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Rewriting the history of Irish marriage

Concordia hosts New Zealand’s Peter Kuch to discuss his book Irish Divorce / Joyce's Ulysses
March 26, 2018
By Cristina Sanza

Peter Kuch, author, 'Irish Divorce / Joyce's Ulysses'

The history of Irish marriage may not be what it was once believed.

Concordians will learn why, in a lecture on March 28 by Peter Kuch, Eamon Cleary Chair of Irish Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The lecture, “Ulysses and the hidden history of Irish Divorce, 1857–1922,” will cover Kuch’s latest book, Irish Divorce / Joyce's Ulysses.

The book challenges the long-held belief that prior to the second divorce referendum of 1995, the Irish could not obtain decrees absolute — a divorce that gave them the right to remarry. In analyzing Ulysses, a modernist novel by Irish writer James Joyce set in 1904 Edwardian Dublin, Kuch shows for the first time, that divorce is possible for the books main characters, contrary to what had been thought.

“I was inspired by the discovery, in a wide range of sources, that many Irish were using the English Court system between 1857 and 1922 to obtain decrees absolute,” Kuch says.

Irish Divorce / Joyce's Ulysses took approximately four years of work for Kuch to research and write. His sources included 1500 newspaper reports, and the files of 850 cases that had been heard in the English Court, among others.

As part of his presentation, Kuch will explain the differences between the English, Scottish and Irish jurisdictions following the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, as well as the sources that reveal how Irish divorces were heard in the English Court between 1857 and 1922.

Kuch will offer the audience a fresh understanding of the history of Irish marriage.

“I hope the audience comes away with an increased appreciation for the humanity and subtlety of Ulysses,” Kuch says. “And, an awareness of the extent to which significant aspects of a nation's history can be occluded.”

The author is excited to present his book in Montreal — it is his second visit to the city.

“My book offers a challenging new perspective on Ulysses​, rewrites the history of Irish marriage between 1857 and 1922 and is highly relevant for the diaspora Irish.”


Call to action:

Be sure to attend Peter Kuch’s free lecture on March 28, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the McEntee Reading Room (1455 De Maisonneuve W, Room1001.01).


Related links/articles:

School of Irish Studies

Faculty of Arts and Science

Spring into green season with Irish Studies!

Peter Kuch event listing

Peter Kuch bio


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