Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dublin Up

Another post from the airport today as a little later I’ll be boarding a flight up to Philly, and from there will be heading to Ireland for the European Poker Tour Dublin festival.

This’ll be a first trip to Ireland for your humble scribbler. Closest I’ve ever gotten before has been London (several times), so am definitely excited not only to visit a new place, but to go somewhere I’ve focused a decent amount of attention on over the years thanks to degrees in English and many years studying and teaching literature.

The Irish authors I’ve read, studied, and taught the most over the years were undoubtedly Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce. W.B. Yeats, Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Beckett, and C.S. Lewis come to mind as well, although I don’t believe I ever taught anything by them except for one valiant attempt at carrying a group of undergrads taking World Lit through Waiting for Godot.

Was fascinated by Joyce for a time, reading up through Ulysses and starting Finnegans Wake (though like many, never finishing). I taught several stories from Dubliners over the years, and still have moments from “The Dead” randomly occurring to me as a result.

With Wilde I had a more casual acquaintance, reading The Importance of Being Earnest and Dorian Gray and duly appreciating his many one-liners. I remember De Profundis as well and becoming very interested in his imprisonment and relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas for a time. I taught Earnest a few times, which went over pretty well I recall.

Having focused on Restoration and 18th-century literature for the doctorate, Jonathan Swift is probably the one Irish writer whom I’ve spent the most time with over the decades, routinely teaching Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of a Tub, Battle of the Books and, of course, “A Modest Proposal.” I even had students reading some of the Drapier’s Letters and a bit of Martinus Scriblerus here and there.

Beyond just appreciating his artistry and wit, the Swiftian world view has probably influenced me as much as the view of any writer I’ve seriously studied. (Vladimir Nabokov is perhaps the only rival.) I’m referring to a perspective that looks upon practically everything that we experience with a skeptical eye that at once seizes on flaws (causing irritation and pain) while also appreciating the humor and even absurdity of what is being witnessed (causing amusement and pleasure). That includes the various “systems” (especially political ones) on which Swift comments, but also just to human nature itself.

Sometimes when taking care of the horses here on the farm and “communicating” with them as I do, I think of Gulliver at the end of Book 4 who by then has decided horses (or the Houyhnhnms) to be much preferable as companions when compared to the hopelessly flawed, irrational humans (or Yahoos). I don’t go as far as to agree with Gulliver’s conclusion, but I’ll admit I find myself understanding his position sometimes.

I’m constantly thinking of episodes from Gulliver’s earlier voyages, too, to Lilliput, Brobdingnag, and the Academy of Lagado. There’s so much truth in all of those fictions.

It’s with a literary frame of mind, then, that I travel to Dublin. Will report back once there, hopefully with some stories that entertain and edify.

Image: “Dublin is located in Ireland,” NordNordWest. CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Blogger JMF said...

I read "A Singular Country" by J.P. Donleavy not too long ago, a colorful take on the Irish. It whet the appetite for his famous 1955 novel, "The Ginger Man," which I've yet to get to. The Irish-American Donleavy still lives (age 89!) in County Westmeath.

2/10/2016 7:07 PM  

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