Upcoming Events

The ILHS presents a wide array of leading scholars and accomplished writers at our monthly Speaker Series events.  Most talks are held on the last Sunday of each month, September through May, at the United Irish Cultural Center, 45th Avenue and Sloat Blvd., San Francisco, unless otherwise noted.  Events are $5 and free for members.  No reservations or advance purchase are required.

Sunday January 26, 2020 – Scholar Chris McCann on Music and Social Hierarchy in Irish Literature

Scholar Chris McCann will present “Music and Social Hierarchy in Irish Literature” on Sunday January 26, 2020.

Music is a potent symbol of community allegiance (and divergence) in Irish culture. As symbol, as performance, as narrative turn, authors of Irish prose fiction often use music to explore the complex nature of affiliation. Literary employment of musical devices inevitably leads to moments of cohesion and division that mirror existing social hierarchies.

The conditions of the twentieth century, in which the rapid onset of modernity counters efforts to preserve traditional Irish culture, exacerbated social imbalances in Ireland. This contributed greatly to the ceaseless flow of Irish emigration in the middle of the century. In this context, music, song, and dance can perform a related but different function: providing a unifying means of reasserting the self within Irish diaspora culture in the face of disrupted social organization and disoriented identity. 

This discussion addresses Irish musical-literary responses to the challenges posed by social and spatial hierarchies across the last century. It surveys music as a device in the works of diverse authors, from Joyce and Seán Ó Faoláin to Breandán Ó hEithir and Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, and assesses how music functions between text and community in Ireland and the diaspora.

Chris McCann is a doctoral scholar in English at the National University of Ireland Galway. His project, entitled Revealing Social Hierarchy Through Music in Irish Literature, is supported by the Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Award. A forthcoming publication stemming from this research looks at Breandán Ó hEithir’s use of music in Lead Us Into Temptation. Chris completed his MA, entitled Singing Exile: Music in Irish Emigration Literature, at The University of Notre Dame Fremantle in Western Australia in 2017.  

The event will take place at 5:00pm on Sunday, January 26 at the UICC, 45th and Sloat Blvd, San Francisco.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Historian Jim Fisher, author of On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York.

The ILHS is very pleased to present Irish American historian James T. Fisher, who will deliver a lecture on his research on Irish Americans in the construction of the Panama Canal Sunday February 23, 2020.

Fisher, is a prolific historian of Irish America, notably author of On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York

Site of the world’s busiest and most lucrative harbor throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the Port of New York was also the historic preserve of Irish American gangsters, politicians, longshoremen’s union leaders, and powerful Roman Catholic pastors. This is the demimonde depicted to stunning effect in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954) and into which James T. Fisher takes readers in this remarkable and engaging historical account of the classic film’s backstory.

On the Irish Waterfront is also a detailed social history of the New York/New Jersey waterfront, from the rise of Irish American entrepreneurs and political bosses during the World War I era to the mid-1950s, when the emergence of a revolutionary new mode of cargo-shipping signaled a radical reorganization of the port. This book explores the conflicts experienced and accommodations made by an insular Irish-Catholic community forced to adapt its economic, political, and religious lives to powerful forces of change both local and global in scope.

Over time, Fisher’s research took him to the far reaches of Central America, to the construction of the Panama Canal and the varied experiences of Irish American workers in that distant jungle.  He will address his recent research in this lecture. 

James T. Fisher is Professor of Theology and American Studies, Fordham University. He is author of Communion of Immigrants: A History of Catholics in America, Dr. America: The Lives of Thomas A. Dooley, 1927–1961, and The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962.