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This article by Nicole Plett

was prepared for the March 13, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Princeton’s Vision of Irish Riches

Ireland’s contribution to world culture

has been extraordinary," says Irish-born poet Paul Muldoon in

a delicious Irish brogue. "Given the size of that country, its

sheer impact on world literature, for the last several hundred years,

has been extraordinary — particularly in the 20th century. There

you have G.B. Shaw, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett. And now

on the contemporary front too, it’s also quite remarkable."

Thanks to Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies, Muldoon and

his colleagues are bringing more Irish culture to more people. A 1998

donation by Pat Durkin ’60 established the fund that gave its first

programs in 1999. Muldoon serves as the program’s spokesman and head

of its 17-member advisory committee. And though he’d rather not draw

attention to himself, his latest collection, "Poems 1968 and

1998,"

published 2001, is due to be released in paperback in April.

Durkin’s gift that launched the Fund for Irish Studies was made as

part of the university’s 250th anniversary campaign. Its name is

considered

particularly appropriate since its acronym — FIS — means

"vision"

in Gaelic.

"This is a two-part businesses," Muldoon explains with

enthusiasm.

"On one hand we’re attempting to bring a little more focus to

things that are already happening and courses that are already being

taught here. We also encourage members of the committee to teach new

courses with an Irish aspect. The other side of the FIS mission is

a series of public events that span the languages, literatures, drama,

visual arts, history, politics, and economics of Ireland."

Muldoon says that over four years of programming there has been a

lot of interest, particularly from the larger community. All FIS

programs

are free and open to the public.

Yeats’ scholar R.F. Foster of Oxford University gives then next talk

on "Glory and Friends: Yeats and His Contemporaries" on

Friday,

April 12. One of its more ambitious past offerings was last December’s

"The Death of Oscar Wilde," a reading marking the centenary

of Wilde’s death presented by writers and faculty members Michael

Cadden, Lawrence Danson, Jeff Nunokawa, Elaine Showalter, and Muldoon.

Among the "extraordinary" contemporary Irish creative artists

is the Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, who will give a reading

at Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium on Wednesday, April 17, at 4:30

p.m. Colm Toibin and Dermot Healy have read for FIS in the past. Next

year, it will present poets Tom Paulin and Nuala Ni Dhonhnaill.

Playwright

Marina Carr, whose works have been produced at McCarter Theater, will

give the talk that was postponed earlier this year.

Muldoon says contemporary Irish directors and filmmakers Neil Jordan

("The Crying Game") and Stephen Rea both have standing

invitations

from FIS. Irish music is also a giant on the arts scene. From

traditional

Gaelic reels to Sinead O’Connor and the Grammy grabbing Irish pop

music group U-2, America is intimately familiar with this export.

Next academic year FIS will host singer and musicologist Len Graham

and Padraigin Ni Uallachain. Muldon is also hoping for a future

performance

by Irish classical pianist John O’Conor, who is also the formost

exponent

of the innovative `Nocturnes’ of 19th-century Irish composer John

Field.

— Nicole Plett


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