Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Literature in Ireland

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Seeing What You've Learned is Powerful

Chuck Summers '10 - After a much-needed chance to sleep in a little bit this morning, we met up at Trinity College to catch a glimpse of one of the oldest texts in the Anglo history, the Book of Kells. The ancient text itself is held in the old library of the college, the same place where great writers like Jonathan Swift once spent their time studying while they were students at Trinity. What was incredible to me was the elaborate, artistic design of the letters themselves. I can hardly imagine the time and effort it took to write out and color each letter with just ink and a crude pen. 

After a small break to eat, we traveled to the Irish National Museum of Archeology and History. There were many incredible artifacts to see like weapons and jewelry from the Vikings who settled in the area now known as Dublin thousands of years ago. The most amazing, if not a little disturbing, thing I saw there were the “bog people,” a few eerily-well preserved bodies found in Irish peat bogs. These bodies dated as far back as 400 BC and were believed to have been thrown in the bogs after being ritually sacrificed, a common practice in the culture of ancient Irish people, as well as most others across Europe. I found it incredible how scientists could do things like tell what kind of diet they had by analyzing their fingernails and just how much they were able to find out about these men who lived so long ago. Nothing connects you to history like getting to know the common people who lived in that time, and I have never learned more about the culture of ancient Ireland like I have learned today.

After that, we went to Collins Barracks, an enormous old military barracks that now serves as a museum. A huge portion of the museum focused on the Irish rebellion against Britain, most notably the Easter Rebellion of 1916. To imagine that, in the very same streets I had been wandering through, there were once violent gun battles was surreal. Through the different artifacts on display in the museum, I was able to contextualize the rebellion and violence that makes up Irish history, something I have learned much about. 

Today’s activities really sum up what this immersion trip is all about. You can read all you want about an ancient culture, but you can’t truly learn about it without physically seeing the things they wore and the tools they made. By being able to actually meet and mingle with people in the pubs and physically see the places that make up the Irish history I have read about, I have able to really experience Irish culture, and I can’t wait to see and learn more.