‘Consumer culture’ may not be as new as we think it is. Consider the ordinary Venetian oar-maker who left his widow forty-three shirts, twenty-five sheets, sixty-three tablecloths and napkins and 105 pewter plates in 1633. And what does Harrods’ offering of a hundred models of briar pipe tell us about the consumption patterns of London gentlemen in the 1890s?
Not Biting Their Tongues
An exhibition at Trinity College Dublin shows the wonderful variety and vigour of writing about the visual arts in Ireland in the 1890s and the early years of the last century, a phenomenon which the prestige of more purely literary work tends to make us forget.
The Last Ditch
In 1969, as the fourth and final volume of his correspondence reveals, Samuel Beckett let it be known in a letter to his German publisher, Siegfried Unseld, that he did not wish to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. He did so, however, with the usual Beckett mix of ambiguity and contradiction.
At the Apex
A major new study of Ireland’s highest court brilliantly tells the story of the people ‑ judges, lawyers and litigants ‑ that shaped its institutional personality, the doctrinal battles that ended up there and the impact of its decisions on politics and society.
Money with Morals
Ireland’s reliance on multinational investment puts it in the demeaning position of having to constantly adapt to the changing needs of multinational companies. Meanwhile, our fiercely defended low rate of corporation tax is under severe threat now that our main ally in defending it is leaving the EU.
Rounds of drinks, and rounds of various Dublin pubs, are only the most obvious instances of a more general notion of circulation in a novel whose subtitle, “another day in Dublin”, pays a downbeat homage to, as well as establishing a distance from, the book of June 16th, 1904.
Ed O’Loughlin’s new novel is set in the wild open spaces of the Canadian Arctic and benefits from a wealth of detailed research into the history of exploration in this remote reason. Against this pleasure, however, the outlines of the contemporary characters remain vague.
Sins of the Advocate
The Irish-American lawyer John Quinn defended Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap of the ‘Little Review’ from prosecution for publishing extracts from ‘Ulysses’. The prosecution led to the effective banning of the book in 1921. Quinn’s defence strategy left a lot to be desired.
Suffering and Sanctity
Emma Donoghue’s new novel, set in nineteenth century, post-Famine Ireland and centring on the case of a ‘fasting child’ who refuses all food, is at its most compelling in the attention it devotes to a religious culture that elevates suffering, and yet which provides consolation too.
A new study provides impressively wide-ranging commentary on William Blake’s sources, influences, and working methods, as well as his cultural afterlives. Blake was not just an eccentric but a genius and visionary who was repeatedly debilitated by paranoia and depression.