An Focal March 2017
Louise O’Neill Visits for ‘One Campus, One Book’
Author and columnist Louise O’Neill visited UL to discuss her award-winning novel ‘Asking For It’ last Wednesday.
‘Asking For It’ is the novel chosen by the Regional Writing Centre for this year’s One Campus One Book initiative.
It follows the story of Emma O’Donovan, a beautiful and popular eighteen year-old who is gang raped at a party.
When she wakes up the next morning she has no memory of the rape, but explicit pictures shared on a Facebook page reveal what happened the night before.
The book raises important questions about consent, rape culture and victim blaming in the setting of a fictional small town in West Cork.
After an introduction from Associate Vice President Academic at the Centre of Teaching and Learning in UL, Professor Sarah Moore, the Clonakilty author read a harrowing passage from the award-winning novel.
Professor Moore and Louise O’Neill then entered into a discussion before the floor was opened to the audience to ask questions.
Among the topics discussed was the idea that Ms O’Neill was ‘brave’ or ‘courageous’ for writing about rape in this way, and that indeed rape victims who speak up are often spoken about like this.
O’Neill explained how she used to talk in a similar way about rape victims until she met Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill while making the documentary ‘Asking For It?: Reality Bites’ for RTÉ.
Ms Ní Dhomhnaill, whose ex-boyfriend received a suspended sentence for raping her as she slept, continually questioned O’Neill on why she believed she was brave for coming forward and “being so open” about her rape.
O’Neill said: “I realised that there was a part of me that internalised this idea that actually it was shameful to be a victim. That there was some sort of part of her that should have carried the shame of what had happened to her and why I thought she was brave was because she was rejecting that idea and she was very openly, in a public forum, saying that she had been raped.”
Questions posed to O’Neill from the audience of UL students and staff included her opinion on Casey Affleck receiving an Oscar, why she chose to make Emma’s beauty so core to her character and how the author deals with negative comments.
UL One Campus, One Book is an annual initiative that invites students and staff to read and discuss one novel together.
Professor Moore, described the project as “a real movement to try to bring reading novels right into the centre of what it is that learning and personal and professional development is all about.”
Previously selected books for the initiative included Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume and The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, who recommended Asking For It be chosen for 2017.
Louise O’Neill will return to the University on April 5th for a “How I Write Ireland” interview exploring her writing processes and strategies, conducted by co-director of the RWC Lawrence Cleary.