CfP: IASIL Annual Conference, ‘Creative Borders’ 19-23 July 2021, Univeristy of Lodz, Poland.

The IASIL 2021 conference wishes to reflect on the concept of borders and their creative potential that helps define identities, generates critical discourses, and provokes literary works to tackle issues of global political, social, and cultural nature. On the one hand, the border is seen here as a necessary confinement and a formal limitation. On the other, it is viewed as an inspiring challenge to explore the other, the unknown, and the invisible, all of which lie beyond the widely accepted definitions and theories.

We wish to look at Irish literature as a product of imagination inspired and nurtured by English, European and global traditions connected with both Americas and the East (e.g. China and Japan). With this in mind, our definition of a border expands beyond purely geographic and political conditions of literary production; it accounts for differences in literary sensibility, aesthetic preferences, varieties of style and diction, and diverse selections of topics, which naturally result from a creative clash of literary traditions and artistic choices formed and bred under varying environments but coming into a creative confrontation in movements across real and imagined frontiers within global Irish studies.

In a long line of Irish writers who deliberately looked outside of Ireland for artistic inspiration and recognition, W. B. Yeats and James Joyce stand as perhaps the most conspicuous examples of artists whose imagination had been shaped by the experience of crossing and re-crossing the imaginary frontier. Yeats, for instance, did not see Irish identity as being at odds with the English language or foreign artistic traditions. Joyce, in turn, gave the issue of language a new inflexion when he had Stephen Dedalus muse “how different are the words home, Christ, ale, master” on the lips of an Englishman. The best Irish-language authors also strove to connect native traditions with outside influences in their work. This concept of productive translation between cultures and literary traditions phrased in varied inflections of language remains part of Irish peoples’ ability to reimagine themselves or travel between cultures. As Catríona O’ Reilly phrases it more poetically in “nowhere birds”, a titular poem from her debut collection, “There is no leaving for them / in such shifts south” and yet, “from their visiting wings’ / return were angels made.” The conference, therefore, seeks to explore ways in which Irish literary tradition is part of a broader constellation of influences in which borders mark an inspiring challenge for creative trespass, or for an onward journey and a divinely creative return. In a multicultural, postcolonial, or diasporic context Irish cultural heritage and artistic inventiveness positively engage with local traditions of Europe, both Americas and the East.

In the light of recent political debates about the definition of European integration and in the present context of Brexit, the frontier that has become once more a prominent subject of political and cultural debate is the border between Ireland’s North and South, which has created a special case for literary expressions of identity, national belonging, selfhood, and cultural politics of gender and class. These tensions have aptly been captured by Seamus Heaney in “Frontiers of Writing,” the last of his lectures as Oxford Professor of Poetry: “The Irish political leader operating between two systems of loyalty, the Irish writer responsive to two cultural milieux, the Irish place invoked under two different systems of naming […]. The problem is familiar and one of its unignorable causes is the border in Ireland, a frontier which has entered the imagination definitively.” It is in view of this claim that the North and the South remain concepts that urgently demand exploration and revision in the light of the wide range of social, cultural, and economic factors that help thematise and grasp existing divides. The conference, therefore, also seeks to explore themes concerning the Irish North and South reflected in literary, dramatic, theatrical, filmic, and artistic works.

We invite conference papers in the field of Irish literary studies which examine creative confrontations between such seemingly disparate concepts as tradition and modernization, parochialism and cosmopolitism, nostalgia and futurity. We welcome topics which focus on social and cultural divisions, such as those that pertain to politics, religion, gender, class, (dis)ability, race, and ethnicity.

With the current state of pandemic we would like conference participants to reflect on the topics related to virtual borders and the online artistic production as well as reception. It is interesting to investigate to what extent the Irish literary diaspora has been stimulated in its artistic productivity by the possibilities (and limitations) offered within the virtual reality of restricted movement. We are therefore interested in contributions exploring Ireland-related online and virtual projects in the field of literature, drama and theatre which reflect on experience, challenge and stimulation of the pandemic borderless reality.

Possible topics may include but are in no way limited to:

– Literary visions and revisions of the idea of border(s) and liminality.
– Representations of (in)authentic Irishness.
– Mutual (re)conceptualisations of the Republic and Northern Ireland.
– Border poetics and aesthetics.
– Contested historical events and traditions as represented from various points of view.
– Irish history (of the North and the South) and remembrance.
– Political strife and its literary manifestations and reverberations.
– Irish North and South seen through the eyes of the diaspora.
– Immigration/emigration in Irish writing.
– Irish-language tradition in the North/South.
– Voices from the margins and their role in shaping the notion of Irishness.
– Realism and experimentation in Irish writing and their relation to artistic avant gardes.
– Ireland and Europe, marginality and centrality of perspective.
– Irish literature reflected in criticism of academia outside Europe.
– Translating, editing and publishing Irish literature outside of Ireland.
– Irish studies, and Irish research outside of Ireland as a contribution to exploring Irish literature and culture.
– The official and the alternative – artistic, theatrical, literary and publishing projects in the independent sector.
– The changing relations between the centre and the periphery in Irish literature, Irish culture and Irish Studies.
– Major Irish cultural institutions and their strategies of online presence: virtual projects, virtual audiences.
– Independent literary and theatrical sector and the pandemic: alternative theatre, community theatre and literary groups searching for active virtual presence.
– Verbalising and theatricalising pandemic reality in poetry, fiction, drama, film and theatre.

In keeping with IASIL’s general practice, papers are also invited in other areas of Irish literary studies.

The organisers invite proposals of 250 words for twenty-minute papers, or for three-paper panels or discussion roundtables, to be delivered in the English or the Irish language.

Please also include a brief biographical sketch of 50-100 words.

Proposals must be submitted to The deadline for submission is 28 February 2021.

Those who submitted their proposals for the 2020 rescheduled IASIL conference are kindly asked to resend them either in the same or revised version.

The uncertain pandemic situation makes it impossible to predict the level of restrictions which will be in place in July 2021.

We would therefore like to keep the options open and decide about the format of the conference at a later stage based on the current developments.

Two types of fees are envisioned: a regular fee for on-site delegates (with a significant discount for PhD students, early career scholars and the unwaged), and a reduced fee for delegates presenting remotely (pertaining to both hybrid and online-only format of the conference). We would be extremely grateful if delegates who already know that they will be able to deliver their papers online only indicated so in their paper proposals.

For details, please visit the conference website:

Organizing Committee:
Michal Lachman
Katarzyna Ojrzyńska
Wit Pietrzak
Joanna Kruczkowska

Postgraduate scholarships awarded by IASIL to attend the conference in 2020 are being carried over to 2021. The additional scholarships awarded for the 2020 conference funded by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs are subject to confirmation; the scholarship holders may expect a confirmation in the course of Spring 2021.

PhD Forum
Applications are invited for the annual IASIL PhD Forum, at which postgraduate students have the opportunity to present their work-in-progress and receive feedback from established scholars. The Forum will take place on Monday 19 July, 9:00-14:00, prior to the opening of the conference of the association at the University of Łódź. Applicants must be postgraduate students working on a topic within Irish literary studies and paid-up members of IASIL. Applications should take the form of a 3000-word document outlining the student’s dissertation project and their current state of research, and should be accompanied by a brief CV (500 words) and confirmation of their IASIL membership from the IASIL Treasurer.

Eligible participants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. The Forum can accommodate 10 students, who will be divided into two groups based on the area of their work. At the Forum, students will be asked to make a 5-minute presentation introducing their work to the group (the use of presentation software is encouraged); this will be followed by a detailed response to the students’ submission from two tutors, and a general discussion. Lunch will be provided for the participants.

The format of the forum will be decided closer to the date: it will be run either as a face-to-face event, a hybrid one, or online only.

Participation at the Forum does not preclude the possibility of presenting a paper at the conference.

Other graduate students are welcome to sit in at the Forum and join the discussion.

Applications or queries titled ‘PhD Forum’ are to be sent to the Forum convenor, Ondřej Pilný, at ondrej.pilny@ff.cuni.czby 31 May 2021. Acceptance will be confirmed by 10 June 2021.