Anglistik und Amerikanistik

Symposium "History in Stories: The Irish Past and the Challenges of the Present"

Datum: 01.07.2022, 09:00 - 18:30 Uhr
Kategorie: Startseite
Ort: online (In-person participation for speakers, chairs and moderators)
Veranstalter: Irish Studies Würzburg

The twenty-first century has increased an awareness of and brought on a variety of trials and catastrophes, such as the climate crisis, the challenges of digitalization, a worldwide pandemic, the rise of totalitarianism, renewed racism and sexism, the drawbacks of globalization, and more. Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Irish diaspora as well as their friends and partners in Europe furthermore have to deal with the effects of Brexit. Due to its history the consequences of Brexit on the island of Ireland are uniquely politically charged. In fact, the economic effects of the UK leaving the EU are hitting people and their lives equally hard across the whole confederation. However, the Irish situation can be seen as a key example of a specific European and maybe even more of a general global phenomenon.

Which strategies, approaches, and attitudes can be helpful when dealing with these not only European but transatlantic challenges? Is it possible to learn for the future by trying to learn from the past? Can a backward glance provide much needed guidance in this time of turmoil and offer blueprints for the shaping of the present? And how can the younger generation, provided with the knowledge about the past, create a better future?

The past can only be presented and received in narrative form. Texts are repositories of cultural and historical knowledge. Fictional texts and historical documents both provide histories. Thus, the aim of this symposium will be to draw on texts from and about the Irish past for their cultural knowledge and historical lesson.

Scholars from three disciplines – literary studies, TEFL methodology, and history – from three universities – University College Cork (UCC), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven/Leuven Centre for Irish Studies (LCIS/KU Leuven), and Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg/Irish Studies Würzburg (JMU/ISWÜ) – in three European countries – Ireland, Belgium, and Germany – will approach Irish 'history in stories' from the vantage point of their national and disciplinary contexts.

From the perspective of literary studies, genres such as the historical novel, historiographic metafiction, and life writing, among others, provide the reader not simply with nostalgia for a past time. Historical fiction is furthermore a critique of the present, transferred into a past setting. This means that literary texts can be salvaged for cultural and historical knowledge and even for a historical lesson. They can help to avoid the repetition of mistakes of the past and they can assist to shape ideas for the future.

And precisely here is the interface between literary studies and TEFL methodology because literary learning includes elements of intercultural learning in abstract or concrete terms, be it in an oblique or in a direct manner. Thus, literature can contribute to the goal of intercultural or transcultural learning in the EFL classroom. Literary texts always present the other culture in fictionalized form and provoke culture-bound responses. In particular contemporary literary texts offer privileged insights into target cultures because they present an insider’s perspective and thus provide a sort of surrogate experience of encounters with another culture which is not easily accessible first hand.

The New Historicism questions the notion of a ‘canonical’ narrative of the past, rejecting the idea of histoire totale. By emphasizing history writing as literature, it draws attention to the creative, and subjective nature of historical narratives. As much as any writer, the historian is shaped by the values of the society and times they inhabit, and their histories, as rationalizations of the past, reflect these contemporary cultural preoccupations. Exploring History as text and identifying the changes and challenges of ‘history in stories’ in the twenty-first century, reveals how written History or histories can lead to an understanding of its present.

The reimagining and rewriting of the past in textual form is as old as historiography and literature itself, and to explore and identify the changes and challenges of 'history in stories' in the twenty-first century and to teach them can open up paths to a better European and transatlantic future.


9.00-9.15 am: Conference Warming

9.15-9.45 am: Symposium Opening: Ina Bergmann & Maria Eisenmann (JMU/ISWÜ): Introduction: Literature, History & TEFL

9.45-11.00 am: Panel 1: Chair: Matthias Fleckenstein (DIG/ISWÜ)

  • Damian Bracken (UCC): “The Western Regions of the Earth’s Farthest Strand”: Ireland and the Unfolding of History
  • Helmut Flachenecker (JMU/ISWÜ): History in Stories – The Irish Benedictines in Ratisbon and Their Attempts to Interest the new Environment on Ireland (12th Century)

11.00-11.30 am: COFFEE BREAK

11.30-12.45 am/pm: Panel 2: Chair: Lena Pfeifer (JMU/ISWÜ)

  • Beatrix Färber (UCC): Carl Gottlob Küttner: In search of an older Ireland
  • Hedwig Schwall (LCIS/KU Leuven): Caldwell’s Resilient Women and the Belfast Blitz in These Days

12.45-1.45 pm: LUNCH

1.45-3.00 pm: Panel 3: Chair: Jochen Achilles (JMU/ISWÜ)

  • Raphaël Ingelbien (LCIS/KU Leuven): Journeying Into Outsiders’ Pasts: Patrick McGuinness’s Imaginings of Irish and European Identities in Post-Brexit England
  • Miriam Wallraven (JMU/ISWÜ): "Brexit, Borders, Barriers, Identity": Connected Forms of Liminality in Irish Life-Writing: Kerri ní Dochartaigh's "thin places" (2021)

3.00-4.15 pm: Panel 4: Chair: Aimée Waha (JMU/ISWÜ)

  • Franca Leitner (JMU/ISWÜ): Houses with Histories – The Significance of the House and its Past in Post-Celtic Tiger Crime Fiction
  • Elke D’hoker (LCIS/KU Leuven): Teaching Literature, Language and Culture Through (Irish) Short Stories

4.15-4.45 pm: COFFEE BREAK

4.45-5.25 pm: Panel 5: Chair: Cornelia Savelsberg (JMU/ISWÜ

  • Manfred Schewe (UCC): The Irish Past and Present: A Performative Perspective

5.25-5.30 pm: SHORT BREAK

5.30-6.00 pm: Concluding Discussion: Moderator: Jennifer Meier (JMU/ISWÜ)

7.30 pm: DINNER


See the Abstracts & Biosketches for more information on the speakers and papers.

Check the Directions for information on how to reach Würzburg and the symposium venue.


In-person participation is reserved for speakers, chairs and moderators. If you are interested in online participation in this hybrid event, please sign up by sending an email with the subject line “SYMPOSIUM” to by June 28, 2022. Please include your full name and affiliation or address.

Please note that the above given email address is used solely for registration purposes. If you want to contact ISWÜ, please use the contact information given below.


Irish Studies Würzburg (ISWÜ)

Prof. Dr. Ina Bergmann & Prof. Dr. Maria Eisenmann