Thursday, September 19, 2013

Christopher Moriarty on the Joys of the Liffey

Our autumn lecture series opens on Tuesday 24th September with a talk by  Dr Christopher Moriarty on  "The Liffey: legends, literature and landscape".

Christopher Moriarty was literally immersed in the River Liffey when he fell into its waters at the age of three! Somewhat later he obtained a Master's degree for a study of the fishes of the Blessington Lakes, and later contributed some chapters to The Book of the Liffey, edited by Elizabeth Healy and published by Wolfhound Press.

He has been writing articles and books on Irish heritage topics for nearly fifty years, including a regular article in The Sacred Heart Messenger since 1993.  Other books include Down the Dodder, On Foot in Dublin and Wicklow, and Exloring Dublin. Christopher is writing a new book about the Liffey which he hopes will be published in 2014. 

All are welcome to the talk, which begins at 6.30pm. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Letters of Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696)

"Nouveau Choix des Lettres de Madame de Sévigné" (1846)  

The library holds several editions of Madame de Sévigné's letters, both  in the original French and in  English translation. The image shows the frontispiece (a portrait of the author), and title page of a selection of the letters intended for use in schools, and published in Tours in 1846. At the other end of the editorial spectrum, we hold a six-volume edition published in Paris in 1843, with notes and commentary.

"Letters from the Marchioness De Sévigné to her Daughter"
 The most interesting translation we have is shown above. It is a selection of the letters printed in Dublin in 1768. The title page assures us that the translation is "from the French of the last Paris edition", but, as was frequently the case in this period, the translator is not named. Also in our collection is a Dictionary of Madame de Sévigné, compiled by Edward Fitzgerald, who recorded his interest in "writing out for my own use a Dictionary of the Dramatis Personae figuring in the Corrrespondence".  His work was edited by his great-niece Mary Eleanor Fitzgerald Kerrich, and  published in two volumes in 1914.

There are also some key essays about Madame de Sévigné included as prefaces to both French and English editions. A selection from the correspondence published by Garnier Frères in Paris in 1886 has an essay by the critic Sainte-Beuve. And Somerset Maugham writes the introduction to a selection translated by Violet Hamersley and published in London in 1955.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dante, Proust and the Book of Memory

"In that part of the book of my memory..."  

Six centuries separate Dante, the greatest of Italian writers, from Marcel Proust, perhaps the greatest of the French. Dante died in 1321, and Proust in 1922. Yet both, in specific places in their work, imagined memory as a book.

The illustration shows the opening page of Dante's Vita Nuova or New Life, a collection of poems with prose introductions in which the poet explores his love for Beatrice Portinari, and the new life which began when he first saw her. This edition is part of the Central Catholic Library's Dante collection, and was published in London by the Chiswick Press in 1892. Our collection includes a number of editions of Dante's works in both Italian and English versions, as well as criticism and commentary ranging from the nineteenth to the present century.

Dante begins the Vita Nuova with an explanation; in the book of his memory he has found a page of written words under the heading "Here begins the New Life". He now intends to create a real book out of all these words. He wants to perpetuate the words so that the extract from the book of his memory relating his love for Beatrice is incarnate in paper and ink. The book of memory contains the text to be written. The writer becomes the scribe who will copy it.

In a related way, Proust, in his novel In Search of Lost Time, speaks of the "livre intérieur", the book within the mind. He says that the writer's task is to translate the "unknown signs" of this book. Proust conceives of a book generated by and held in the writer's consciousness; a book which will cross a membrane between worlds, becoming substantial on the writer's desk.

The concept of memory as a book, enduring across six centuries to link Proust back to Dante, shows how deeply wedded literary culture has been to the medium of the physical, individually bound book, the livre-objet. It's as if we have been thinking in books; as if they express for us not just what we think, but how we think as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mapping Culture: a place for the arts in Stephen Brown's library

"The World of Imagery" by Stephen J. Brown, with a dedication to the author's  father.
In founding his Catholic library, Fr Stephen Brown incorporated all of the self-evident subject areas: from sacred scripture to the church fathers, from christology to theology , from church liturgy to the traditions of the spiritual life. However, his library also holds books in areas which might surprise those new to the library, and perhaps even those who feel they already know it well.

Brown published his first article about the library in the Irish Jesuit review Studies in 1922.  He stated his intention that there would be "few departments of human interest that would be unrepresented", and he listed the subject areas which the collection would include, and on which his classification scheme would be based. Section 26 in his scheme is assigned to Belles Lettres, comprising fiction, poetry, essays and plays.

And so the Central Catholic Library has substantial holdings in English, Irish, French, Spanish, Italian and German literature, as well as books from linguistic traditions such as Breton. Over the summer, I hope to present examples from these holdings on the blog.

But how did Stephen Brown arrive at the inclusion of literature whose primary aims are aesthetic, within a collection whose primary aim was religious? One possible answer can be found in a study called The World of Imagery, which Brown was working on in the early years of the library's existence, and which he published in 1927.

In this book he sets out to explore visually descriptive or figurative language, "to map it out, to trace its main features".  It might be thought that the sole focus of his exploration would be imaginative literature, especially poetry and literary prose, and of course he gives a lot of attention to both. For instance, in his discussion of images in which aspects of the natural world, such as the sun, are personified and given human qualities, he cites Shakespeare's Richard II, where Henry Bolingbroke, besieging Richard at Flint castle, says: "See, see, King Richard doth himself appear / As doth the blushing discontented sun, / From out the fiery portal of the East, / When he perceives the envious clouds are bent / to dim his glory".

But the interesting thing is that for Brown, to map imagery is to map culture as a whole. He writes that imagery "has significance for Language, Literature, and Art" but also for "the domain of thought", including theology and philosophy. The human capacity to make images seems to have formed, for Brown, a kind of substratum uniting all the various aspects of cultural endeavor. The accommodation of the aesthetically motivated work is guaranteed in his scheme by a cultural phenomenon, imagery, which is also a feature of sacred scripture, of theology, of christology, and so on.

Brown's planning of the library, together with the classification scheme he wrote for it, (including section 26), represent a cultural philosophy still evident in his library's collections over ninety years later.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Great Irish Famine and the British Press

Frederick Lucas, founder of The Tablet
The final lecture in this year's spring series will be given by noted Irish historian Patrick Maume.  Patrick will speak about the Great Irish Famine; dealing specifically with contemporary press coverage by Catholic convert and journalist Frederick Lucas, founder of The Tablet.

Currently a researcher with the Royal Irish Academy's Dictionary of Irish Biography, Patrick Maume has published on many aspects of Irish political and literary history. His books include studies of Daniel Corkery, Margaret Cusack (the "nun of Kenmare"), and John Sarsfield Casey.  In The Long Gestation, he analyses Irish nationalist political culture in the period from  1900 to 1918. Patrick Maume has also published on media history in Ireland, including the histories of the Irish Independent  and the Dublin Evening Mail.

Patrick's current projects include research into the role of Frederick Lucas and the Tablet in Irish affairs in the 1840's and 1850's.

His lecture will take place in the library at 6.30pm on Tuesday 23rd April. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Church and Science: Conflict or Complexity?

Dr. Don O'Leary
The next lecture in our Spring series will take place in the library at 6.30 pm on Tuesday 9th April.

Our speaker will be Dr. Don O'Leary, and his topic will be the relationship between  Roman Catholicism and the world of science. Are these two worlds necessarily in conflict, or is their relationship better understood as one of rich complexity?

Dr. O'Leary is a Senior Technical Officer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at University College Cork. He has extensive experience in biomedical research using transmission electron microscopy. He is a historian and the author of a number of books, including Roman Catholicism and Modern Science : a history (New York and London: Continuum, 2006) and Irish Catholicism and Science: from "Godless Colleges" to the "Celtic Tiger" (Cork: Cork University Press, 2012).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easter 2013: library arrangements

The Central Catholic Library will close for Easter at 6pm on Tuesday 26th March.

The Library will re-open at 11am on Tuesday 2nd April.

Happy Easter to all our members, visitors and friends!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

An Expert Look at the Church Fathers

St Augustine of Hippo at his desk
The second lecture in our spring series, coinciding with the Year of Faith, will focus on the pivotal place of the Fathers of the Church in helping to form and articulate the faith of the early Church.

The lecture takes place at 6.30pm on Tuesday 19th March in the library.

Our speaker, Finbarr Clancy S.J., emphasizes that, in a time where we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we do well to remember Pope John XXIII's advocacy of returning to the sources of Christian tradition, as well as reading the signs of the times in the light of the gospel. The Fathers have always been a fertile source of inspiration for all that is best in theology and the life of the Church.

Fr Clancy is currently Professor of Theology at the Milltown Institute in Dublin, where he also serves as Rector of the Ecclesiastical Faculty and Acting President. He has also lectured on Patristics in St Patrick's College, Maynooth. He acts as Chairperson of the Patristric Symposium, an interdisciplinary group of scholars who meet regularly to discuss the Church Fathers and organise seminars and conferences on Patristic studies.

Fr Clancy has published widely on Patristic topics. He devoted two studies to the Church Fathers on the Eucharist in connection with last year's International Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin. He is particularly interested in the Latin Fathers such as Cyprian, Augustine and Ambrose, and in the liturgical poetry of St Ephrem the Syrian. He lectures in Patristics, sacramental theology and systematic theology, and maintains a keen interest in ecumenical dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

In tandem with the lecture, our honorary librarian Peter Costello has organised an exhibition presenting the work of the Church Fathers in word and image.  The exhibition can be viewed during library opening hours: 11am-6pm (Monday to Friday) and 11am-5.30pm (Saturday).

For those interested in exploring the thought of the  Fathers, the library holds a rich collection of Patrisitic writings,  including the ongoing series of new English translations published by the Catholic University of America Press.

Saint Patrick's Day 2013

 As Saint Patrick's Day falls on Sunday this year, and Monday will be a bank holiday, the library will be closed from 6pm on Friday 15th March,  re-opening after the weekend at 11am on Tuesday 19th March.

Enjoy the Feast Day, and the weekend!

Buongiorno Papa Francesco!

Yesterday, with white smoke after five votes, Argentine Jesuit Jorge Maria Bergoglio was proclaimed Pope Francis 1, to a vast crowd in St Peter's Square and to the world.

In his first apostolic blessing, Pope Francis noted that it had been the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop, and ironically they had gone to the ends of the earth to get one!

After offering a prayer for Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis continued: " And now, we take up this journey : Bishop and People... A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity. It is my hope for you that this journey of the Church, which we start today...will be fruitful for the evangelization of this most beautiful city."

Before giving his blessing, Pope asked a favour of the assembled audience, saying "And now I would like to give the blessing, but first, first, I ask a favour of you : before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop."

Pope Francis then gave his own blessing to all those in St Peter's Square, and to the world.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The 1913 Strike and Lockout

The first lecture in our spring series will explore the traumatic events of 1913 from the perspective of Dublin's Catholic archbishop, clergy and religious. 

Our speaker, Thomas Morrissey S.J., was formerly director of Dublin's National College of Industrial Relations. He has published over thirteen works relating to church and social history. 

His books include biographies of Archbishop William Walsh, the trades unionist William O'Brien and the journalist and politician William Martin Murphy; three figures active in Dublin during the 1913 strike. 

Fr Morrissey's lecture takes place at 6.30 pm on Tuesday 12th March.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Spring Lecture Programme

The four lectures in this year's Spring programme promise to be both  topical and informative. 

Our first speaker, on 12th March, will be Fr Thomas Morrissey SJ. In this centenary of the  1913 Dublin strike and lockout, Fr Morrissey will discuss the event from the perspective of Dublin's Catholic archbishop, clergy and religious. 

Turning to the Year of Faith, we will focus on the Fathers of the Church with a talk by Fr Finbarr Clancy SJ on how the Fathers continue to inform Catholic belief and practice. Fr Clancy will speak on 19th March. 

In tune with ongoing debates about the relationship between religion and science, Dr Don O' Leary of University College Cork will offer a presentation entitled "The Roman Catholic Church and Science: conflict or complexity?"  This talk will be on 9th April. 

And finally, on 23rd April, historian Patrick Maume will present his research on the founder of the Tablet, Frederic Lucas, and the ways in which Lucas reported on the Great Irish Famine. 

All four lectures will take place at 6.30pm in the library.