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Cherishing the Humanities: Trinity's Arts and Humanities Inspiring Generations

Each year, the Trinity Long Room Hub hosts 50 of Trinity’s most outstanding PhD students and early career researchers from across the Arts and Humanities. We are committed to showing how their research provides unique perspectives on societal challenges.

Pak Hei Chan| Multilingualism in Hong Kong | School of Linguistic, Speech, and Communication Sciences

Hong Kong, having been a British colony for more than a century from 1842 to 1997, has been undergoing an identity crisis since the transfer of sovereignty. Given the fluctiating self-identification, it is expected that the Hong Kong government has attempted to address the identity crisis. Language policy is one of the tools which is widely perceived by citizens as a move to increase the ‘Chinese-ness’ of Hong Kong residents. With this in mind, the research aims to examine the link between languages and sense of national identity in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong could be described as an English/ Cantonese bilingual colony prior to the handover. Since the handover, the Hong Kong government implemented two policies for schools: the ‘Compulsory Chinese Medium Instruction Policy’ and the ‘Biliterate Trilingual Policy’ to enhance the linguistic situation in Hong Kong in the post-handover period with the former requiring all schools, with exceptions, to adopt Chinese as the medium of instruction in all subjects but English language and literature; and the latter being a language-in-education policy, adding Mandarin to the school curriculum as an attempt to train students to be trilingual.

Although Cantonese speakers form the majority of Hong Kong population, Cantonese does not appear to have much educational value. It is never specifically taught and still remains as the main means of daily communication. However, to some, Hong Kong Cantonese is unique due to the British influence on the language during the colonial period especially in terms of loanwords and unique phrases. So, is Cantonese perceived as a crucial part of identity in Hong Kong? Do languages affect one’s mindset on national identity?

Courtney Helen Grile| Reimagining the Public Sphere: Addressing the Crises of Democracy through Applied Drama |

With a global crisis in democracy looming, is there a role applied drama can play at this pivotal point in history to secure and reinforce ideals of democracy?  The practice of applied drama is uniquely positioned to create space for greater communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.

Applied drama is a practice that has been used worldwide to promote and create opportunities for greater social justice and community development through known labels such as Theatre of the Oppressed and Community-engaged Theatre. It is also used in education as a tool for learning and development. Key questions of the research include: In what ways does applied drama practice align with democratic ideals? How can applied drama process inform political process to more actively engage citizens and strengthen democratic values? What can be learned from analysing historical case studies focused on the relationship of drama/theatre and democratic governance?

Through an analysis of the historical relationship between drama/theatre and democracy, as well as the ideals of applied drama and democracy, a new practice dubbed Creative Democracy will be articulated and proposed as a new form of deliberative democratic practice.

To learn more about Courtney and her research you can go to 

Joel Herman| School of Histories and Humanities | Revolutionary Currents: Ideas, Information, and the Imperial Public Sphere | |

Can ‘the news’ start a revolution? This is a question I have been asking and actively seeking to answer in my research. The reason being that much of the work written about revolutions in the past discusses the ideas that inspired revolutionary events, as they appear in various works of a revolutionary canon, rather than tracing how these ideas gained popular purchase in revolutionary moments.

In his paradigm shifting work, The Age of Democratic Revolution, Robert Palmer helped to create a new historical field in showing how these revolutionary ideas inspired a wave of Revolutions in North America, across Europe, and elsewhere in what has become known as the ‘Age of Revolutions’ in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, but one relatively neglected element in his description of this process, and other works that have appeared since, was ‘the news’. Perhaps this was because locating the ideological origins of revolution in authoritative works is a more straightforward task than pinpointing the appearance of these ideas in ephemeral objects such as newspapers, but it is often through ‘the news’ that ideas spread most rapidly and inspire individuals, communities, and publics to unite behind a revolutionary cause. In examining this process my project, ‘Revolutionary Currents’, addresses this neglect by systematically investigating the spread of revolutionary news in the British Atlantic world in the American Revolutionary Period. In doing so it becomes clear that ‘the news’ was a powerful revolutionary agent and a conduit of revolutionary activity, a reality that carries forward in history and is abundantly clear in more recent events such as the Arab Spring. Mediums may change, but whether viewed in the pages of a newspaper or on an internet browser ‘the news’ remains a revolutionary constant.

Image 1 (from left to right): Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, Oil on Canvas, 378.5 cm × 647.7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Image 2: Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, 1830, Oil on Canvas, 260 cm × 325 cm, The Louvre, Paris.

Margaret Masterson| School of English | Maria Edgeworth and the Pollard Collection of children’s books: constructing, collecting and conserving girlhood in the children’s literature archive | |

The books we read as children shape our sense of identity by supplying stories, images, situations and cues that help to define us. Discourse on the relationship between language, ideology, and gender shows the importance of literature in constructing models of girlhood that reflect these ideals. This project interrogates changing concepts of girlhood through textual analysis and bibliography in the Pollard Collection of Children’s Books, as formed by the Collection’s most prolific author, Maria Edgeworth.

Bibliography treats Edgeworth’s books as cultural objects within their political, social and cultural contexts. It offers insight into how and why the books were produced as they were, asking how form affects meaning, and how that meaning shifts over time. It helps us understand our position as researchers as we attempt to balance modern and feminist constructions of girlhood with historical representations in the collection. It deciphers how past constructions inform current social concepts of girlhood, and how popular books from centuries ago might still influence the books produced for girls today.

The Pollard Collection is a place where many versions of girlhood coexist, allowing us to discuss girlhood in both historical and contemporary contexts simultaneously. It is the place where the authors’ textual constructions of girlhood, the ideological motivations of the publisher, and the assumptions about girlhood made by the collector and the researcher intersect, showing that girlhood is not a stable concept but something dynamic, temporal, cultural, and negotiated, and always open to interpretation.

Young Girl Reading by Jean Honoré Fragonard, 1769. National Gallery of Art, USA
Young Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden, 1960. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, USA
Margaret is a PhD candidate in the School of English. Her research is supervised by Dr Jane Suzanne Carroll.

Lorraine McEvoy| School of Histories and Humanities | Little Guests': Europe's Children in the Aftermath of WWII | |

My research explores humanitarian initiatives in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, with a focus on recuperative holidays, which involved sending groups of children abroad for short periods of time in order to restore their mental and physical well-being. My research is a transnational history of these schemes, on a broad scale, which traces how they developed and differed throughout Europe. It interrogates why individuals and states chose to provide aid in the ways they did, why they selected particular types of aid-giving, how recipients experienced humanitarian action and whether it was always in their best interests.

This poster highlights a pressing question that emerges from my research: what motivates humanitarianism at its various levels from the individual to the international body? This poster implicates the viewer in this question, asking them to place themselves in the position of the would-be humanitarian. Within the main text, WWII era images bookend a collage of child-centred images from more recent wars and crises as a reminder that this is an enduring question. The images are intentionally obscured in order to be indicative rather than prescriptive; to imply the overwhelming scope of crises while refraining from manufacturing a sense of simply choosing between limited and clear-cut options. 

Image Credits (images altered to fit within text)

Arrival of Jewish refugees in London, 1939, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69279, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <>, via Wikimedia Commons ; Internally displaced children, U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne; “Menschen und Eindrücke vom Camp Moria” by Tim  Lüddemann, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; “FMSC Distribution Partner - Haiti" by Feed My Starving Children, licensed under CC BY 2.0; "Malnourished Children in Guanajuato" by Tia Foundation, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0; “Child Refugees - Lesvos, Greece” by Steve Evans, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0; “Iraqi refugee children at Newroz camp…” by UK Department for International Development, licensed under CC BY 2.0 ; Syrian Child Refugee; Syrian Child Refugee; A Refugee Girl Moves Under Barbed Wire; War and Hunger/Barefoot in Winter.

Hannah Rice| School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies| An Investigation into Self-Translation in the Irish-Language Context | |

Self-translation is a term that refers to the process in which a writer translates their own work from one language to another. This research explores the motivations of contemporary, award-winning self-translators who work with the Irish and English languages. As a minority language existing in an asymmetric linguistic environment dominated by the English language, the visibility of Irish-language literature is often over-shadowed. Due to the fact that self-translation can be a challenging and time-consuming task, many of those that embark on it do so only once. Therefore, this study focuses on those who have translated and published at least two of their own works—novels, short story collections, poetry collections and dramas. Preliminary findings suggest that the proportion of Irish-language writers who have translated their own work at least twice is quite high in this respect.

Through an exploration of the bilingualism of Irish speakers and the status of the Irish language, this research will probe the reasons why these self-translators overwhelmingly choose first to write in the Irish language before translating their work into English. Are their motivations purely personal (i.e. an expression of a bilingual identity), practical (i.e. to reach a wider readership), or a mixture of both? To what extent does self-translation affect the literary profile of these writers in the two languages? This project will shed light on a currently under-researched topic with regard to the Irish language and open new avenues for further study.

Céline Thobois| Drama Department / School of Creative Arts| Biomechanical Systems in Samuel Beckett’s Drama: Rethinking Life in the Anthropocene | |

The Anthropocene is defined by the Anthropocene Working Group (International Union of Geological Sciences) as “the present geological time interval, in which many conditions and processes on Earth are profoundly altered by human impact.” The AWG identify the beginning of the Anthropocene in the 1950s, notably due to the start of the Great Acceleration and the thermonuclear bomb tests.

After surviving the Second World War in France and witnessing first-hand the possibility of annihilation of life, Irish artist Samuel Beckett talked about his “vision and sense of a time-honoured conception of humanity in ruins, and perhaps even an inkling of the terms in which our condition is to be thought again.”Soon after the war, Beckett turned to the theatre, and later to other technological media, to experiment with what it means to be human in a technologically mediated world.

By focusing on the interactions between the human, technology and the environment in Beckett’s drama through the prisms of behaviourism and neuroscience, this research aims at exploring how Beckett’s experimental plays provide us with a powerful legacy to rethink what it means to be human in the Anthropocene. I therefore argue that the work of contemporary Beckettian practitioners adapting Beckett’s plays to new technologies and across new terrains – physical and virtual – is a meaningful contribution to address the ecological and ontological challenges of our times.

To learn more about this research, click here:

Elena Schaa| School of Religion | How do Future Worldviews Emerge? Quantum Physics, and the Case of Werner Heisenberg’s ‘Religion without God’ | |

The development of quantum mechanics in the early 20th Century significantly changed the very core of physics and called contemporary worldviews into question. Werner Heisenberg won the Nobel Prize in 1933 for the “creation of quantum physics,” by offering a new mathematical formulation for a physical problem. Along with his academic achievements, Heisenberg publicly presented his arguments on the wider consequences of quantum mechanics. In the long run, both his scholarly work and his popular writings have shaped religion to the present day.

My project not only looks at Heisenberg's arguments on the importance of religion for viable modernity but also at the aesthetic relationships he established between the sociocultural systems of religion and science. Aesthetical analysis scrutinises the practices, topoi, narratives, or material and theoretical objects involved in the production of new knowledge and worldviews. Recent research highlights the androcentrism of science by exposing how the historically dominant sex, the male, has shaped academia, above all the ideal of disembodied cognition. Ultimately, the research looks at one historical physicists to offer insight into the communicative and cultural aspects of knowing and the construction of worldviews.

Purple: I choose purple to represent the historically invisible work and research of women, the embodiment of cognition, and the multiple ways science is gendered. Purple has not only been used by feminist movements for decades, but it also attracts more attention when put alongside turquoise.

Permaculture Ethics Curtesy of

Shelby Zimmerman| School of Histories and Humanities | Medicalisation of Death in the Dublin City Workhouses, 1872-1920 | |

In late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland, the rising status of the medical field through advancements in epidemiology and medical innovation resulted in the medicalisation of society. As the physicians’ domain transitioned from the home to hospitals, city hospitals sought to create the reputation of a respectable and curative institution. Limited bed space in the city hospitals and the need to attract fee-paying patients resulted in the workhouse functioning as the largest medical institution for the poor and working classes. By the end of the nineteenth century, the aged and infirm comprised the majority of the workhouse’s population, thus demonstrating the workhouse’s shifting function from poor relief to medical relief.

This research examines how the North and South Dublin Unions contributed to Dublin’s medical landscape for the sick and dying poor. It examines the institutional options available to the poor and how the profile of the deceased differed between the workhouse and city hospitals. This research also analyses how the workhouse responded to the deceased inmates. Were inmates treated with respect in the mortuary and buried with dignity? Was the workhouse obliged to maintain the respectability of the deceased inmates or did dying in the workhouse entail sacrificing respectability?

‘Birr Workhouse Burial Ground’ Image Courtesy of Stephen Callaghan

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