Seán Crosson, "Gaelic Games on Film" (Cork UP, 2019)

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Today we are joined by Seán Crosson, leader of the Sport and Exercise Research Group at NUI Galway, co-director of the MA in Sports Journalism and Communication, and Professor at the Huston School of Film and Digital Media. He is also the author of Gaelic Games on Film: From Silent Films to Hollywood Hurling, Horror, and the Emergence of Irish Cinema (Cork University Press, 2019).

In our conversation, we discussed the first depictions of Gaelic Games on film; American and British portrayals of hurling and Gaelic football that popularized and subverted Irish stereotypes; the role of the Gaelic Games in promoting Irish Nationalism, and the contemporary subversion of conservative notions of Irishness through representations of the games since the 1960s. Along the way, we discussed numerous popular films such as Knocknagow (1918), The Quiet Man (1952), and The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006).

In Gaelic Games on Film, Crosson traces out the use of Irish sports in Irish, American, and British cinema. His analysis engages with different kinds of cinema, including dramas, silent and horror films, as well as non-fiction accounts in documentaries and newsreels. Many of these accounts challenged the normative description of hurling and Gaelic football presented by the Gaelic Athletic Association. Depictions of Gaelic games in American and British films relied upon and subverted stereotypes about the Irish, especially their supposed propensity to violence, to both situate Irish nationhood within its international context with its closest neighbours and to manage the integration of Irish migrants leaving the country in great numbers in the middle of the twentieth century.

Their Irish cinema counterparts, who with few exceptions took to cinema work a little later, following the redevelopment of the Irish film industry after independence, used hurling and Gaelic football to both articulate and critique notions of Irish masculinity, religiosity, and conservativism. Here Crosson points out that the popularity and legibility of sports contributed to the development of Irish cultural institutions such as the National Film Institute of Ireland and Gael Linn, who both produced newsreels of the Gaelic Games to sell to cinemas around the country and benefitted from the popularity of those movies.

Listeners interested in seeing some clips of the films in question can watch another interview with Crosson here.

Crosson’s work offers innovative perspectives on the interplay between histories of sport and cinema. This book will appeal to readers interested in Irish, sports, and film studies.

Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France’s Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime. If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at keith.rathbone@mq.edu.au.

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