INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS DELIVERED BY:
PROFESSOR DECLAN KIBERD, Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature & Drama, School of English, University College Dublin - National University of Ireland, Dublin, on 16 June, 2005, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Literature, honoris causa, on NEIL JORDAN.
A Sheansail�ir, agus a mhuintir na hOllscoile,
Neil Jordan was born in Sligo in 1950 but raised in Dublin, where his mother taught art and his father lectured on the literature of education. That blend of the pictorial and the literary has defined his achievements in two media, for his books have a strong visual sense while his films often draw inspiration from literary texts. In both media he has committed himself to exploring the imaginative development of persons and the dangers of repressing the imagination.
He himself was educated at Belgrove School, Clontarf and at St. Paul�s College, Raheny, where he began writing short stories; and later at University College Dublin, where he studied English and History � but also, of course, in the cinema houses of the city where he came to revere the work of Kurosawa and Fellini.
After graduation, he helped set up an experimental theatre company; co-founded the Irish Writers� Co-operative to promote native talent; and played saxophone in a band. His first collection of stories, Night in Tunisia, published in 1976, won golden opinions for its account of coming of age in de Valera�s Ireland and for the audacity of its musical forms. It won the Guardian Fiction Prize. This was followed by two very different novels, an analysis of family history in The Past (1980) and an allegorical fantasy, Dream of a Beast (1983).
By then Neil Jordan had made his own directorial debut with Angel, a 1982 film about musicians against the backdrop of the Northern troubles. This was the first all-Irish feature film for many years and was followed by his cinematic realization of the Little Red Riding Hood fable in The Company of Wolves. In 1986 he achieved a breakthrough as director and screenplay writer with the thriller Mona Lisa. The Miracle in 1991 was based on his own famous story, Night in Tunisia; and one year later The Crying Game established him as a major global cineaste, when he won an Oscar for his screenplay.
Since then he has made such films as Interview with a Vampire, The Butcher Boy and The End of the Affair, all based on important works of literature, which he brings to the screen with a gift of explanation without simplification. But he has never abandoned his original career. In 1995 he produced another novel, Sunrise and Sea Monster, about the troubled relationship between a father and son; and his latest novel, Shade, published only a month ago, has already won a major award at Listowel Writers� Festival. He has founded his own production company.
He says that movie making is more enjoyable than writing a novel. In an influential lecture at UCD�s Joyce Summer School, he argued that after the awesome formal achievements of Joyce in literature, it was perhaps inevitable that later generations of Irish writers would seek to conquer in the rather different art form of film. However, he also sees film as but another form of writing, which can startle audiences with new perspectives, and which shows the power of fantasy to heal our wounds.
His books have been translated into more than ten languages; he is a member of Aosd�na; and he has been honoured with the Rooney Prize for literature and by the government of France with the Order of Arts and Letters. His films have by now garnered over fifty Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe nominations.
He has been a member of the Board of the UCD Film School ever since its inception more than ten years ago and a major supporter of its ever-expanding programmes of study, saying that he only wishes that such courses had been available when he was starting out.
For an art which paints words even as it narrates the pictures of our lives, and which on both page and screen aspires always to the condition of music, UCD honours one of its foremost graduates with an honorary Doctorate of Literature.
PRAEHONORABILIS CANCELLARIE, TOTAQUE UNIVERSITAS:
Presento vobis hunc meum filium, quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, as gradum Doctoratus in Litteris, idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo, totique Academiae.