On 1st January 2012 copyright on the works of James Joyce (1882-1941) expired, in line with Irish copyright laws which stipulate that original work be protected by an estate for seventy years after the death of the work’s creator. Prior to this date, any substantial engagement with Joyce’s work which would use any part of the original texts required the user to obtain permission from the Joyce estate.
During a recent session of the Contemporary Irish Writing Reading Group (CIWRG) at NUI Galway, we mused over the position of the long novel in contemporary culture. In an era defined by the relatively passive act of binge-watching TV boxsets and streamed media, we postulated that the only reason someone would finish a novel in excess of 500 hundred pages was the result of some strange kind of literary Stockholm syndrome.
Reading Ireland: The Little Magazine is a digital magazine that was founded in 2015 by Dr. Adrienne Leavy for the purpose of promoting Irish literature and contemporary Irish writing. Published quarterly, the magazine is a subscription-based publication with a growing readership in both Ireland and the United States.
A character in my book The Heart of Everything is a failed actor now working in a library. This character, let’s call him Raymond - because I did, indeed, call him Raymond - is of the opinion that there aren’t that many downsides to working in a library: it’s not a particularly taxing job, the hours are good.
On 7th September 2015, we launched the Digital Platform for Contemporary Irish Writing, thanks to funding from the University College Dublin seed funding and strategic initiative schemes. Our pilot project, 50IrishBooks, provides links to resources for 50 works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama, in English and Irish, first published between 2009 and 2013.
Readers today have greater opportunities to encounter authors than in times past. For every breathless piece of fan mail requesting a lock of Lord Byron’s hair, there is now a reading, signing, or interview at which the eager reader has the opportunity to meet their literary idol. The publicity circuit that now accompanies contemporary authorship places readers and authors within situations that seemed remote to previous generations.
“How do you read this line of the poem, Niamh?”
Writing in Ireland comes in the shapes and colours of two very different languages, English and Irish. As a bilingual Dubliner, becoming a novelist meant choosing which language I most wanted to play with, as well as learning to grapple with the structures and demands of crime fiction, children's mysteries and a quirky love story, the three genres in which I've written to date.
50 Irish Books, the first project of the Digital Platform for Contemporary Irish Writing, is an online manifestation of the processes of selection, inclusion, and exclusion that have generated comment and controversy in Irish Studies.
The study of contemporary writing requires the engagement with two obstacles: the uncertainty as to what constitutes the ‘contemporary,’ and resistance from institutional and disciplinary powers to the formal study of recently created works of literature, art, and drama. The first, a question of defining chronological scope (and therefore decisions about what texts to address), is crucial but prone to ambiguity. On the one hand, researchers might define this timeframe informally within the framework of a single academic study by choosing a helpful start date and proceeding accordingly.