Vol. LXV, No. 3
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
To celebrate Leonard L. Milberg’s recent donation of an Irish prose collection containing over 1,700 books, manuscripts, portraits, audio visual materials and other items that illustrate the richness and vitality of Irish writing from 1798 to the present, Princeton University has planned an exhibition that will open on Friday, January 28, and a symposium on Saturday and Sunday, February 5-6, titled “The Cracked Lookingglass: Highlights from the Leonard L. Milberg Collection of Irish Prose Writers.”
The exhibition, which runs through July 10, will be on view in the main gallery and in the Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library.
Organized by Lewis Center Chair Paul Muldoon, director of the Fund for Irish Studies at Princeton, the February 5-6 event will include lectures and readings featuring leading Irish novelists and critics John Banville, Emma Donoghue, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, R.F. Foster, Hugo Hamilton, Patrick McCabe, Colum McCann, Belinda McKeon, Paul Murray, Colm Tóibín, Deborah Treisman and Michael Wood. All events are free and open to the public but reserved tickets are required for the Sunday evening gala evening at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall where Colm Tóibín will chair an evening of readings by Doyle, Donoghue, McCabe, and McCann.
“Once again, Leonard has brought a remarkable literary collection to the Princeton University Library,” said President Shirley M. Tilghman, “opening new avenues of scholarship and teaching for faculty, students, and visiting researchers. His generosity, acumen, and commitment to Princeton’s educational mission are greatly appreciated by us all.”
The earliest items in the Milberg Collection of Irish Prose Writers include Maria Edgeworth’s Practical Education, 1798, two volumes; Charles Robert Maturin’s Five Sermons on the Errors of the Roman Catholic Church Preached in Saint Peter’s Church, 1824; Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery, 1851; and Ancient Cures, Charms and Usages of Ireland, 1890 by Lady Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s mother. Important manuscripts and correspondence files include those of Maria Edgeworth, Sean O’Casey and Flann O’Brien, and the collection also features paintings of notable Irish authors, in particular an exquisite oil portrait of Edgeworth painted from life. Contemporary Irish prose writers also are well represented in the Milberg collection with first books by John Banville, Joyce Cary, John McGahern, Brian Moore, Iris Murdoch, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, Francis Stuart, William Trevor and dozens more. There are 102 authors in the Irish prose collection, which Mr. Milberg gave in honor of the late Princeton Professor Robert Fagles and dedicated to his long-time associate, the antiquarian book dealer J. Howard Woolmer.
Ben Primer, associate librarian for rare books and special collections at Firestone, commented on the highlights in the exhibition. “Visitors will encounter the Irish romantic novel of the 19th century, the Blasket Island writers who composed their memories in Gaelic, modern Irish pulp fiction, and the output of the fiercely independent Raven Arts Press, which published the early work of some of the best Irish novelists and essayists of today, including Roddy Doyle and Fintan O’Toole. Among the unique items on view are two of Iris Murdoch’s working notebooks, letters from Elizabeth Bowen and Colum McCann, and manuscripts of short stories by Liam O’Flaherty and by Edith Somerville and Martin Ross (authors of the books that were made into the popular television series The Irish R.M.). The exhibition will alsofeature interviews with contemporary Irish writers by Mr. Londe and television and radio interviews with other authors from RTÉ, Ireland’s National Television and Radio Broadcaster.”
Accompanying the exhibition is a heavily illustrated catalog edited by Londe and Fox that includes essays by, among others, Paul Muldoon, Michael Wood and Colm Tóibín. There will also be a special issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle including unpublished essays, short stories and chapters of novels in progress from most of the living writers whose work is included in the Milberg collection. An essay by historian and critic R.F. Foster puts them into literary context and a concluding essay by journalist Fintan O’Toole explores the future of Irish writing.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate Leonard Milberg’s latest gift by inviting to campus some of the very finest Irish prose writers of the era,” Mr. Muldoon said. “The main reason for expanding the library’s holdings is to give our students even greater access to materials for research and study. The symposium will allow them to have firsthand experience of some of the writers in person. We’re also very pleased to be able to invite the wider Princeton community, who have so stalwartly supported our Fund for Irish Studies events over the past 10 years, to meet some of their favorite Irish authors.”
The symposium will open on Saturday with a lecture on “Ghosts and Histories: Supernaturalism and the 19th-Century Irish Literary Imagination,” by R. F. Foster, professor of history at Oxford University and the author of the two-volume biography of W. B. Yeats. Belinda McKeon will chair the event. The lecture will be followed by an interview with John Banville chaired by Michael Wood. The day will close with subsequent readings by Banville, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton and Paul Murray, chaired by Paul Muldoon. Enright, whose recent book, The Gathering, won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, will deliver Sunday’s opening lecture on the “Cracking the Mirror: The Irish Short Story,” followed by the official opening reception of “The Cracked Lookingglass” exhibition in the Firestone Library. The symposium closes with the readings at Richardson Auditorium.
For more information about the new Milberg collection, “The Cracked Lookingglass” exhibition, and the complete symposium program of lectures, readings and bios of the speakers, or tickets visit the website: http://fis.princeton.edu/milberg/irish-prose. Primary sponsors of “The Cracked Lookingglass” include the Council of the Friends of Princeton University Library, the Fund for Irish Studies, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Office of the President and Culture Ireland. Additional support came from Princeton’s Council of the Humanities, Department of Comparative Literature, Department of English and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies.
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