On Thursday 7 February His Excellency Paolo Serpi (Italian Ambassador to Ireland) and UCC President Patrick O’Shea officially opened the “Irish in Italy” exhibition in the Boole Library in UCC.
This fascinating project is curated by Dr Antonio Bibbò,who along with organizers Dr Daragh O’Connell (Department of Italian) Crónán Ó Doibhlin (Head of Research Collections), put together a fascinating narrative of the interrelationship between Ireland and Italy in the 20th century, especially the reception of Irish literary culture on the Italian peninsula.
The launch was preceded by a wonderful lecture by the internationally renowned Joyce scholar Prof. John McCourt (University of Macerata), who talked about Joyce’s Italian years and also his links to Cork through his father.
Irish in Italy follows two major themes: first, the long and bloody history of Irish independence, and the differing versions of this history which were presented in early twentieth-century Italy; – a history whose centenary we are currently living and re-examining – and second, the story of the Irish Literary Revival and its dissemination and reception in Liberal and Fascist Italy.
It seeks to offer a unique picture of this complex relationship and its development over the first fifty years of the twentieth century, and of the interactions between the literary landscape and the political system which characterised, and often facilitated, exchanges between the two nations. The interplay between literature and political demands in the emergence of a truly national literature in Ireland is capable of shedding light on little-known corners of Italian cultural and political history.
In his address President O’Shea stressed the pivotal role of languages in society and in education and reinforced UCC’s commitment to the study of languages and the cultural forms that they take. In fact, the very first female professor in UCC Mary Ryan was fittingly enough a Professor of Languages (French and Italian). The exhibition runs until the end of March.