New book on The Gaelic Revival's intellectual connections to Europe

A professor from Notre Dame's Department of Irish Language and Literature--Brian Ó Conchubhair--has published a book that is garnering prizes and creating a stir in how he interprets the relationship between Ireland's important late nineteenth century cultural movements and European intellectual thought in the Fin de Siècle.

(The Irish Fin de Siècle: Darwin, the Language Revival, and European Intellectual Thought)Fin de Siècle na Gaeilge: Darwin, an Athbheochan, agus smaointeoireacht na hEorpa recently won an award from the American Conference for Irish Studies. It also won first-place in Ireland’s 2009 Oireachtas na Gaeilge Literary Competition, the most prestigious Irish language literary competition.

Published by Cló Iar-Chonnachta in late 2009, “Fin de Siècle na Gaeilge” is a study of the Gaelic revival caused by events at the end of the 19th century, such as Darwinism, race extermination, cultural decline, degeneration and cultural nationalism.

“I’ve always been puzzled by the revivalists’ presumed intellectual isolation from mainstream 19th-century European thought,” Ó Conchubhair said. “The idea behind this book was to see what overlap, if any, existed between European intellectual movements—Darwinism in particular—and fin de siècle Ireland.

“What it ended up being was a new way of seeing and reading the revival — less in terms of cultural nationalism and more as an Irish response to European fears of racial decline, cultural degeneration and the emerging racial theory.”

The award committee members described Ó Conchubhair’s research as “important and original scholarship, a pioneering work, a powerful and readable book, and a valuable resource for scholars interested in this area… It is expected that this work will inspire a great many other scholars to follow his lead.”

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