Sunday, December 2, 2007

It's December! It's December! I'm jumping up and down!

And....Dean is laughing his head off. Well. He does whenever I get hyper and excited about December. Autumn is my favorite season, and the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of year. Dean, however, is just a liiiiiittle bit humbug-ish. I think he will be getting Dickens for Christmas.

Our Thanksgiving celebration last week was marvelous, even given our 75 pounds (that's sterling, not weight) turkey. It was huuuuge. And expensive. I found what I now think is the BEST pumpkin pie recipe ever (it had better be, with all the double thick heavy cream it had), and we managed to squeeze about 20 people into Dean's living room in London, a mixture of Americans and British friends. See the American flag we made? No? :)!

I have been working nonstop (read: 6-8 hours many days a week) on my essay for this term. I'm writing about the ways in which Yeats, Synge, and Lady Gregory used anthropological/ethnological techniques in order to a) turn the discourse of the colonial power back onto itself and b) work themselves into the system by making their own role as intermediary between the native and the metropolis an essential one. I am not sure whether I am going over the top on my research; I still feel like I'm in thesis mode from last year and have this idea in my head that I have to read EVERYTHING. Which I suppose can only help, as long as I can fit all of my thoughts into 5000-7000 words. That's not a lot of words...

I have decided on a dissertation/thesis topic and submitted it; I will be writing about Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds and its relationship to postcolonialism. I was assigned as my supervisor the professor whose class I just took - Elleke Boehmer - one of my favorite tutors so far. I'm quite happy with I have to start reading...

Speaking of reading...I am writing this post in order to procrastinate. Well, I've reached my writing goal for today (I have 3000 words done!) but have loads to read. I am also going to the HMV staff party tonight, even though I quit and yesterday was my last day. I just decided I would rather spend allllll day in the library than make money :).


Monkeypat83 said...

I am as excited if not more excited than you are that it is December. We have one of our trees up and all the decorations are out of the attic and sprawled across our living room. Tell Dean to quit being bahhumbugish or you will not put any candy in his shoe this week ;). I meant to send you some buuuuuut it just didn't happen sooo I will send you virtual candy later this week. I have so much to do in the next month and most of it is way fun and exciting. By the time I get back from your house I am going to need a vacation but alas no it will be tax season, season of no vacation.

Jessica said...

I suppose I should stop lurking on the blog--this is Jessica from Culture in Conflict. It makes me happy to read your posts, and not only because it helps me procrastinate more.

Your paper sounds really fascinating. I would read it.

Speaking of reading, I was wondering if I could solicit you for advice about thesis. I am at a crucial juncture (about to actually write the first words of the first chapter, eek), but I seem to be in a paralysis of "I need to read more! I haven't read enough! I don't know anything!" Any ideas on how to work around this?

(My topic, by the way, is on the epistemology [and ethics] of the narrativity of history v. literature, i.e. since both disciplines create narratives of the past, I want to analyze how they differ in their ability to tell the truth of the past, and whether & in what ways it matters. Oh, the masochism of trying to combine philosophy with Irish studies!)

Liz said...

Jessica --- if you check this, I'm leaving you a post on Facebook bc it won't let me access your blog. Ooooh and I so know the feeling...:).

Alan L. Gallagher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan L. Gallagher said...


This is frustrating. I have tried three times, and only gotten "xx" on your site. Once more.... I had to register to do this.


Snamh = Swim

dha = Two

Ean = Birds

"At Curley's Island, between Shannonbridge and Clonmacnoise, we encounter the legendary ford of Snamh da Ean (swim two birds). It was here that a proselytising St. Patrick crossed the Shannon into Connacht, and much later that the Anglo-Normans considered the ford important enough to be guarded by one of their campaign forts. Accordingly they constructed the great Motte of Cloonburren on the Roscommon side of the river, within sight of the even then declining early Christian nunnery, which is presumed locally to have been founded by St. Patrick."


This is where the Shannon River runs from north to south, and the glacial eskers (Geology and Scenery of Ireland) make ridges which allows east-west passage: this is the traditional center of Ireland, the dividing point among its Provinces, because of geography, and for that reason a natural crossing point, such that it makes sense that Clonmacnoise is near here, the resting place of the kings of Ireland.


In Heaney's Sweeney Astray, at page 18, Sweeney stops here:

"Sweeney kept going until he reached the church at Swim-Two-Birds on the Shannon, which is now called Cloonburren; he arrived there on a Friday, to be exact. The clerics of the church were singing nones, women were beating flax, and one was giving birth to a child.
--It is unseemly, said Sweeney, for the women to violate the Lord's fast day [Friday]. That woman beating the flax reminds me of our beating at Moira.
Then he heard the vesper bell ringing and said:
It would be sweeter to listen to the notes of the cuckoo on the banks of the Bann [The Bann River, where Sweeney was from, in Northern Ireland] than to the whinge of this bell tonight.
Then he uttered the poem:

Here Heaney gives his version of Sweeney's poem--in Heaney's pedestrian style. There are other versions. Sadly, O'Brien, who does lovely translations in Swim-Two-Birds, does not there translate this poem. But we have versions by John Montague in his The Book of Irish Verse, and the best version, by Frank O'Connor, which can be found in Kennelly's The Penguin Book of Irish Verse:


Endlessly over the water
Birds of the Bann are singing;
Sweeter to me their voices
Than any churchbell's ringing.

Over the plain of Moyra
Under the heels of foemen
I saw my people broken
As flax is scutched by women.

But the cries I hear by Derry
Are not of men triumphant;
I hear their calls in the evening,
Swans calm and exultant.

I hear the stag's belling
Over the valley's steepness;
No music on the earth
Can move me like its sweetness.

Christ, Christ hear me !
Christ, Christ of thy meekness !
Christ, Christ love me !
Sever me not from thy sweetness !