Conference Programme for 2018 Annual Conference

Conference Programme

Happiness in Nineteenth Century Ireland

Society for the Study of Nineteenth Century Ireland

June 28-29, 2018

Trinity College Dublin

Conference Schedule


Thursday 28 June


9:30: Registration & Coffee

10-11:15:  Chair: Ciaran O’Neill

Keynote Address:  Dr. Katie Barclay, Happiness and the Irish Family


11:30-1:00: Panel 1: Reading, Romance and Finding Happiness

Chair: Heidi Hansson

Stephanie Rains, Maynooth University

Happily Ever After: romance stories in the fin-de-siècle Irish popular press


Mai Yatani, Kyoto University

“Even now I can feel the ecstasy of touching those green and scarlet and blue backs of books” – emotional expressions in female reading records at the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Ireland


Michael Kennedy, Royal Irish Academy

‘I am not quite forgotten and forsaken by all who are dear to me’: How Lizzie Doyle found happiness in 1870s Ireland.


Panel 2: Happiness, Morality, and Work

Chair: Richard Butler

Patrick Doyle, University of Manchester

Happiness, Work, and the Catholic Moral Economy in Late-Nineteenth Century Ireland


David McCready, Independent

‘Happiness in My Vocabulary is a Consecrated Word:’ The Theology of Happiness in the Writings of Alexander Knox (1757-1831)


Andrew Tierney, Trinity College Dublin

‘Was the carver happy while he was about it?’ Trinity’s Museum Building and the Ruskinian principle of happiness


1:00-2:00- Lunch


2:00-3:30- Panel 3: Women Writing Happiness

Chair: Stephanie Rains


Kristina Varade, CUNY,

“Money Can’t Buy Me…?” Health and Wealth in Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Irish Fiction and Memoir


Ciara Thompson, University of Limerick

 Mo sheod gan chealg is mo chuid den tsaol mhór: The colourful riot of emotion in lullabies


Heidi Hansson, Umeå University

“Really happy”: Happiness Hierarchies in Rosa Mulholland’s Giannetta: A Girl’s Story of Herself(1889)




Panel 4 : Childhood in Peril: Mortality, Separation, and Poverty

Chair: Mary Hatfield


Sean Farrell, Northern Illinois University

“’Our Wee Jack is Gone’: Writing a Child’s Death in South Down


Shannon Devlin, Queen’s University Belfast

‘Look at the bright side’: happiness in the wake of familial separation.


Simon Gallaher, Cambridge University

Happy childhoods in the workhouse?  Children and emotion under the Poor Law


3:45-5pm Keynote: Rhodri Hayward-  Messy Feelings and Tidy Lives: Towards a Material History of Happiness

Chair: Mary Hatfield


Friday 29th June


10:00- Coffee


10:30- 12:00  Panel 5 : Correspondence and the Representation of Emotion

Chair: Niamh NicGhabhann


Niamh Hamill, Drew University


‘My central and prominent self’ – joy, sorrow and their sources in the recovered work of MaryAnn Allingham, Ballyshannon Poetess 1803-1855.


Juliana Adelman, Dublin City University and Ciaran O’Neill, Trinity College Dublin

‘Love and (un)happiness in pre-Famine Dublin: the emotional life of James Christopher FitzGerald Kenny’
Nancy E. Avila-Ledesma, University of Madrid, and Jesús Romero-Trillo, University of Madrid

Disentangling positive emotions in nineteenth-century Irish epistolary discourse


Panel 6- The Political and the Emotional

Chair: Ciaran O’Neill

Paul Huddie, University College Dublin

The Crimean War, 1854-6: Ireland’s happiest nineteenth-century war


Kerron O Luain, University College Dublin

The joy of defying triumphalism?  Ribbonite and Hibernian processions in the nineteenth century


Jerome Devitt, Trinity College Dublin

“The Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One” – Panic, Strategic Contraction and the Irish Special Constabulary in mid-Victorian Ireland.


12:00-1:15 Chair: Sean Farrell

 Keynote- Anne Dolan– ‘Hardly worth your while’: the pursuit of happiness in twentieth century Ireland?


1:15- 2:15  Lunch

AGM for the SSNCI during Lunch



Panel 7: Defining Happiness? Emotions in Context

Chair: Juliana Adelman

Olivia Martin, NUI- Galway

 ‘I read it with a degree of Pleasure which I cannot describe, and am now as happy as the Day is long’ – Love letters of a country doctor 1789-1824


Ian d’Alton, Trinity College Dublin

‘Happiness is a warm gun’:  what were the determinants of happy lives for the Irish gentry?


Patrick Maume, DIB

“Blithe as a Lark”: In Search of Olivia Owenson Clarke, Whig Political Wit


Panel 8: Depictions of Happiness in Art and Literature

Chair: Andrew Tierney

Peter Hession, University College Dublin

The End of Skellig Night: The Urban Carnivalesque and its Enemies


Niamh NicGhabhann, University of Limerick

Happy places: representing connection and contentment in landscape art, 1856-65.


Marguérite Corporaal, Radboud University

“A happy mingling of accustomed sights and sounds”: The Pleasures of Home in Local Colour Fiction, 1890-1900.


John McGrath, University of Limerick

Football in North Munster, 1870-1900: cultural, identity and depictions of fun.


4:00 Concluding Remarks


4:30 Conference Finish




Dr. Katie Barclay

‘Happiness in the Family in Nineteenth-Century Ireland’

Abstract: In his 1809 treatise, the Irish writer Richard Kirwan located conjugal love as central site of happiness for individuals. The lawyer Charles Phillips, in his renowned speeches for the victims of seduction and criminal conversation, interpreted these threats to his romantic domestic vision of family life as an attack on the happiness of individuals. If happiness was in the family, its location elsewhere was more troubling. Observers of Irish culture often remarked on the ‘sorrow’ of their folk literature, a melancholy that implicitly and sometimes explicitly tied the emotions of the nation to their colonial status. This national melancholy, it was remarked, sat over Daniel O’Connell like a cloud, quashing his innate, lively temperament. Freedom from colonial status, this description implied, would allow O’Connell to return to his natural, happy state. In a colonial context, the family then could be envisioned as a happy haven from a political melancholy. If – as political discourse of the era reminds us – the family was the foundation of the nation however, this discord between happy families and melancholy nation-states was perhaps more significant. Why did the boundaries of the private not extend to the public as was imagined for other parts of Europe? And what did the Irish family’s inability to extend its happiness to the nation imply for a social order where the family remained central? Through exploring these relationships, this paper intends to further not just a history of the family in the nation, but a history of happiness as a key agent of social and political change.


Katie Barclay is a Senior Research Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions and Department of History at the University of Adelaide, and, in 2017-18, a EURIAS Marie Curie Fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University. She is the author of the award-winning, Love, Intimacy and Power: Marriage and Patriarchy in Scotland, 1650-1850 (Manchester, 2011), and co-editor of Emotions: History, Culture, Society. Her monograph, Men on Trial: Emotion, Embodiment and Identity in Ireland, 1800-1845 is forthcoming.





Dr. Anne Dolan

‘Hardly worth your while’: the pursuit of happiness in twentieth century Ireland?

It would be unfair to blame it all on Frank McCourt, but his view about the happy childhood being ‘hardly worth your while’, in some respects sums up the quandary with happiness in twentieth-century Irish history.  While our understanding of the lived experience in twentieth-century Ireland has broadened considerably, we have been quickest to find the cruelties that the records allow us to find; infanticide, abortion, rape and child abuse have all been explored to quite striking effect.  Indeed, much of this work has informed the acknowledgement that past wrongs have to be put right.  But happiness, or what passes for it, has been harder to find; it leaves fewer traces, and not as many pressing reasons to search.  This paper will consider where we might seek happiness in twentieth-century Ireland, and, given some of the issues still coming to light, still needing redress, whether and why we should.

What might a history of happiness amount to in twentieth-century Ireland and how might happiness be considered or defined?  Does a history of happiness become a reckoning of idealised and aspired to happiness, happiness crafted in memoirs after looking back, rather than experiences of happiness itself?  Do we only look for happiness by obvious ways and means, when happiness might well have been found in places where we might now be loath to look?  This paper will begin to suggest something of what happiness might tell us about twentieth-century Ireland that our concentration on misery has missed?


Dr Anne Dolan is Associate Professor in Modern Irish History at the Department of History, Trinity College Dublin.  She is author of Commemorating the Irish civil war: history and memory, 1923-2000, and is currently working on a history of killing in the Irish revolution.


Rhodri Hayward

Messy Feelings and Tidy Lives:  Towards a Material History of Happiness.

Over the last decade it has become fashionable to talk about a ‘material turn’ across a whole range of disciplines from philosophy and sociology through to the history of emotions.  The Cartesian idea of an insulated mind has been abandoned for new models of embodied or extended cognition which suggest that our inner lives, our thoughts and feelings, do not simply stop at the skin but instead are made possible by tools, technologies and devices drawn from the wider world.

At the same time there has been a striking and parallel transformation in the popular market for self-help books.  Whereas once we were told that that health and happiness could only be achieved by working through our feelings or confronting our past, contemporary literature suggests that the true way to self- transformation lies in the practice of dealing with our stuff.  By throwing out unwanted clothes, lighting log fires or rearranging throws and pillows on a sofa, we can, we are told, achieve new states of consciousness and productivity (such as flow) or different kinds of mood or emotion (such as hygge).  Taking in the early twentieth century histories of philosophy, aesthetics and play therapy this talk will look at long history of the relationship between the material world and the affective life.


Rhodri Hayward is a lecturer at Queen Mary College London. The author of The Transformation of the Psyche in British Primary Care, (2014), Psychiatry in Modern Britain (2013) and Resisting History: Popular Religion and the Origins of the Unconscious (2007) among other numerous journal articles and book contributions. He is a founding member of the Centre for the History of the Emotions and the Centre for the Studies of the Home.

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