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Matters French: Introduction

Connections between Ireland & France from the time of the Anglo-Normans to the 21st Century.

2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage

About Matters French

The variety of French that William brought to England after 1066 became part of the political and cultural environment of this island a century later — at just the point where Anglo-Norman had become embedded as a literary and administrative medium in England, where Normans had become proficient in English, and where several of the varieties of medieval French were on the threshold of a period of extraordinary literary innovation. The effects of the arrival of the Anglo-Normans and of Henry II in Ireland were to be as momentous as they were far-reaching, and for one thing they brought the Irish language much more closely into contact with French and with English. The interactions that resulted — all at once linguistic, literary, intellectual, spiritual, political — are a living heritage: they have continued to this day, nearly a century after Irish independence.
These distinct and interconnected traditions — in some of their first manifestations and in their more recent continuations — are represented in the rich collections on which the exhibition draws. Queen’s College, Cork was established in 1845, more than half a millennium after the Anglo-Norman conquest, and the intervening centuries witnessed contacts with France and with French that straddled confessional and political divisions. Thus, Irish scholars and intellectuals took refuge in Paris and Louvain, where Irish-language materials could be printed and where French was to become a medium of antiquarian and historical research that took Ireland as its object. Conversely, the arrival in Ireland of Huguenot exiles created new French-speaking communities, so connecting the island with French humanist writing and publishing, and, in particular, of course, with French language Protestant thinking. More than a century later, French continued to be widely read in this city and this country, and at decisive moments in the quest for independence the politics of post-Revolutionary France were to be a highly potent — and highly contested — reference-point.
This online display testifies to all of these connections and more, and was originally created to celebrate the occasion of the 59th annual conference of the Society for French Studies in UCC in 2018.

Curation & Acknowledgements

This display was curated by Prof. Patrick O'Donovan, Dept. of French (UCC) with items from UCC Library's Archives & Special Collections.

Where in documenting the lives and works of the figures mentioned in this exhibition we have drawn upon the Dictionary of Irish Biography or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, these sources are cited using the abbreviations DIB and ODNB respectively. We have also drawn on The Cambridge History of Ireland.

Collections on Display

The following collections were used in the exhibition:

  • Arbois de Jubainville: Professor Marie Henri D’Arbois de Jubainville (1827 – 1910) French historian and Celtic scholar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection was acquired by UCC in the early 20th century by the then University President, Bertram Windle. 
  • Bantry Estate: estate and family papers generated by the White/Leigh-White/Shelswell-White family of Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork from 1671-1980s
  • Corkery: A representative collection from the library of Daniel Corkery (1878-1964), novelist, playwright, lecturer in the Department of English at University College Cork (1931 to 1947).
  • Green Coat School: The Green Coat School was founded in 1717 as a private foundation for the children of poor Protestant families on the north-side of Cork City in Ireland; a library was integral to the school. From its founding to midway through the 18th century the school was a prototype and model to follow in the Irish coat and charter school movement and “the movement's equation of Protestantism with civilisation and industry gave the schools additional meaning in the Irish context” (DIB).
  • Harrison: A working library for the publications of Richard S Harrison, a noted Quaker in Cork.
  • Manuscript: 320 Gaelic manuscripts located between four collections: Torna, Murphy, Power and unnamed collections. 
  • Nancy McCarthy: the personal library of Nancy McCarthy, a noted Cork businesswoman, chemist and friend of Frank O'Connor.
  • John Minihan: John Minihan's personal book collection.
  • Munster Printing: a historical and literary collection of items printed in Munster from the late 17th century to the present.
  • O'Flaherty Servais: Kathleen O'Flaherty, lecturer and professor and Yvonne Servais, lecturer, in UCC's Department of French bequeathed their collection including works by Chateaubriand, Descartes, Montesquieu, Voltaire and de Vericour to the Library.
  • O Riordain: The personal library of Seán Ó Riordain, poet, essayist and assistant in the Department of Modern Irish at UCC.
  • Older Printed Books: Items published before 1851; many items were purchased between 1849 (when the College was founded) and 1900 and some were received from institutions such as the Royal Cork Institution or the old Cork Public Library.
  • Ryan of Inch: estate and famliy papers of the Inch estate from 1656-1964.
  • St Fin Barre's Cathedral: The private collections of Archdeacon Pomeroy (1725), Bishop Crow of Cloyne (1727) and Bishop Stopford (1805) form the bulk of this theological, historical and classical collection.

2018 Bliain Eorpach na hOidhreachta Culturtha