New Approaches to Ossian symposium, Royal Irish Academy, 4 September 2015

The first collected edition of James Macpherson’s Ossian poems, The Works of Ossian was published in two volumes in 1765. To mark the 250th anniversary of this significant cultural event and the development of a new online resource, Ossian Online, a one-day symposium and public lecture will be held in the Royal Irish Academy on Friday 4 September 2015.

Reflecting the diversity of Ossian’s appeal, the symposium will feature speakers from a range of disciplines, presenting papers on new and recent research on Macpherson’s work. These talks will present new perspectives on familiar topics such as the role and meaning of Ireland in Ossian and Gaelic sources for the poetry, alongside considerations of the current status of Ossian studies in the academy and its potential place in public humanities. Digital humanities projects that focus on Ossian are represented by presentations on Ossian Online and on network analysis of the Ossian corpus. The symposium concludes with a public lecture by James Mulholland (North Carolina State University) on “Ossian and the Global Crisis in Authenticity” (abstract below).

New Approaches to Ossian takes place in the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson street, Dublin on Friday 4 September 2015. Attendance is free, but we request that delegates register for the symposium on Eventbrite. A full schedule for the symposium follows this message.

This symposium is supported by the Irish Research Council’s New Foundations Scheme. Ossian Online is supported by the Moore Institute; School of Humanities, National University of Ireland, Galway; and the National Library of Scotland.

Rebecca Anne Barr & Justin Tonra

Symposium Organisers.


New Approaches to Ossian symposium schedule.

Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin.

9.30 – 10.30am: Registration / Tea & coffee

10.30 – 11am: Justin Tonra (NUI Galway): “Ossian Online: ‘Many more remains of ancient genius’”

11am – 12.30pm: Panel 1

Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands): “More Gaelic Sources of Macpherson’s Ossian.”

Dafydd Moore (University of Plymouth): “‘Caledonian plagiary’: Fictional Histories and the Role and Meaning of Ireland in The Poems of Ossian.”

12.30 – 2pm: Lunch

2 – 3.30pm: Panel 2

Ralph Kenna & Joseph Yose (Coventry University): “Network Analysis of Ossian.”

Sebastian Mitchell (University of Birmingham): “Ossian: Past Present and Future.”

Kristin Lindfield-Ott (University of the Highlands and Islands): “James Macpherson in the Highlands – Public Engagement Beyond Public Lectures.”

3.45 – 5pm: Roundtable

Chair: Míchéal Mac Craith (St Isidore’s College & NUI Galway)

Lesa Ní Mhunghaile (NUI Galway)

Clíona O Gallchoir (University College Cork)

Rebecca Anne Barr (NUI Galway)

5 – 5.30pm: Tea & coffee

5.30 – 6.30pm: Public lecture

James Mulholland (North Carolina State University): “Ossian and the Global Crisis in Authenticity.”

Abstract: In his presentation, James Mulholland reexamines Susan Stewart’s claim that the eighteenth century’s defining feature was a “crisis in authenticity,” suggesting instead that this supposed crisis was really a century-long experiment with the reproduction of oral voices and the impersonation of foreign speakers. In his talk, he will pair the contentious debates about the textual authenticity of Macpherson’s Ossian with a series of poems from the 1770s that ventriloquize Tahitian speakers. Both Macpherson and these Tahitian impersonators, Mulholland argues, cultivate their authority by appealing not to authenticity, but rather to the arts of inauthenticity. In outlining what he terms the “archive of the inauthentic,” Mulholland claims that we can re-animate our scholarship about subjects like Ossian only by recognizing the importance of textual and cultural inauthenticity and by situating it within the globalizing world of the eighteenth century.