The idea that the Irish possess a natural disposition towards creativity is a long standing and durable one.  Indeed, it might be argued that Matthew Arnold’s nineteenth-century conception of “Celtic Genius” still has traction today, as recognition of Ireland’s artistic prowess grants the island cultural status disproportionate to its size, economic, or geopolitical power.  How and why this image of an “artistic Ireland” developed, who and what it includes and excludes, and how it operates, are the central questions that this symposium seeks to address. 

The aim of this symposium is therefore not to prove or reject specific narratives about Irish artistic achievement, but to find ways to engage and assess the scale and scope of this phenomenon.  In order to explore the stories of Ireland’s creative cultures, this symposium will bring together artists and scholars from a wide range of disciplines.  Through discussion and debate we will ask how culture has been wielded politically, and to what extent narratives about artistic Ireland have emerged organically or been used instrumentally in Ireland’s nation-building process.  Of particular interest is the capacity of artistic cultures to adapt to the increasing heterogeneity of Irish society.  With that in mind, participants will consider issues of diversity and inclusion, past and present, in the contexts of gender, sexuality, nationality, race and ethnicity, at home and abroad. 

This project begins with open-ended questions posed to leading scholars across a range of disciplines.  Villanova University’s Center for Irish Studies will bring a group of over ten scholars together at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco for a symposium focused on the dynamics of artistic Ireland.  Following the symposium, publishing options will be explored (special issue of a journal or an edited collection). 

Participants will present on a relevant topic that address the theme. The symposium sessions are closed to the public.


© G. Luci/Palais Princier