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The Library of Trinity College Dublin Remembers Eleanor Knott

DeOsUo-nThe Department of Irish and Celtic Studies, in conjunction with the Trinity Long Room Hub, presents an inaugural conference in honour of Eleanor Knott on Thursday 28 April 2016. This one-day conference will showcase current research in the field of Early and Modern Irish language and literature in a manner that celebrates Knott’s academic interests. To coincide with the conference, the Library has organised an exhibition in the Long Room from the Eleanor Knott papers, a small collection of which are held in M&ARL, mostly pertaining to her work in Trinity College.

Eleanor Knott (1886-1975) was an eminent Irish-language scholar born in Ranelagh, Dublin. She was educated at Abercorn College, Dublin and her Cornish mother encouraged her to learn Irish. Knott was further urged by scholar Richard I. Best (1872-1959) to study Old Irish at the School of Irish Learning in Dublin and in 1907 she received a scholarship to continue these studies. During that year she also wrote on a weekly basis for Sinn Féin and The Irish Peasant under the pseudonyms EK, PMEK or Finnéigeas, expressing nationalist sentiments.

In 1911 Knott joined the staff of the Royal Irish Academy  (RIA) as an assistant to the Norwegian linguist Carl Marstrander (1883-1965) who was seeing the Dictionary of the Irish Language into publication. In 1928 she was appointed Lecturer in Celtic Languages in Trinity and a special Chair of Early Irish was created for her in 1939. Following the repeal of a statute prohibiting women members in 1949, Knott shared the distinction with four others of being the first women elected to the RIA. Her publications include The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn (2 vols, 1922, 1926); An introduction to the Irish syllabic poetry of the period 1200–1600 (1928); Togail bruidne Da Derga (1936); and Irish classical poetry (1957). She also served as joint editor of Ériu (xii–xx).

IMG_1796Eleanor Knott was a scholar proficient in all periods of the Irish language and its literature, and a keen supporter of the Irish language revival movement. She left a legacy of sober, unbiased academic writing and her legacy represents many things Important to the history of Irish scholarship and Trinity College Dublin: impartial scholarship during times of intense, civil unrest; a long-standing relationship between cultural institutions and a landscape which is ever-progressing for women in academia.

The exhibition will run for one week from 28 April 2016.

Caoimhe Ní Ghormáin