McManus, Antonia 1952-

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McMANUS, Antonia 1952-


Born November 17, 1952, in Ballycastle, County Mayo, Ireland; daughter of Anthony (a school principal) and Mary (a school vice principal) Murphy; married Kenneth McManus (a school principal), August 22, 1974; children: Kenneth. Education: Maynooth, B.A. (with first class honors) and Higher Diploma of Education (with honors), 1986; Trinity College, Dublin, Ph.D., 2000. Politics: "Varies." Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—139 Kirwin Ave., Avondale, Trim, County Meath, Ireland. E-mail—[email protected].


Convent of Mercy, Trim, County Meath, Ireland, teacher, 1985-86; teacher at a Roman Catholic high school, Trim, 1986-93; Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, lecturer in education, 1993-2003; Froebel College of Education, Sion Hill, Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland, lecturer, 2002—.


The Irish Hedge School and Its Books, 1695-1831, Four Courts Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2002.


Research on the history books read in hedge schools.


Antonia McManus told CA: "The subject of my book was the topic I selected to research for my doctoral thesis. The topic is in an area of the history of Irish education which hasn't been revisited on a major scale since P. J. Dowling's pioneering work The Hedge Schools of Ireland appeared in 1932.

"My interest in hedge schools and their books was stimulated while I was a research student in the master of education program at Trinity College. Having read Dowling's book, I found that my interest in the Irish poets of the eighteenth century was rekindled once more. As an undergraduate, their poetry had laid a profound impression on me, especially the 'aisling' or vision poetry of Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin (1748-1784). I was impressed by the tenacity of the poets who rose above their miserable social conditions to write such poetic works and by the fact that their poetry was remarkably free of bitterness, despite the fact that their patrons, the Gaelic chieftains, had been dispossessed of their lands following the Elizabethan wars (1601) and later the Williamite wars (1689-1691). I was no doubt influenced by Daniel Corkery's lyrical defense of eighteenth-century Munster poets in his book The Hidden Ireland (1924). However, it was Vivien Mercier's The Irish Comic Tradition (1962) which helped to shape my view that whatever the poets lacked in poetic ability, they more than adequately compensated for in their spirited approach to life, when they resorted to satire and humor in order to poke fun at the new landowners, and in order to entertain their own people during very difficult times.

"Having read Dowling's book, I learned that almost every Irish poet of the eighteenth century was also a hedge schoolmaster. This came as little surprise to me because I believed that their creative ability, coupled with their generosity of spirit and liberal outlook on life, equipped them well for a life in the teaching profession. However, I was keen to learn more about the social conditions of the period, the historical background which forced the hedge schoolmasters to operate underground for almost ninety years, and how they succeeded in becoming the dominant educators in Ireland for well over a century.

"I was also interested to learn more about the curriculum in the hedge schools, which was more extensive and liberal than the utilitarian curriculum which was available to the poor in England or indeed in the rival educational institutions in Ireland.

"Finally, I was greatly surprised by the quantity and diversity of the books read in the hedge schools, considering the poverty of the children who attended them. Contemporary writers and conservative elements in Irish society, in the early nineteenth century, were deeply critical of a small number of these books, claiming that they had either a subversive sub-text or were immoral in content and were therefore unsuitable matter for children to read. I was keen to explore the possibility that there was some basis for these concerns, and I felt that a detailed study of a selected sample of the most controversial books (as well as a representative sample of the range of other books read) merited an in-depth analysis. I was therefore very pleased to be allowed the privilege and pleasure of undertaking research in this area of Irish educational history."

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McManus, Antonia 1952-

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