Table of Contents

Following a serendipitous encounter in Barnes & Noble at ALA in Boston I made an impulsive purchase. The volume in question is Why Irish: Irish language and literature in academia, proceedings from a conference organised at Notre Dame.
The opening essay sets the scene and includes a discussion of the value of the humanities in the modern university and society.

Universities are obliged to explore and develop the humanities as the archive of human achievement and imagination just as scholars are obliged to publish and popularise their research. Both are charged with educating the public, promoting research and popularising scholarship. Failure to do so amounts to withdrawal into an even more removed ivory tower or further capitulation to the corporate world that vews universities as low-cost research and design units.

The author quotes the recondite Seamus Deane on the “current demented belief in the market as the object of our common idolatry” and goes on to say:

The clearest manifestation of such lamentable and short-term thought is the abolition of the Chair of Old Irish at University College Dublin, an institution long respected not only for the caibre of its students and scholars, but its contribution of the intellectual and cultural life of Ireland.

This seemed exemplary to me in several ways. The first is the sense of the humanities as embattled in


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