On July 7, 2013, members of the Spalding brief-residency MFA in Writing program attended a lecture by the president of Ireland as part of the Swift Satire Festival in the village of Trim, County Meath, Ireland. The four-day festival brought together distinguished guests from the arts, politics, media and comedy to celebrate satire in honor of Jonathan Swift, author of such famous satirical works as Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal.
Michael D. Higgins, president of Ireland (and onetime university professor as well as former minister of arts and culture for the Republic of Ireland), spoke about Swift’s frustrated moral indignation at the inadequacies of society, his critique of consumerism and modernity, and the power and shortcomings of satire as a literary form. Higgins ended his talk with a call for current artists to have, as Swift had, the courage to write in the spirit of public engagement.
After the speech, Higgins briefly exchanged greetings with MFA Program Director Sena Jeter Naslund (pictured), bestselling author of many novels, including the forthcoming The Fountain of St. James Court: or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman (William Morrow, forthcoming September 2013). Her other novels include Ahab’s Wife, Adam & Eve, Four Spirits, and Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette.
The Spalding MFA group was in Ireland July 3-15 for the MFA program’s annual summer residency abroad.