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. As the opening blog (authored by project postdoctoral researchers) explains, our guiding principle of selection was “book as event”, texts which, in their authorship, content or publishing moment, marked ‘a sea-change in Irish writing’. Already, the five-year period of 2009 to 2013 begins to seem itself an historical moment – whether ‘post-boom’ or ‘the era of austerity’ – a time when creative endeavours were all the more heroic in a climate of minimal funding and meager institutional support for the arts in Ireland.
A key motivation for this project, therefore, is to perform an advocacy and ambassadorial role for contemporary Irish writing in all of its diversity and range. And consequently, warm expressions of welcome from authors, publishers and readers have been heartening, affirming and enlightening. Google analytics allows us to trumpet the existence of 22,000+ page views by time of writing, of 37,650+ minutes or 630+hours spent on the site by visitors from some 73 countries and 811 cities. Especially appreciated are the responses from authors (including those not yet represented on our platform), from bookclub members searching for resources and reading ideas, and from teachers of Irish literature who are already deploying the site for their courses and curricula of Irish writing. First off the post in this regard was ENG10130, UCD’s new first-year course in contemporary Irish writing, whose valiant 427 members and even more valiant course tutors undertook workshop assignments based on its resources, supported by UCD Library Week’s championing of the site in November.
Articles in the Irish Times on 26 September and on the Irish-American news platform Irish Central on 14 October have enabled us to share the site’s existence with a much larger body of users and readers. And thanks to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, details have been shared with the Irish embassy network world-wide with enthusiastic tweets disseminated by embassies in Brazil, India and Korea to name just some examples.
In designing the site, we decided to feature a regular CIW blog to enable fuller consideration, discussion and debate on issues related to contemporary Irish writing and in the past four months, this has included incisive and suggestive commentaries by Nicholas Wolf on ‘the contemporary’, by Anna Heussaff on contemporary Irish-language writing, by Declan Kavanagh on teaching contemporary Irish literature in the UK, and Justin Tonra on social media and contemporary authorship. Our thanks to these authors and we look forward to continuing these blogs in 2016 (suggestions welcome).
Looking ahead, the next project of the Digital Platform will be launched on Bloomsday, 2016, so watch this space for details! Meantime, may I take the opportunity to thank all involved in bringing our project to this point: Dr Ken Keating current postdoctoral researcher and his predecessors Dr Karen Wade and Dr Catherine Smith, Niall O’Leary and John O’Brien (Vermilion) for site development and design, and the members of the project Advisory Board. Most especially, thank you for using this site and please continue to use and advertise our existence!
Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama, University College Dublin