Theatre professor presents paper in Ireland

Posted on: July 2, 2014

TWC's Dr. C. Austin Hill recently traveled to Ireland to present his paper at a conference.

From Dr. C. Austin Hill, TWC assistant professor of theatre & speech:

I have just returned from presenting a paper, and chairing a panel, at the 2014 meeting of the American Conference of Irish Studies/Canadian Association of Irish Studies, which was held at University College Dublin (Ireland) from the 11th to 14th of June. The conference featured papers by nearly 500 of the leading scholars in the Irish Studies community.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Latitudes: Irish Studies in an international context.” My paper, “Christy Mahon comes to Athens, Tennessee: The Playboy of the Western World in Appalachia,” embraced the theme while focusing all attention on the work of the theatre program at Tennessee Wesleyan College. The paper discussed the theatre program’s recent production of Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World as an intersection between early 20th Century Irish culture, and early 21st century American culture—as an act of using theatrical production as a means of teaching Irish Studies in an international context. The paper explored our students’ first encounter with an Irish play and playwright, and the first time in, at least recent memory, that audiences in our small town have been treated to Synge’s play.

By positioning Tennessee Wesleyan College as the focus of the paper, and by sharing the paper at the conference in Ireland, with a diverse international attendance, I had the opportunity to call wide attention to the fine work that our school is doing in the fine arts, and indeed in the humanities at large. The paper was very well received, and led to excellent discussion about the opportunities for expanding the horizons of students in a liberal arts setting. One member of our audience was particularly interested in the idea that theatre practice, as opposed to the exclusively literary study of the play, had been such a successful pedagogical tool. She expressed her admiration for the fact that Tennessee Wesleyan College had the wherewithal to attempt, and the talent to successfully produce, such a difficult play.