‘The Gadfly,’ an Irishwoman’s novel of revolutionaries: Remembering Ethel Voynich

by Jenny Farrell

People’s World | July 24, 2020

‘The Gadfly,’ an Irishwoman’s novel of revolutionaries: Remembering Ethel Voynich
Image from the cover of an edition of ‘The Gadfly.’ | via Mariinsky Theatre

Liam Mellows read this novel awaiting his execution, along with the other condemned and his comrades, imprisoned by the Irish Free State in the civil war (1922-23), for opposing the Treaty which gave Ireland Dominion Status within the British Empire, rather than establish an independent Irish Republic. Fellow prisoner Peadar O’Donnell writes: “It is a curious fact, which many of the Mountjoy prisoners must be easily able to recall, that it was around the days that the Gadfly was being widely read in ‘C’ wing; it is a tale of Italian revolution with a ghastly execution scene.… MacKelvey…picking up the Gadfly…saying once more: ‘God, I hope they don’t mess up any of our lads this way.’ MacKelvey was to remember the Gadfly next morning.”

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Hand to mouth

by Kensy Cooperrider

aeon | July 24, 2020

Some say language evolved by firelight, with our ancestors sharing stories deep into the night. Others suggest it began as baby talk, or as imitations of animal calls, or as gasps of surprise. Charles Darwin proposed that language started with snippets of song; Noam Chomsky thought it was just an accident, the result of a freak genetic mutation.

Proposals about the origins of language abound. And it’s no wonder: language is a marvel, our most distinctive capacity. A few slight movements of tongue, teeth and lips, and I can give you a new idea, whisk you somewhere else or give you goosebumps. Any thought a human can think, it would seem, can be shared on a puff of air. Explaining how this all started has been called the ‘hardest problem in science’ and it’s one that few can resist. Linguists, neuroscientists, philosophers and primatologists – not to mention novelists and historians – have all taken cracks at it.Read More »