We are delighted to launch Breac: A Digital Journal of Irish Studies. The project emerges on the near anniversary of Hybrid Irelands, a conference held last year at the University of Notre Dame, which contributed to the project of locating Ireland in a global literary tradition. At that conference, with its nearly 150 participants, we discussed the possibility of a digital journal of Irish Studies being the gateway to a global and engaged conversation. A year later, Breac currently has over 500 subscribers from all over the world. These subscribers range from tenured university faculty to aspiring young academics, from non-academics with an interest in Irish Studies to the writers and artists whose work so often gives a journal like ours a reason to exist. Breac is the venue at which these diverse participants can converse and connect. And it hopes to nurture that conversation and to provide the platform for you to take part in it.
Our primary aspiration for Breac is thus to cultivate a new type of community, to take the academic conference, the classroom seminar, the Tuesday book club, the poetry reading, and the art exhibition, and to place them all in a digital crucible that can be accessed freely and globally. The potential upshot of the experiment we see as follows: narrowing the gap between the academic and the non-specialist; reconsidering, as Margaret Kelleher suggests in the preface to this issue, what counts as academic property in light of intellectual collaboration; and designing digital tools that are not, by their intent and build, preconditioned to yield market data but which exist in support of, and because of, the community that uses them. In one sense, these aims seem inconceivable and out-of-reach—tantalizing even. On a smaller, more local level, though, they seem possible, achievable. So we build. We endeavor. We begin.
None of this would have been possible without the assistance and contribution of many people. Between families, friends, colleagues, peers, designers and mentors, the list of contributors, from the inception to the building of Breac, is as hybrid and multifarious as the methodologies and approaches we hope to promote here. For their original sponsorship of the Hybrid Irelands conference—the catalyst for this journal—and for the journal itself, we would like to thank the following programs at the University of Notre Dame: the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, the departments of English, Ph.D. in Literature, and Irish Language and Literature, the Graduate School, the College of Arts and Letters, The Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, The Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Creative Writing Program, and, especially, Maud Ellmann, for her generous contribution. The following faculty and staff at Notre Dame have been essential to the successful launch of this project: thank you to Chris Fox, Margaret Lloyd, Declan Kiberd, Sean O’Brien, Brian O’Conchubhair, Susan Harris, Beth Bland, Elliott Visconsi, Valerie Sayers, John Sitter, Marie Revak, Karmen Duke, and last, but in no way least, Lynn McCormack. For the team at AgencyND, who designed and built the site, we can’t thank you enough—that includes, especially, Stephanie Tatay-Myers, Nick Johnson, Erik Runyon, and Taylor Packet, as well as Kate Russell and Cristin O’Connor.
Of particular note to this issue, David Lloyd generously contributed the first essay, which subsequently set the theme of Migration and Diaspora. A preface from Margaret Kelleher is no small honor, and for her additional guidance and suggestions, we are grateful. We would also like to thank Micheal Ó Conghaile and Seán Ó Flaithearta who have very kindly agreed to allow us to use Seán Ó Flaithearta's artwork as part of the issue. Seán Ó Flaithearta's artwork featured in this issue and inspired by Seán Ó Ríordáin's "Do Dhomhnall Ó Corcora" and "A Theanga Seo Leath-Liom," offers a fruitful interplay between different media that inspires critical understanding. For the other contributors featured here, thank you for your patience as we worked out the kinks of the first issue, and we hope the Breac platform will return the favor of your ideas and contributions by providing the feedback they deserve. And of course, this journal project would have sunk numerous times if it weren't for the kindness, generosity, and clarity of our editorial committee members. We’d like to single out a particular a few, those who had to entertain an especially significant number of questions, concerns, and deadlines: Lindsay Haney, Ailbhe Darcy, PJ Matthews, Matt Wilkens, Sonia Howell, Robinson Murphy, Kara Donnelly, Julie McCormick Weng, Anna Finn, Kelly Sullivan—we hope you’ll be in it for the long haul. And also we would like to thank our families for their support and guidance.
For S and C.