Irish Time? Temporalities in Irish Literature and Culture
Symposium at The Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin
October 12-13, 2017
Convenors: Martin Middeke (University of Augsburg) and Christopher Morash (Trinity College Dublin)
Call for papers available now: https://irishtimesymposium.wordpress.com/callforpapers/
Please send inquiries and abstracts to: email@example.com by May 1, 2017.
For more information, please visit our website or read the project outline below.
At 2:00 a.m., Sunday, 1 October, 1916, Irish time changed.
Up until that point, time in Ireland was regulated by the Statutes (Definition of Time) Act of 1880, the Act of the Westminster Parliament that set out to standardise what had been, until that point, a plethora of local time zones, to a standard time regulated by the observatory in Greenwich – “and in the case of Ireland, Dublin mean time”, which was marked by the observatory in Dunsink. In practice, this meant that between 1880 and October of 1916, Irish time was twenty-five minutes and twenty-one seconds behind Greenwich mean time, a situation that only changed with the Time (Ireland) Act of 1916.
This example of shifting clock-time amply reveals its conventionality. Clearly, on the one hand, time, the experience of time, and time consciousness do not constitute rigid, objective, or even culturally and historically invariant categories. Relativity Theory has taught us that, even ontologically, there is no ‘absolute’ (but a relative) status of time. On the other hand, the consciousness of temporality, of irreversibility, or of the limited time-span of our lives constitutes a perennial human craving that goes beyond races or nations. “Reckoning with time”, Martin Heidegger reminds us, “is constitutive for Being-in-the-world.” (Being and Time §66).
As a consequence of this highly ambiguous existential situation, the modern discourse of progress firmly rests on the assumption that time, after all, can be controlled by (scientific) measurements, by linear chronologies, or by memory. In contrast to this, the arts and artists, however, have ever since focussed on the non-linear, on the circular, on the paradox, and on the contingent sides of the experience of time. Indeed whatever is deviant from the norm of the linear has become the centre of artistic reflections of self and world. Art in many ways works as a counter-discourse to the narrative of modernization highlighting the dysfunctional or alienating sides of modernization, while at the same time integrating all such modern developments into a specific temporal framework. Moreover, art and artists have pointed out that, for instance, love, passions, or self-reflection follow entirely different temporal patterns and paradigms than streamlined, teleological, and linear ones. Studying time, therefore, can gain us insights into the sociocultural, historical, political, and aesthetic conditions, philosophical epistemes, and subjective sensitivities of a particular culture. At the same time, however, thinking about time can show us avenues to transcend such particularities.
Central to much of the most influential work in the field of Irish Studies over the past two decades has been the question of Ireland’s engagement with modernity, particularly the ways in which the traumas and discontinuities of colonisation mapped onto the traumas of modernity elsewhere in Europe and America.
In contrast to this, this conference proposes a new “reckoning with time” in the field of Irish Studies, taking into account these culturally specific forms of experiences of time and temporality in an Irish context that we might call “Irish time” and also go beyond such. We shall have to investigate in what way the fractures and traumata of colonisation have brought about specific temporal rhythms and, at the same time, pursue how processes of mediatisation, developments of infrastructure, and indeed networks of globalisation have created temporal structures and mind-sets that no longer conceive of Ireland and the Irish as a cultural and aesthetic Other or Elsewhere.