The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space

  • Saturday 9 December, 4.00pm
  • Poetry Ireland, 11 Parnell Square East, Dublin 1
  • Tickets: Free, booking advised

Join Four Courts Press for the launch of The Vibrant House, a collection of short memoirs and critical essays exploring our relationship with home, edited by Rhona Richman Kenneally and Lucy McDiarmid. Launched by Professor Margaret Kelleher, Chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at University College Dublin. 

This collection of short memoirs and critical essays explores the relation between home as metaphor and symbol, and home as a physical, material and spatial entity. In the first section, ‘Our house’, Colette Bryce, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Theo Dorgan, Mary Morrissy and Macdara Woods remember houses from their childhoods and show, in Ní Chuilleanáin’s words, how the house is a ‘way of understanding the world, its differences and boundaries’. In the second section, entitled ‘Their house’, Angela Bourke, Nicholas Grene, Adam Hanna, Howard Keeley, Lucy McDiarmid, Maureen O’Connor and Tony Tracy look at domestic sites as various as Maeve Brennan’s childhood home in Ranelagh and Synge’s stage spaces. An essay by Rhona Richman Kenneally serves as a conceptual introduction to the collection, and framing poems by Vona Groarke suggest a poet’s version of ‘How to read a building’. A stand-alone visual essay of images and discursive captions featuring domestic spaces addressed in the contributions supports this book’s emphasis on the Irish home as a vibrant space of personal and national identity formation.

Advance praise for this book:

Oh my god I love this book. It's like going for endless cups of tea into the inner sanctums of the finest of places and people. It's got this way of endlessly going inward to the place we're all searching for; home. I can't stop reading it. It's like you put it together just for me.

Helen O’Leary, painter

This engaging, subtle book uses many perspectives, historically and theoretically informed, to explore Irish domestic space. Two fine Vona Groarke poems frame the whole; five short spell-binding memoirs by writers and seven essays by leading scholars plot the course, as does Richman Kenneally’s excellent introduction on the spatial turn in Irish Studies. A beautiful “visual essay” illuminates the volume’s journey through Irish spaces from crowded to bare. Home: place of dream and longing, theatre of material aspiration and happy memory, locus of deep meaning, rooted in the earth, but also of confinement, hopelessness, and bitter struggle. The book never labours its points, but its creative disruption of given narratives in Irish Studies is not to be missed.

Patricia Coughlan, University College Cork 

From the ground surveyed by architectural historians, geographers, and scholars of folklife, this fresh book flowers with a bounty of images, memories, and fine writing to enrich our understanding of the house, the home, and the act of dwelling, while welcoming us into the common Irish homes that stand between the Georgian mansion and the thatched cabin.

Henry Glassie, Indiana University 

By drawing attention to the quotidian materiality of Irish domestic space this engaging book bravely puts together scholarly and non-scholarly approaches to address larger existential questions of belonging. The attention to the visual, spatial and material nature of 'home' is thoughtfully unpacked through discussions of interior architecture, personal memory, fiction, poetry, drama and film, in a variety of tones that invoke reflective questions of interiority, privacy, status and cultural representation. By examining how we connect to, experience and 'see' home, this collection gives us a template for how to overlay textual analysis, memoir, and visual culture in a manner rarely seen within Irish literary or historical studies.

Elaine Sisson, Institute of Art, Design and Technology