UCD’s School of English, Drama and Film have recently launched a website designed as an aid to students and academics studying in the field of contemporary literature.
The site is a collaborative effort between members of university staff, as well as several international academics. It was founded by UCD’s Chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama, Professor Margaret Kelleher. The project is being funded by UCD’s seed funding and strategic initiative schemes.
Speaking to the University Observer, Professor Kelleher detailed the inception of the website, saying: “much of the inspiration for the project came from recognising the depth of interest in contemporary Irish literature among colleagues and students in universities outside of Ireland, for example in China, Brazil and Canada.”
Kelleher noted an absence in academia of this literature. “Teachers of literature in those countries – and indeed in Ireland also – can sometimes be reluctant to put very contemporary material on their syllabi because few secondary resources yet exist, and one of the aims of the project is to address that gap.”
The first large-scale venture of the site, titled “50 Irish Books” is an aggregate of 50 contemporary pieces of Irish literature. All of the books were published between 2009 and 2013. The list includes various links to reviews, interviews with authors, and other useful resources about each title.
The website features authors such as Kevin Barry, Anne Enright, Edna O’Brien and Frank McGuinness. Of the 50 authors, the project also includes five Irish language books, something that site contributor Anna Heussaff believes “demonstrates the opportunity today to own and to celebrate our writing in both languages.”
Reception to the website from various publishers and authors has been hugely positive, and the website has seen large amounts of traffic both nationally and internationally. On a smaller scale, the site notes that a number of book-clubs in Ireland and abroad have begun using the site to set their autumn and winter reading.
On the future of the website, Professor Kelleher feels that “it’s really the reception of the project and reactions to the site in the coming months that will help us decide what exactly to do next.”
She further commented on the warm reception of the project so far. “What’s very clear is that there is a strong interest, and need, for more resources relating to contemporary writing that can also help us examine how reputations are formed and how we might extend the range of what is known of Irish writing at home and abroad.”
The site is available to visit at www.contemporaryirishwriting.ie/.