'Silence . . . and Irish Writing', PPKE, Budapest, June 25-27, 2014

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Dr. Michael McAteer, Department of English, Pázmány Péter Katolikus Egyetem/Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE), Budapest, Hungary

This conference seeks to open up discussion and reflection on silence in Irish writing from a range of perspectives. Irish writers have attempted to conjure silence to signify intimacy, desire, fulfilment, grief, terror, trauma, boredom, linguistic and cultural loss, being and nothingness. From W. B. Yeats to Samuel Beckett and beyond, silence persists, both as a theme and as a dimension of writing itself. Silence threatens all messages – spoken and written – in their need for pause or interval to make them transmissible. At the same time, all attempts at writing silence may be doomed to fail. The dilemma seems singular in the writing of Beckett, but is by no means confined to him. Twentieth-century fictional works of such writers as James Joyce, Frank O'Connor, Sean O'Faolain, Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O'Brien, Edna O'Brien, Brian Moore, John McGahern, John Banville, Glenn Patterson, Eoin MacNamee, and Colm Tóibín, confront the question of silence, developing varieties of narrative style through which silence is summoned. Conference paper proposals are invited on these and other Irish authors, from this or earlier centuries.

Silence in the form of a struggle to express or to communicate is notably recurrent a preoccupation in Irish drama, including plays by Lady Augusta Gregory, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness and Tom Murphy. Of equal interest for this conference are discussions on the techniques of performing silence in Irish drama, and of the character of non-verbal performance in terms of silence. Proposals are also welcome in this regard that address the representation of silence in radio drama and radio poetry broadcasts.

Irish poetry might be described as a place of encounter between voice, writing and silence. This encounter can be found in medieval Irish nature poetry to modern verse by Yeats, A.E., Austin Clarke, Mártín Ó Direáin, Thomas Kinsella, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney and Medbh McGuckian. Proposals for papers are invited on Irish poetry and silence in relation to such topics as: landscape; vanishing; the Irish language; the body; sexual, political, and religious circumspection.

Cross-cultural comparisons between the work of writers from Irish backgrounds and writers from elsewhere around the topic of silence are also welcome.

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