Why Study Ireland?

Irish Studies developed from an offshore scion of English literature to its current position as a burgeoning field not only in Anglo-America but also in Eastern Europe, Asia and the former Soviet Union. It has grown from the study of the great men of Irish literature and history into an investigation of a (disputed) territory and a (diasporic) people.

In 2005, the Economist declared Ireland the best place to live in the world in terms of growth, per capita income and future prospects. A decade later, the story of Ireland’s incredible economic boom (the Celtic tiger) and subsequent financial crash dominates the headlines. Now the roar of the Celtic tiger has receded and Ireland is once again a struggling economy in the European Union.

As the world watches to see if Ireland can perform another economic miracle, issues such as immigration and globalization have transformed the island and its inhabitants.  Irish Studies too has changed to accommodate a version of Ireland that does not always conform to the vision of itself that has prevailed over the last 50 years. President Mary McAleese visited Emory in 2007 and paid tribute to the links between Ireland and America and to the “Irish village” of archives and writers who have made their home here.

Irish Studies celebrated our first decade in 2014 with the opening of Seamus Heaney: The Music of What Happens, the first exhibition dedicated to the Nobel prize winning poet since his untimely death in 2013. The exhibition featured materials from the Heaney collection held in Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library including manuscript drafts, rare illustrated books, photographs and even the surface of his old desk where he wrote some of his celebrated poems.

One of the highlights of the exhibition was a media room with recordings of his poetry read by Heaney himself and by other poets and artists including world-renowned Irish actor Liam Neeson and novelist Salman Rushdie, whose papers are also held by the Rose Library.

"Ultimately, the hope is that visitors will come away from the exhibition with a renewed sense of how Heaney's poetry connects us to what matters in the everyday and the marvelous," Higgins said. "I hope too that they will be inspired to pick up a book of his poems and lose themselves in the music of what happens."

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition

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