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Object Lessons - Irish Culture in Ten Artefacts

Thursday 13 December 2012

FINTAN O'TOOLE contributes to many international publications, most regularly to the New York Review of Books. He is currently completing A History of Ireland in 100 Objects, which will be published in March 2013 in conjunction with the National Museum of Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy.

His books include Enough is Enough (2010); Ship of Fools (2009); The Irish Times Book of the 1916 Rising (2006); White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America (2005); After the Ball (2003); Shakespeare is Hard but so is Life (2002); The Irish Times Book of the Century (1999); A Traitor's Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1997); The Lie of the Land: Selected Essays (1997); The Ex-Isle of Erin (1996); Black Hole, Green Card (1994); Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (1995); A Mass for Jesse James (1990) and The Politics of Magic (1987).

Irish culture is rich, distinctive and highly imaginative. What characterises it, though, is not splendid isolation but a brilliant capacity to take outside influences, fuse them with what is already there and create a new synthesis. The island has never been a remote and pristine space but is, rather, a land on which many different ideas and influences are continually washed ashore. And yet, the culture somehow manages to hold on to ancient impulses — a refusal to take things literally, a love of playful images, a desire for continuity amidst change.

In this talk, Fintan O'Toole uses 10 striking objects from the last five millennia to explore the ways in which Irish culture is always different but always the same.

Gleninsheen Gorget, 8000 BC


Eileen Gray, Nonconformist chair, 1920s

Wooden Crook, 10ème siècle


Clonmacnoise Crozier, 11th century


Rinnagan Crucifixion Plaque
8th century


Broighter Hoard Boat, 700 avant J-C

Pictures of the event

Object Lessons - Irish Culture in Ten Artefacts

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