First lay editor appointed to Studies

September 28, 2021 in Featured News, News

The Irish Jesuit quarterly journal, Studies, has its first lay editor since its foundation in 1912. Dermot Roantree takes over at the helm from Bruce Bradley SJ, who is stepping down after ten years. Dermot has been working in Communications in the Irish Province for close on twenty years. He is married with two children.

Prior to working for the Jesuit Province, Dermot worked in a number of secondary schools, both as a teacher of History and English to Leaving Certificate students and on e-learning projects, developing online resources for the secondary education sector. Academically, he has a humanities background. He has a BA in History and Greek & Roman Civilisation and a PhD in Modern History, both from University College Dublin. The doctoral thesis concerned an aspect of the relations between the Catholic Church and the state in Victorian Britain and Ireland. Central in it was the influence of St John Henry Newman on Catholic politicians, intellectuals and ecclesiastics as they negotiated the shifting landscape of Church teaching and practice in the aftermath of the Atlantic revolutions.

Newman in fact played a role in the pre-history of Studies. In 1858, during his involvement with the Catholic University in Dublin, he set up Atlantis: A Register of Literature and Science, a journal to showcase the work of the academic staff of the new college. After an initial burst of academic industry the journal was only published sporadically, and eventually it ceased publication in 1870. “Nonetheless,” remarks Declan O’Keeffe, college historian at Clongowes Wood College and longtime researcher into Irish Jesuit journalism (see note at end of article), “Atlantis provided the germ of an idea” which bore fruit over the following decades in a series of Jesuit publications, including the Lyceum, the New Ireland Review, and eventually Studies.

Studies first saw the light of day in March 1912,” O’Keeffe writes, “and has appeared without fail four times a year ever since.” Together with its predecessors, the Lyceum and New Ireland Review, O’Keeffe judges, it was “central to the Catholic nation-in-waiting at a key period of transition for Irish society and the modernisation of Catholicism”. These journals “are prisms through which we may view the preparation of the Catholic upper middle class to assume control of the country with the anticipated advent of home rule”.

Over the following decades, the purpose and style of Studies underwent some changes, but it retained its basic identity. It tended mostly to carry scholarly articles on a wide range of subjects, and appealing, as its first editorial put it, “to a wider circle of cultured readers than strictly specialist journals could be expected to reach”.

In the 1980s there was a substantial shift in editorial policy. In keeping with the Jesuit commitment after Vatican II to be attentive to the ‘signs of the times’, the journal declared its intention to aim less for academic content, “reacting more to the problems of the day, while maintaining the traditional interest of Studies in general Irish culture”. On the occasion of its centenary in 2012, the then-editor, Fergus O’Donoghue SJ, read this aspiration in terms of continuity with Studies’ past. He restated the journal’s commitment to the “founding purpose of commenting on Irish political, cultural and economic issues in the light of Christian values”. “The need for commentary from a thoughtful, informed Christian perspective,” he wrote, “has arguably become all the more urgent as the 21st century unfolds.”

Bruce Bradley SJ, the outgoing editor, continued this policy, and in the ten years of his editorship published many thoughtful and timely essays on clerical sexual abuse, migration, democracy, education, and freedom of speech. He also nurtured Studies’ rich tradition of promoting scholarly work on Irish writers and artists.

Speaking about his appointment to the editorship, Dermot Roantree remarked that he was gratified to find Studies in such robust health, and he voiced his intention to continue on the path that his recent predecessors had set. The next issue, Winter 2021, will be the first one under the new editorship.

Note: Declan O’Keeffe, Clongowes College Historian, will present a paper entitled “‘Time, Energy and Brass’: Why Studies Did Not Fail” at the 14th Association of Franco Irish Studies (AFIS) Conference on Friday, 29 October 2021. It deals with a turbulent period in the early years of Studies, during the editorships of Fr Timothy Corcoran SJ and his successor, Fr Patrick Connolly SJ. Declan’s paper will be based on an essay he wrote for the Summer 2017 issue of Studies. The AFIS conference line-up is available here » Registration for the event is through Eventbrite »