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Symposium 2008

2008 Irish Studies Symposium: November 3 & 4

Session I: Politics: Shifting Attitudes and Political Impact

State Security, Civil Liberty And The Fenians In Canada
Dr. David A. Wilson, St. Michael's College, University of Toronto

Summary: During the 1860s, as the Fenian movement in the United States and Canada gathered momentum, the Canadian government was faced with problems that have a degree of contemporary resonance. How could you defeat a revolutionary minority inside an ethno-religious group without alienating the moderate or ambivalent majority within that group? And how could you balance the requirements of state security with the demands of civil liberty?

After examining the extent to which meaningful comparisons can be drawn between the 1860s and the present, this paper discusses the ways in which the Canadian state attempted to answer these questions. Some politicians, most notably Thomas D'Arcy McGee, preferred a strategy of direct confrontation that was designed to draw a cordon sanitaire around the Fenians.

But the key figure was the Attorney General and Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald. On the one hand, he initiated strong security measures, such as the expansion of the secret police force and the suspension of habeas corpus. On the other hand, he deliberately downplayed the threat posed by internal Fenianism, to avoid an anti-Catholic backlash that would worsen the security situation and undermine his long-term strategy to draw Irish Catholics into the Conservative Party.

Transcript, audio and video

Early Canadian Readers of Thomas D'Arcy McGee: A Case Study in Irish-Canadian Book History 1845-1935
Dr. Daniel O'Leary, Concordia University

Summary: The methodology of this discussion is both print cultural, or book historical, and literary critical at the same time. It approaches the bibliographic remains of the Saint John, New Brunswick Irish family of Patrick and Edward Mooney both from the point of view of Robert Darnton's now famous paradigm of the "communications circuit," his model of print cultural and hermeneutic analysis drawing both on economic and cultural materialist theories of interpretation; and from literary theoretical analysis of intertextual and literary historical features of the subject texts, including consideration of marginalia, underscoring, and other indications and residuum of "affect" in the readers represented in the remnants of the Mooney library.

The discussion also considers physical aspects of these books as artifacts, in this case, a rich field for interpretation given the bibliophile tendencies of two generations of the family. In a sense, the paper analyzes a phantom or ghost library. In 2005, the breaking up of the remains of the personal property of Mooney household led to the acquisition of several cartons of mixed books formerly the property of descendants of the Mooney family, including a very interesting collection of rare and scarce Irish and Irish-Canadian works by Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Daniel Falloon, Sir Jonah Barrington, Thomas Faughnan, and Henry Grattan, and also an 1857 first edition of Edward Hayes' collection, The Ballads of Ireland. The books represent two generations of Irish Canadian reading, and provide the basis for a revealing book historical case study.

The paper discusses the main features of the surviving specimens of this library, and offers interpretation both of the significance of this print to reconstruction of the thought and reading of average Irish Canadian readers and to print cultural analysis of Irish Canadian book culture in the 1845-1935 period. The paper also relates its portrait of Irish-Canadian reading to the works and thought of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, whose books are strongly represented in the Mooney collection.

Transcript, audio and video

The Irish in Québec: A Political Community Which Has Survived the 19th Century
Dr. Simon Jolivet, Concordia University

Summary: It might be tempting to think that the Irish in Québec – both Protestant and Catholic – have simply vanished from the historical reality following the 1st of January, 1900. In fact, most of the works which have been written so far within Québec and Canadian historiographies tend to convey this disconcerting impression. However, this impression is not only disconcerting; it is obviously unfounded. Of course, the Irish in Québec have not disappeared while entering the 20th century. Irish-Quebeckers (mostly Catholics) were present and politically vocal at the beginning of 20th century. From 1900 to 1925, at a time when Ireland was shaken by serious sociopolitical tensions (leading to the creation of Northern Ireland and of the Irish Free State in 1920-1), numerous Irish-Catholic descendants of Québec continued to hold a strong sense of "being Irish" and to identify themselves as full-members of a distinct community. The survival of the ethno-cultural sentiment of Irishness encouraged numerous Irish-Quebeckers to stay in touch with the events occurring in Ireland after 1900 and it would even lead many of them to actively support the struggle for Irish autonomy by investing both their time and money into the cause.

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Official Welcome | Session II

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