All good things must come to an end

Well, the trip to Ireland is over and I’m back on campus (well, almost. I’m in the airport waiting for my flight). It was an amazing experience, and I have a new appreciation for people who are multilingual. The Irish language is particularly fascinating to me, not just because of my general interest in all things Irish, or because of its linguistic peculiarities, but because it was and is such a highly charged social and political issue. For generations, English was the language of the oppressor, and Irish was discouraged or even banned outright (although this appears to have begun after Elizabeth’s reign, according to my research thus far).  The government of the new Irish Republic naturally tried to bring back the language, and this movement has sparked mixed responses. Today language instruction is mandatory in school, and you have to pass a scrúdu bheal, or oral exam, to get into university. Businesses in the Gaeltachts and other areas receive government funding in return for speaking Irish. Not all Irish citizens approve of this, and if you tell an Irishman that you’re learning his language, your most likely response is a look of disbelief, followed by an incredulous, “why?”

Of course, this negative response is by no means universal, and there is something incredibly exciting about helping to preserve a language as old and rich in history and tradition as Irish. I fully intend to continue my studies and try to improve my grasp on the language.

Speaking of my studies, I suppose I should really address my project topic and some of the research I’ve done, if only in passing. While I feel that I accomplished a great deal this summer, there’s a lot left to do. I have a long list of books and articles that I need to track down and read. ILL is going to be my best friend this semester. I also have to plan a trip to UVA, as it turns out they have most, if not all of the British Museum’s manuscripts collection on microfiche. Definitely much more convenient for me than having to trot over to London! I’ve already located some very promising sounding sources, and have become adept at the art of bibliography-hunting. Every time I find a good source, it ends up sending me off on a hunt for 3 or 4 more.  I’m very excited to get back to Swem and start going through some of these texts, particularly the primary sources– plays, memoirs, and even a couple books of bardic poetry, both translated and in the original Irish. Lucky for me I’m living closer to Swem this year than I did last year– I have the feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time there 🙂


  1. Frances Armstrong says:

    Sounds like you had a cool summer Jennie! Gaelic seems like a very complicated language. It’s interesting to think of how politics affected it.

  2. Hi Jennie,

    It sounds like you had an amazing trip and were able to accomplish so much. Your focus on Irish sounds so interesting as does language preservation and the politics involved. I can relate to you in all the reading I have to do now after finding so many great sources over the summer. Good luck with your reading!

    Casey Lesser