Childhood, Ireland and Fiction
Wednesday 15th February saw CBI head to the National Library of Ireland for Dr Pádraic Whyte’s lecture ‘It’s Not the Past that Matters, it’s the Way you See it’: Childhood, Ireland and Children’s Fiction. This lecture was organised in conjunction with the photographic exhibition Small Lives- Photographs of Irish Childhood 1880 – 1970. This exhibition is currently on display at the National Photographic Archive in Temple Bar and gives a fascinating insight into various childhood experiences of that period.
Using images from the exhibition as a starting point, Pádraic discussed Irish fiction, chiefly historical fiction, to discover how the figure of the child is central in exploring narratives of the nation. Under the themes of Gender & Perspective, Gender & War, Nostalgia & Loss and Religion & Education, novels including Elizabeth O’Hara’s (Eilis Ni Dhuibhne) The Hiring Fair, Blaeberry Sunday and Penny-Farthing Sally, Gerard Whelan’s The Guns of Easter, Morgan Llywelyn’s The Young Rebels, Colin Vard’s Blood Beyond the Keyhole, The Amelia books by Siobhán Parkinson, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September, William Trevor’s Fools of Fortune, Eilís Dillon’ novel The Seals and Mark O’Sullivan’s Melody for Nora, to name just a few, were mined for representations of childhood.
Pádraic’s presentation offered a whistle-stop tour through Irish childhood as presented through (chiefly) children’s literature, and left attendees considering how Irish children’s literature will continue to present events in modern history, like clerical child abuse revelations and the recent recession, to generations of Irish children.