11th INTERNATIONAL AEDEI CONFERENCE
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne was one of the major protagonists of the 11th International AEDEI conference, held at the University of Huelva from May 30 to June 1, 2012. In the first day of the conference the acclaimed short story writer and novelist read from her latest collection of short fiction, The Shelter of Neighbours (2012) and kindly answered the questions by Irish literature specialist Luz Mar González Arias in a highly inspiring dialogue. They covered such topics as the short story genre, Irish politics, Irish women writers and Ní Dhuibhne's deep involvement with the Irish language.
The conference was aptly named "Words of Crisis, Crisis of Words. Ireland and the Representation of Critical Times" and it aimed to explore the effect that the current economic downturn might be having on the world of literature. Ní Dhuibhne's words provided an interesting insight into how to combat the overwhelming pressure put on the arts and humanities by a philistine world of consumerism and market forces.
But Ní Dhuibhne was not the only guest speaker at the conference. Christina Hunt Mahony, from Trinity College Dublin, spoke about literary autobiography, challenging the commonly accepted view that an autobiography should reproduce nothing but the truth. In the wake of the current boom of memoirs by Irish writers, Prof. Mahony provided precise guidelines on the tricky terrain of life writing in contemporary Ireland .
Another distinguished academic who was present at the Faculty of Humanities in Huelva was Prof. Beatriz Kopschitz Bastos, who holds the W.B. Yeats Chair of Irish Studies at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In her keynote address she introduced the work of John T. Davis, Northern Ireland's most distinctive documentary film maker. The presentation of Davis 's austere and introspective style of film making was entirely in keeping with the theme of the conference. It was illustrated by clips from his work and efficiently contextualized by Prof. Bastos.
Finally novelist Peter Cunningham read a selection from a variety of his most recent work, taking part afterwards in a lively dialogue with Prof. Juan Francisco Elices. His reading of a section from his novel Capital Sins (2010) received an enthusiastic response from the audience. In this hilarious and equally bitter satirical novel, Cunningham unveiled the false grounds on which much of the Celtic Tiger was founded, and during the ensuing conversation the author himself revealed the problems he had to face when he exposed the unpleasant truths of his book.
During the three-day conference more than 40 scholars from different universities of Spain , Ireland , Portugal , USA and Canada gave papers or took part in round table debates on the attitudes and challenges emerging in present-day Ireland with regard to the prevailing economic crisis. Discussions were heard on the Troubles and the economic recession, the question of foreignness in modern Irish society, identities in crisis, dysfunction and healing in contemporary women's fiction or the response to the crisis by a number of Irish writers, among other topics. As in previous occasions AEDEI had the privilege to count on the generous support of the Irish Embassy.
It was, in short, an intellectually rewarding conference that promoted interesting reflections on the role of culture in periods of economic difficulties. Despite the necessary sobriety that such a topic requires, the general atmosphere was of festivity, as it is common in all AEDEI conferences. The welcoming smile and the words of affection by the main organizer, María Losada Friend, which greeted the arrival of all participants was a reminder that gloom should not dominate our lives, even in hard times.