian Friel. Matthews paid close attention to Friel’s fiction–not as well known as his plays–and the New Yorker editorial support of twentieth-century Irish writers, exposing its occasional pigeonholing of their work as Irish above anything else. Finally, James Byrne’s paper on the Martin Dooley persona brought to life a significant, funny, and controversial Irish-American popular culture influence.
We are grateful to Dr. Greg Winston, our host and conference organizer, for all of the hard work he put into the NE ACIS this year. Bangor was a spectacular location for an early October conference!