Before I went to Iraq in 2009 I used to try to freestyle over beats in the barracks with the older NCOs I looked up to. The moniker I thought up for myself was ‘Fianna Phil’. It was perfect, because it used alliteration, was highly esoteric to most Americans, and it was Irish. Being around Southerners (I deployed with the North Carolina National Guard) has always made me feel a heightened awareness of my own New York Irish Catholic ways, even though my family moved to Virginia when I was just a little baby. So Fianna Phil worked for me. It’s like free styling. It’s like my Irishness. It’s like Milo Yiannopoulos’ Catholicism. It’s a performance. The first thing I wrote in my blog was a brief ‘About’ section, and like the early days of punk rock, it was quite primitive:
Hi, I’m Phil Nannery, currently a postgraduate student at University College Cork in the MA in English, Irish writing and film program. Prior to this, I have lived in several different countries, working in several different fields, and I am very excited to be in Ireland, researching Irish literature.
I come from an Irish-American, Catholic background, and at times feel warring and conflicting ideas of American-ness and Irish-ness, and even Catholic-ness within me. I want to explore American literature, and how Irish literature influenced it both stylistically and culturally, well into the 20th century, even after the Irish became ‘white’. One of the strongest correlations that I want to explore, is the literary influence the modernists like Joyce had on the Beatniks of the Post War period, but also, the cultural effect of Catholicism, especially the syncretic, almost folk Catholicism of Ireland, had on writers such as Jack Kerouac. How did the Catholicism of the Irish diaspora affect its ‘otherness’ in American society long after they were accepted to be white along their Protestant counter-parts? If English Americans are the largest ethnic group in the US, then why doesn’t New York have a grand Saint George’s Day parade? These ideas of community, self-segregation, alienation, otherness and solidarity, as well as stylistic influences of James Joyce on a generation of paradoxical outsiders, in love with Catholic and Buddhist mysticism at once, could provide a student with an entire career of opportunities to research and write about. I would like to spend the next year etching out a small slice of research, on which to form a dissertation of my own.
Yikes. I knew what I wanted to write about, but like an Army officer, I only had a vague idea, and no earthly clue of how to implement it without an NCO. But it was strangely fun and a relief to write about my research interests. It made me feel slightly less out of place coming back to school after taking a few years off.
Following that, I wrote about Dr. Heather Laird’s public lecture titled “Remembering” Past Futures: Commemoration and the Roads Untaken”. The idea of ‘bourgeoisie nationalism’ was very intriguing to me, and I remember thinking ‘oh, shoot, I should’ve taken more notes’. But at three paragraphs, it was very much still just probing the blogosphere I still had so many reservations about.
The next blog I wrote was the first one I cited an essay on, in a cute little works cited page, the first time I’d written a works cited page since finishing my undergrad in 2013. By now I’ve used that Michael S. Begnal essay extensively, from my editing of Kerouac’s wikipedia page, which I then wrote about in a separate blog post, to my mini-conference Pecha Kucha presentation, to my most recent blog reflection on said presentation. The essay seemed tailor made to what I wanted to research. It was such a perfect find, like a blue diamond at the bottom of a rubbish bin.
Around this time as well I reached out to Dr. Donna Marie Alexander asking for help with the technical side of my blog, as I didn’t understand how to make the widgets view-able. She was super helpful in helping me figure everything out, and it started to look better, with things like my twitter feed appearing on the side margins, and I used a photo I took of Trinity Cathedral at night as a background for the screen.
It was around this time too, that I started to realize, though not surprisingly, that the direction I was taking the blog in was one focusing heavily on Catholicism and the Irish American diaspora. I’d written a few reviews of films, focusing on the complex nature of colonialism and post-colonialism. I lived in Japan teaching English for a few years, when I decided to move to Ireland and go back to grad school after reading The Field by John B. Keane. I’d been working with an Irish guy, and trying to explain why I seemed so markedly different than the other English teachers, who all seemed more positive and upbeat than myself. Other than having a radically different group of life experiences, I often pointed to how my Irish Catholic upbringing probably gave me a set of fatalistic roles I had grown comfortable performing in. And so I started talking about how I would go back to school one day, maybe in New York, or Boston, and write a thesis trying to figure out how this sub-culture within America was still so powerful after so many years. I actually only found out that the GI Bill would cover me studying in Ireland while scrolling through the FAQs page of the VA website for a separate query I’d had. That was when I decided to move here.
In feedback we got back about halfway through the semester, I was told that I, “strike a well-judged balance between, for example, your engagement with a film and the relevance of what you are studying to considering the ramifications of that engagement beyond the personal” (O’Connor). I had been happy to hear this, as my biggest fear was that I would allow my own personal experiences to color my research. I often try to use my own personal experiences as a starting point before launching into a more measured and objective analysis. If nothing else, I’ve always felt like it could at least explain why I would be writing about such esoteric interests.
For the Blog assignment, we had to write about at least two conferences or seminars we’d attended. Though I went to several readings hosted by the UCC English Society, I ended u only writing about two events. One was the lecture by Dr. Heather Laird, and the other was a Writing Workshop I went to. Like my blog itself, I approached the event a bit cautiously at first, as I’m often nervous embarking on new adventures with new people. But, like the blog as well, I ended up enjoying it very much. I find it interesting that in the space of time from Dr. Laird’s lecture to the writing workshop (about 4 months) I went from just a few paragraphs of thought thrown onto the page to a much longer, in depth summary of the event full of photos, gifs, and other visuals.
Finally, I wrote my reflections on the recent Textualities Conference, and my final Literature Review, weaving together as many of my thoughts from my research as coherently as I could. Like life itself, the course seemed to blow by, frightening at first, and enjoyable almost as soon as it was over. I’ve enjoyed using this blog, and look forward to continuing it long after the conclusion of this course. I hope to expand not only my readership but the scope and scale of my writing. Thank you for reading.
Begnal, Michael S. “To be an Irishman Too”: Jack Kerouac’s Irish Connection”. Studies:An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 92, No. 368 (Winter, 2003), pp. 371-377)
“Milo: Catholics are Right About Everything.” Youtube, uploaded by Milo Yiannopoulos, 15 December 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5q4u1nE6tI. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “About.” Fiannaphil, https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/about/ Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. ‘“Remembering” Past Futures: Commemoration and the Roads Untaken.” Fiannaphil, 03 Novemeber 2016, https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/remembering-past-futures-commemoration-and-the-roads-untaken/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “Who Among You?.” Fiannaphil, 05 November 2016, https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2016/11/05/who-among-ye/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “The Eagle Huntress.” Fiannaphil, 22 November 2016, https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2016/11/22/the-eagle-huntress/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “Saint Mel Gibson of the Masochists, Pray for Me.” Fiannaphil, 23 January, 2017. https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/saint-mel-gibson-of-the-masochists-pray-for-me/. Accessed 30 march 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “Wikipedia Editathon!!!.” Fiannaphil, 20 February 2017. https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/wikpedia-editathon/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “Writing Workshop.” Fiannaphil, 28 February 2017. https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/writing-workshop/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “Literature Review.” Fiannaphil, 30 March 2017. https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/literature-review/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Nannery, Phil. “Textualities 2017 Reflections.” Fiannaphi, 28 March 2017. https://fiannaphil.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/textualities-2017-reflections/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
O’Connor, Maureen. “Blog feedback.” Received by Phil Nannery, 08 December, 2016.