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Cat in the Stax: Behind the Lines of Angela’s Ashes

By Jenna Newman

hand holding Angela's Ashes book

Now that we’ve read through Angela’s Ashes (1996) as part of the Read with the Other Jenna book club, it’s time to go deeper into the McCourt family, the writing of Angela’s Ashes, what happened after, and where to find more resources. Frank McCourt shared with the readers his childhood, starting in New York and then moving to Limerick, Ireland. We learned the heartbreaking details of his father’s descent into alcoholism until he was no longer present and the poverty that struck the McCourt family.

Three out of Frank’s six siblings died in early childhood, yet four of the McCourt brothers survived against all odds. At the end of the memoir, Frank gets off the boat from Ireland, back into New York, ready to start a new life.

But now, we are left with the question: what happens next?

Frank struggles to gain a foothold in New York at first, which he writes about in his second memoir ‘Tis (1999). However, eventually he becomes a city school teacher where he taught for 30 years after getting a degree in English Education from New York University and a master’s in English from Brooklyn College. Frank talks about his experiences as a teacher in his third and final memoir Teacher Man (2005). In 1994, Frank married Ellen Frey McCourt, who he was married to until he passed away in 2009 from metastatic melanoma at age 78. Frank is survived by his wife, Ellen, his brothers, Malachy, Alphie, and Mike, his daughter, Maggie McCourt, and three grandchildren.

Although Frank took on the voice of his childhood self while writing Angela’s Ashes, he did not write the memoir until he was in his 60s. He struggled with the writing process until writing a small anecdotal section, where he took on the voice of himself as a child, and ultimately found the voice we see throughout the entire memoir. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 and was made into a movie by British director Alan Parker in 1999. 

The eldest son, Frank McCourt, however, was not the only McCourt to take his hand at memoir writing. Malachy McCourt, the second eldest son, wrote two memoirs about his life after traveling to America. The first, A Monk Swimming (1999) about traveling through America and then the second, Singing my Him Song (2001) about his journey from being a drunk to a sober, loving father and grandfather. The four living McCourt brothers also became the topic of two documentaries, shot by Malachy’s son Conor McCourt. The first focused on their time in Ireland, The McCourts of Limerick, while the second focused on New York, The McCourts of New York.

If you’re interested in learning more about Irish culture, history, or the McCourt family, I’ve linked to a variety of different resources. 

  • McCourt Family Memoirs
  • Irish Studies Librarian, Jutta Seibert, can be reached by email here or schedule an appointment with her here. More information about the Irish studies collection can be located here.
  • Falvey’s special collections also hold two distinctive collections focused on Irish history and culture.
    • The McGarrity Collection consists of around 3,000 monographs focusing on Irish history, literature, folklore, description and travel, music, and Irish-American history. This collection also includes a complete run of the Irish Press.
    • The Limited Editions collection holds almost an entire collection of limited edition books and broadsides printed by the Cuala Press, an Irish press in Dublin operating in the first half of the twentieth century. 


Make sure to tune in tomorrow on Instagram and Facebook Live as I continue to dig deeper into the questions and themes posed in Angela’s Ashes.


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department. Current mood: Adding all the other McCourt memoirs into my Amazon cart.

 

 

 


 


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eBook available: Fun o’ the Forge

Our latest Project Gutenberg release, produced with the help of Distributed Proofreaders, comes from our Joseph McGarrity Collection of materials dealing with Ireland: Fun o’ the Forge, by Brian O’Higgins. Most of the stories in the collection are the author’s own, but three describe themselves as adaptations from An Seabhac‘s 1913 collection, An Baile Seo ‘Gainn-ne.

The book is a collection of short, humorous stories about Irish country life, most revolving around misunderstandings and clever tricks. The forge of the book’s title belongs to Ned M’Grane, a blacksmith who loves to tell stories and longs for better times. The stories are connected together by common characters, and most are told by Ned to the narrator and his friends. While on the surface this is a calm narrative about a simpler time, there is an undercurrent of anger, and it is easy to see how the text relates to its author’s politics.

The entire book may now be read online (or downloaded in a variety of convenient eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.


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Oíche Cois Tine – Two Nights Beside The Fire: A Window Into The Rich Literary World of Dr. Douglas Hyde, and A Musical Voyage to Irish Newfoundland

PORTAL_CEILIDuring the 1980s the Philadelphia Ceili Group hosted a cultural evenings series under the title “Oíche Cois Tine”, Gaelic for “Night Beside the Fire”. These events celebrated a wide range of Irish culture: music and dance performances by prominent Irish and Irish-American artists, demonstrations of uniquely Irish musical instruments such as the uilleann pipes, and lectures on topics such as Irish literature, history, travel, and the Irish-American experience. This week we added two new recordings of academic lectures from this series to the Philadelphia Ceili Group collection of Villanova University’s Digital Library. These items, freely available for streaming and download, highlight the amazing breadth of materials on Irish history and culture present in the Ceili Group collection and augment in sound the huge array of Irish textual and visual materials in other areas of the Digital Library.

“Irish Songs and Singers of Newfoundland”, 1982.

This lecture from the Spring of 1982 features the renowned folklorist and scholar Dr. Kenneth Goldstein, presenting on his adventures visiting with musicians and archiving Irish folk music in Newfoundland, Canada. Kenny Goldstein was a hugely influential figure in Irish folk music, having collected and published thousands of folksongs across several continents. He was also instrumental to the success of the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s activities in past decades, as attested to in this tribute to him from the 1996 Festival Program.

If you want to hear some incredible stories and some unique takes on some well-known Irish tunes, have a listen to Dr. Goldstein’s fascinating exploration of the music of a lesser-known corner of the Irish diaspora.

“The Importance of Douglas Hyde to the Irish Literary Renaissance”, March 12, 1982.

This lecture from 1982 features an extended discussion by the late Dr. Lester I. Conner, a Professor of English at Chestnut Hill
College from 1962-1990, on the unique contributions of Douglas Hyde to the Gaelic revival of the late-nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. His contributions, according to Dr. Conner, to the reestablishment of the Irish language as a living tongue,
the formation of a de-anglicized Irish identity, Irish nationalism, and especially the Irish literary renaissance, cannot be overestimated. Dr. Conner illuminates the literary world of Douglas Hyde with spark and enthusiasm, and brings to life the voices of famous contemporaries such as Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats in an engaging presentation packed with quotes and anecdotes.

This new addition to the Philadelphia Ceili Group collection is also a perfect entry point to the study of Dr. Hyde’s influence in the scores of primary documents available throughout the Digital Library. If you’re interested in exploring further, try this list of documents concerning Douglas Hyde.

 

Stay tuned for more links to recordings from the Oíche Cois Tine series!


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eBook available: Some Poems of Roger Casement

Some Poems of Roger CasementAccording to the introduction to Some Poems of Roger Casement, Irish nationalist Roger Casement “would have been the last to lay claim” to the title of poet. However, he did occasionally compose or translate poetry, and this slim volume collects some of his work. Gertrude Parry’s introduction, written just two years after Casement’s death, goes on to provide some brief and affectionate biographical notes on the author, whose path eventually led him to be executed by the British government on treason charges. While the text is brief, the anecdotes and private compositions it contains should interest those studying Casement.

The entire volume may be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


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Available for proofreading: Some Poems of Roger Casement

Some Poems of Roger CasementIrish nationalist Roger Casement is occasionally mentioned in this blog, as when one of our images was used to illustrate a novel inspired by his life. Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project is a posthumously-published volume which highlights a lesser-known aspect of the man’s life: his poetry.

To help create a new electronic edition of this rarely-seen book, you can read this earlier blog post to learn about the process, then join in the work at the project page.


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Investigating the Investigators: The U.S. Bureau of Investigation Case Files Archives

case files

Founded in 1908 as the investigative branch of the Justice Department against the opposition of Congress by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. Bureau of Investigation was charged with the investigation of violations of federal statutes. As its powers and influence increased in the face of internal and external threads, the Bureau was repeatedly accused of acting outside the law. Eight years later the Bureau employed three hundred agents, a steep increase from the modest thirty-eight investigators hired in 1908. In 1916 the Bureau was charged with counterintelligence and the investigation of radical activities in the U.S. J. Edgar Hoover, who was appointed as the director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, cleansed the Bureau of its corrupt elements. He remained in his position when the Bureau was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935.

The Bureau of Investigation case files are hosted on the EBSCO Fold3 platform. The files are labeled as FBI case files while the collection itself is called Bureau of Investigation case files. It consists of four series, Bureau Section Files, Mexican Files, Miscellaneous Files and Old German Files. Although browsing is an option, it is not a productive approach as file names consist mostly of numbers and personal names. The basic keyword search is a good starting point. Results can be filtered and searches can easily be modified. Scanning documents is at times challenging as the pages of some files are lined up from right to left.

pamphletThe case files cover the years 1909 through 1921 and contain reports and documents related to World War I and the surveillance of groups suspected of un-American activities. The Bureau’s agents regularly reported about labor organizations, the radical press and “Negro subversion.” The case files include pamphlets and magazines published by the “radical press,” such as complete issues of The Masses. Interesting examples from the collection include Babe Ruth, who was investigated as an “alleged slacker,” a.k.a. draft dodger, Joseph McGarrity, whose surveillance files are part of the Old German Files as he was considered a friend of the Germans, and Emma Goldman, the well known anarchist.  Margaret Sanger’s activities were closely watched as well. Her files include pamphlets about her speaking engagements and some of her publications. The short but politically turbulent time period covered by the case files will guarantee many interesting discoveries.

Links to the collection can be found in the online catalog, on the Databases A-Z list and on the history subject guide. Questions or comments? Contact me directly (jutta.seibert@villanova.edu) or post your comments online.


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The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest

intencofrevandprotestThe International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest covers all aspects of resistance, rebellion and revolution over the past 500 years with over 1,500 entries ranging from 250 to 5,000 words about events, people, organizations and movements. Annual updates ensure coverage of current events. Recent updates included articles about the Tea Party and Howard Zinn.

Entries range from the Prague Spring to the Velvet Revolution, from May Day to Solidarnosc, from Utopian communities to anarchism, from Greenpeace to Earth First!, and from civil disobedience and non-violence to fascism and terrorism. While most biographies are on the shorter end of the spectrum, those about key actors and thinkers from Marx  to Lenin and Mao provide a good overview. Major revolutions are well covered and linked to numerous related entries. In the case of the French Revolution these include separate articles on the counterrevolution, radical factions and organizations, women, and historians’ interpretations. The Encyclopedia is particularly helpful in researching more unfamiliar protest movements, such as Native American protests, the Québécois independence movement or the events of the red summer of 1919.

Contents are accessible via the A-Z list as well as through keyword searching. Search results can be narrowed by subject, place, period, people and key topics. The “China” place facet narrows the keyword search for China from 191 results to 41. This approach makes it easy for students to move beyond the article on the Chinese Communist Revolution to a quick review of the history of protest movements in China.

Current events seem to be adequately covered although the Encyclopedia lacks an entry about the Arab Spring while there are entries covering al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban. In a nod to the current interest in film studies, the reader will find articles about such classics as the Battle of Algiers, Battleship Potemkin and October. References and suggested reading lists are up-to-date and a great starting point for undergraduate students. Access to the online Encyclopedia is provided through the library’s catalog.

Questions or Comments? Don’t hesitate to contact us.


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WorldCat for Beginners: How to Search the Global Library

If I had to make a list of the five most important library research tools for historians, I would put WorldCat at the top of the list without a moment’s hesitation. While in the past, scholars were limited to local libraries, print bibliographies and the occasional visit to other libraries, today WorldCat provides them a gateway to the global print collection. WorldCat thus levels the playing field between the top-tiers research libraries and smaller libraries, such as Falvey Memorial Library. Our history students can discover and request basically all the published books on any given topic with the help of WorldCat. If they would only knew about WorldCat!

Remember the student who told you that there is nothing published about her topic? Did she know about and search WorldCat? Remember the student who told you that the library does not have any books about his topic? Did he know about interlibrary loan and how to request books from other libraries via WorldCat? The majority of history students are unfortunately not familiar with WorldCat, and the few who do know about it are often intimidated by some of its unnecessarily complicated search features.

Falvey’s 2012 Research Center Intern, Matt Ainslie, has put together a Brief Introduction to WorldCat, a short online video tutorial that will introduce your students to WorldCat. His Brief Introduction to the Chicago Manual of Style has been widely popular with our students. At last glance, it was viewed more than 1,200 times. Given the unexpected popularity of the Chicago Style tutorial, I would like to hear your ideas and suggestions for additional tutorials.


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Cambridge Histories Online now in Shades of Deep Purple

Cambridge University Press re-designed the interfaces of two popular reference collections: Cambridge Histories Online and Cambridge Companions Online. The old interface had various usability issues, which left the user at times frustrated. The new interface is less cluttered, more user-friendly and its attractive design and color scheme are pleasing to the eye.

Did you know that Cambridge University Press continues to add new and old print titles to the Cambridge Histories Online collection? In 2012, six back-list titles and seventeen new titles were added. Noteworthy among the new titles is The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: Dimensions of the Early American Empire, 1754–1865 by William Earl Weeks, not to be confused with the 1993 volume authored by Bradford Perkins. The remaining three volumes in the series are slated for publication later this year. Forthcoming in 2013 is the second volume of the Cambridge History of Science series entitled Medieval Science. New 2012 titles include:

The interface for Cambridge Companions Online mirrors the Cambridge Histories Online interface except for the crimson color scheme. The Companions focuses on philosophy, religion, culture, literature, classics and music.

When did you last browse either one of these remarkable collections? It may be time to take a fresh look.


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JSTOR Books are now Available to Villanova Faculty and Students

JSTOR joined the ever-growing circle of e-book publishers late in 2012 starting with a collection of around 15,000 e-books from a range of well-respected university presses such as those of Penn, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, California, North Carolina and Columbia. Among them is a small number of non U.S. publishers, such as Boydell and Brewer, Edinburgh University Press and the University of Toronto Press. The complete list of available JSTOR book titles is available for review.

The Library is currently testing the e-book-publishing waters with a boutique collection of history titles. Army at Home by Judith A. Giesberg, PhD, is a familiar title here at Villanova University. While a few of the JSTOR books are duplicated in the library’s print collection, most of the JSTOR titles are new. JSTOR books owned by Villanova can be found in the library’s catalog as well as in the JSTOR database.

JSTOR books are seamlessly integrated with other JSTOR content. Just as journal content is fully searchable, so are the e-books. Search results can be filtered into results from journal articles and books simply by clicking on the newly added Book tab on the results screen. To include titles not owned by the Library in the results list, switch from “Content I can access” to “All content.” Books not available to Villanova faculty and students are identified by an X-icon next to the check box.

Each book has its own landing page with such features as stable URLs, a link to JSTOR book reviews, abstracts, the table of contents and the first 100 words of each chapter. Unfortunately, not all books are equal, and the different access options can be confusing. Some books are only available as single-user titles. Chapters from a single-user book can only be viewed by one person at a time. Downloads are available, but require registration for a free JSTOR account, and the downloaded PDF files cannot be printed. Single-user books have a security key icon on the book landing page which reminds the reader of the access limits. Multi-user books are as easy to access as JSTOR journal articles.

Use the links below to explore the different access models to JSTOR books.

A detailed overview over the JSTOR book program is available online. Questions or comments? Contact me directly (jutta.seibert@villanova.edu) or post your comments online.


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Last Modified: February 5, 2013