A Gift of Friendship:

The Gareth and Janet Dunleavy Collection of Irish History and Literature


Remarks of Gareth Dunleavy

I wish to offer my special thanks to Bill Brown, Head of Archives and Special Collections and Don Bosseau, Director of Libraries, for their efforts in preparing this wonderful exhibition. Thanks also go to Shari Benstock and Zack Bowen for their part in arranging tonight’s celebration. How we all wish Janet could be with us.

At the risk of sounding like a Gaelic Polonious, I want to direct my remarks to the "rising generation, " that is those imminently to-be-anointed Ph.D. candidates whom I have met here and whose dissertations show much promise. Your highest priority is to go forth and teach at the top of your form, travel as far and as often as you can, reserve a portion of your discretionary income for the best chefs and the unfailingly honest booksellers you will get to know. Unlike brokers, they never demand a commission, and over the years the titles you purchase from them will stand on your shelves with your own books, articles and monographs --- visible and tangible evidence of your commitment to scholarship and a legacy for those who will follow you to the new line of departure in Irish Studies which you have established.

Remarks of Zack Bowen

I have been privileged to know the Dunleavys since I met Janet in the 1970's, when she worked with my colleague on the faculty of SUNY Binghampton, Marilyn Gaddis Rose Ross. That was during her tenure on the faculty at SUNY Stoneybrook. When she moved to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and married Gareth, it was suddenly like he had always been there, an amiable, tweedy, pipe smoking embodiment of the ideal, unflappable academic, at least in public and my company. Independently they did brilliant original research in Irish Studies, and together they were a formidable scholarly team, and delightful company at symposia, Irish Meetings, and The Modern Language Association (MLA).

One of my great regrets is that I am unredeemably frugal, one might say even cheap, and so lost the delights of their companionship at any number of posh restaurant parties, especially since the Dunleavys were so close to the Benstocks, whose company invariably was equally delightful. I remember one evening in Paris after a Joyce symposium address by Jacques Lacan, scarcely a word of which I understood, when I went out with Janet and Gareth, whose attraction to vintage wines equaled Berni and Shari’s. On this occasion, after failing to follow Lacan’s French, I became so chastened about my linguistic ineptitude that I was hesitant to ask the waiter any questions about the wine list in the five star restaurant to which I was ushered, and Janet took over all the ordering, Gareth smiling appreciatively all the time. I could read numbers, however, and when my dinner tab, well up in three figures American, came, after I was hooked up to the heart-lung machine, I decided that I would henceforth confine my culinary experiences outside MacDonald’s to back alley sidewalk couscous restaurants.

Gareth and Janet were and are fine scholars and exceptionally generous and warm hearted people, as they have proved again with their splendid gift to our library and hence especially to those faculty and students who work in Irish Studies. Gareth, both in your professional work and in your library, your have given us an inestimably valuable legacy.

Remarks of Pat McCarthy

The conjunction of this dedication and tomorrow’s memorial to Bob Boyle has reminded me how fortunate I was to have been a Ph.D. student in Milwaukee during the 1970s. Bob was at Marquette, and I will have more to say about him tomorrow morning; I was farther north, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Despite such distractions as the Vietnam War and a draft board that kept trying to get me into the army, I found at UWM nearly ideal conditions for graduate study.: the funding for teaching assistants was among the highest in the nation and the library, which had a strong collection in the fields that interested me, was open 24 hours a day. Above all, the faculty included not only Florence Walzl -- my adviser and a Joyce scholar whose work I especially admired -- but two other major figures in the burgeoning field of Irish Studies; Gareth and Janet Dunleavy.

I cannot imagine what sort of career I might have had, had I not known them; perhaps I would not have had one at all, for without their help, I’m not sure that I would have finished the Ph.D., much less found employment. I worked most closely with Janet, since she was a modernist and Gareth a medievalist, but I recall that Gareth gave me the single most important piece of advice I ever got about teaching: Always check your fly before you go into class. I don’t know whether he regarded this as standard advice to give to young male academics or whether he thought I especially needed to hear it, but that advice has always held me in good stead. Janet taught me much of what I know about copy-editing while I was her assistant on what was then called the American Committee for Irish Studies Newsletter and she taught me how to put together a c.v. and how to present myself in an interview. Together, Janet and Gareth made it their business to see that I met people who would be helpful to my career, one important example being Zack Bowen, who had just become chair at SUNY-Binghampton.

Then there were the Irish lessons, with Janet in charge, conducted at the back room at Derry’s Pub in South Milwaukee, with an occasional Irish immigrant poking his nose into the room to tell us that it was a grand language -- although according to one, we were all wrong, since we were learning Connemara Irish and the only good Irish was spoken in West Kerry, When I first went to Ireland, the Dunleavys plotted out my itinerary, starting at Shannon airport, moving northward through Connemara and up to Sligo, then ambling toward the southeast and finally back up to Dublin. In Drumcliff they told me to stay at a particular farmhouse that had the best food in all of County Sligo. I thought the food was terrible and said so the next time I saw them, to which Janet replied that she had not said the food was edible, only that it was the best in Sligo.

The Dunleavys’ connection with the University of Miami goes back over 20 years, to the time when I invited them to campus to give a public lecture. They were working on the O’Conor family papers, and the talk they gave -- one of the best I have ever heard -- was entitled "Combing the Irish Midden Heap." Like their research, the talk covered the range of Irish cultural study: its bases were historical, political, genealogical, ethnographic, and literary. Their later collaborative project, the Douglas Hyde biography, further broadened and deepened their contributions to Irish studies. And since this is a Joyce Conference, I should also mention Janet’s articles on Joyce and her contributions to Joyce studies as editor of the book, Reviewing Classics of Joyce Criticism, and co-editor of Joycean Occasions, a collection of essays from the 1987 Joyce Conference in Milwaukee that she and Michael Gillespie organized.

When she began writing on Joyce, long after I left graduate school, I recalled the first day of class that I took with Janet in the Fall of 1970, her first semester at UWM. The course was entitled, "Irish Literature to 1890," and she began with an overview of Irish literary study during the course of which she referred to Joyceans as the "fringe element" of Irish literature. After class I introduced myself and said I was interested in Joyce and she said "I thought so; I saw you wince when I made that remark about Joyceans." She went on to clarify her remark, which she said was not aimed at Joyceans in general abut only at those who ignored the Irish context of his writings, and she cited Berni Benstock as a Joyce scholar with an impressive knowledge of Ireland. I think that at the beginning of this conference devoted to semicolonial Joyce it is useful to recall that long before postcolonial study became a fixture in English Departments there were people like the Dunleavys who recognized the importance of understanding the historical and socioeconomic roots of Irish literature. Since they have dedicated their important collection of books and papers to the University of Miami in memory of Berni Benstock, it is worth recalling that as Janet noted, Berni was a Joyce scholar who never lost sight of the Irish contexts of Joyce’s writings.

Remarks of Shari Benstock

The long years of friendship between Gareth and Janet Dunleavy and Berni and me, make the dedication of this collection of materials in Irish History and Literature an especially poignant moment. For more than twenty-five years, the Dunleavys and the Benstocks have been fast friends, traveling together in Ireland, Great Britain, France, and Italy, spending long week-ends together at our homes in Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, and Massachusetts. These times were filled with non-stop conversation about our shared loves -- literature, food, travel -- that created the rich fabric of our lives from the early 1970s until Bernard Benstock's death in July 1994. We talked at length about our respective literary projects -- Janet and Gareth at work on their biography of Douglas Hyde, first president of the Republic of Ireland; Berni at work on one or another of James Joyce's texts (at his death, he was writing a book entitled, Narrative Contexts in Finnegans Wake). In the early 1990s, when I was at work on my biography of Edith Wharton, Gareth and Janet joined enthusiastically in my adventure as literary private eye, searching out little known details of Wharton's life in New York, Newport, Paris, and the cote d'azur. Gareth provided enthusiastic assistance in my efforts to identify the man thought to have been her father, a nameless Englishman who was rumored to have died with General Custer at the battle of the Little Bighorn.

Searches in the National Archives and through volumes of rare works on Custer's life proved fruitless, but the adventure was memorable, especially for