Quite a while back, at the beginning of fall semester, I met with my Irish Lit professor to discuss topics for the long paper I was going to write. I initially suggested a comparison of Dylan Thomas’ Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Both works are written in English by authors who have strong ties to particular nations that have their own languages: Thomas is Welsh and Joyce is Irish.
Here are the two texts I want to compare. Both narrators also write in English, since the works are semi-autobiographical. I want to examine the presentation of the Welsh and Irish languages in the two works and connect this presentation to the authors’ English-language writing. I hope to argue that Thomas and Joyce continue to participate in the Celtic literary heritage–especially as modern bards–though they write in English.
The class for which I first proposed this project was Contemporary Irish Literature, but I really am interested in Ireland’s neighbor across the Irish Sea–Wales. I’ve been learning Welsh on my own since I was a senior in high school. Dw i ddim yn gallu saraid Cymraeg, ond dw i’n mynd trio wneud e!
My professor liked my idea, but neither Young Dog nor Young Man was on the reading list for the class. She suggested that I apply to Butler Summer Institute. I then wrote my long essay on the subjectivity of national identity and the conflicting sources of such that lead to nationalist-inspired violence in Brian Friel’s play Translations. Now it’s February, and I’m ready to turn in my proposal for the Young Dog/Young Man project.
Butler Summer Institute is a nine-week session during the summer that allows students to pursue independent research projects with a faculty mentor. I think two-thirds of the projects are from the sciences–something about the way the program is funded–but scholars from all disciplines are welcome. This type of project is extremely attractive for several reasons:
- I can research whatever truly interests me without worrying about fitting it into a class syllabus. Comparative literary studies!! WALES!! WELSH!!
- I can work closely with my Irish Lit professor. She’s the perfect mentor for a project like this: Her specialties include transnational literature and multilingual texts, postcolonial studies, and comparative literature.
- I’ll produce a longer writing sample–something I’ll need should I apply to graduate school after what I hope is a career in a dance company.
- On that note, I’ll practice writing a literary analysis longer than twenty-four pages.
- I get to do the comparative literature thing.
- I can surrender to my total love of all things Welsh. During the research for the partial bibliography I’m including in my application, I kept getting distracted: I just had to read part of “The Social Identity of Welsh Learners,” even though it will not be included in my final project. Oooo, the other one I had tremendous difficulty putting down was “Near-Sameness in Early Insular Metrics: Oral Ancestry and Aesthetic Potential.” This article WILL figure into my final project. So excited. (Early Insular Metrics = early poetry of the Insular Celtic languages, which include Welsh and Irish Gaelic).
- I’ll receive free housing for the duration of the session, plus a stipend. This will definitely help defray the cost of summer school–and the cost of not being able to hold a job during the summer.
I’m nervous about this mainly because I do not know whether my application will be rejected because I have to take a course during the last three weeks of the BSI session if I am to get my secondary English major. Well, we shall see. Keep your fingers crossed for me.