“A Stinging Fly Story? An Irish Literary Body Examined”

July 3, 2019

Name:                                Eve Kearney

Home University:        University College Dublin

University Visited:      Concordia University

Title of Research:        “Contemporary Irish Literature: Established or Emergent?”

Field of Study:               Contemporary cultural studies, fiction, Irish studies, literature


Visit Details:

From 23rd April until the 2nd June 2019, I conducted a research visit to the School of Irish Studies in Concordia, Montreal. As Concordia has a rich and vibrant Irish Studies department that just recently celebrated its 10th year, the research interests of the staff and students aligned with my own personal and PhD research area. The purpose of my visit was to meet with and interact with the students of Concordia and exchange knowledge capital of both Irish and Quebecois literature and culture with them.

Following discussion with Michael Kenneally, the Head of School, it was decided that rather than hosting a series of formal lecture and discussion seminars within the School, it would be more productive (for both myself as a researcher and for the students of Concordia) to engage in a series of informal meetings and discussions. Over the course of my six weeks, I met various PhD candidates and MA students, as well as undergraduates with a special interest in Irish Studies.  As the Concordia School is an inter-disciplinary School, these meetings were extremely beneficial for all involved as we were able to share ideas and develop possible research strands without the traditional constraints of a hierarchical academic setting.

In addition to meeting the students of Concordia, I also had informal meetings with faculty members of the School of Irish Studies. Meetings with Susan Cahill, Rhona Richman Kenneally, Jane McGaughey, Emer O’Toole, and Michael Kenneally all took place during my visit. Through discussions with these esteemed scholars who work closely to my own thesis’s area of research, I was able to obtain strong academic guidance for my work, both on a practical and theoretical level. In addition to this, due to the faculty’s involvement with the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, there is potential for future publication of my own work, or indeed a collaboration with students or staff from the School, depending on the scope of the Journal’s call for papers.

Montreal’s Leonard Cohen mural, on the same block as Concordia University

A main outcome and benefit of my research visit was my involvement with the Canadian Association for Irish Studies, and my participation in and running of, the annual conference which was held in Concordia during my visit to the School. The 2019 CAIS conference took place over four days and featured nearly 200 conference delegates attending. Keynotes were given by Rhona Richman Kenneally (Concordia) and Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck University, London), and a reading was given by author Kevin Barry. My role in the conference was multi-faceted. In the lead up to the event, and as practical assistant and organiser during the conference, I assisted with the logistics of the organisation and gained valuable experience and insight into organising a conference of that magnitude and prestige.

On a personal level, the opportunity to chair two panels during the conference was an exceptionally valuable professional experience for me.  Jane McGaughey, President of CAIS and Assistant Professor of Diaspora Studies at Concordia, afforded me the opportunity based on our conversations during my visit, and I relished the chance to expand my academic abilities and contribute in another way to the conference and to the Concordia team. Chairing allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and engage with inter-disciplinary themes and presentations that I may not have otherwise encountered.

During the CAIS conference, I also presented a paper based on my own research and conversations with students and staff in the weeks leading up to the conference.  My paper, entitled “A Stinging Fly Story? An Irish Literary Body Examined” interrogated the role of The Stinging Fly literary journal, and asked questions of the responsibility of the journal as an arbiter of taste and short fiction in the Irish literary scene. Following my paper, I received many questions about the ways in which journals in both Ireland and Canada could potentially address the issue of representation within their pages, and about challenging and breaking the status quo of homogeneous short fiction. This panel that I presented on was chaired by Aileen Ruane of Université Laval also, and allowed us to create a series of links between our respective work.

Eve Kearney at the Olympic Stadium after a Montreal Impact game

The conference afforded me many opportunities to create contacts and links with other Early Career Researchers and established academics, not only in Concordia. Following up on her time at UCD as the Craig Dobbin Chair, I took great pleasure in reconnecting with Jane Koustas (Brock University) and discussing the emergent intersections between our work. Meeting Diane Farquharson (Memorial University, Newfoundland) was a fascinating experience, and her work on contemporary female ethics and politics speaks heavily to my own work. I hope to reconnect with her next year at CAIS 2020, which will be held in Newfoundland. In addition to these two academics, the aforementioned students and faculty of the Concordia School of Irish Studies were also in attendance, so the conference was an opportunity to further strengthen my professional relationship with them and maintain contact for the future.

Many future collaboration opportunities have arisen from my research visit to Concordia. As mentioned above, a special edition of the Canadian Journal for Irish Studies will be published in May 2020, focusing on the Repeal the 8th Campaign, and I have already been approached to submit an abstract/proposal for a journal article to be included in it. Potential work with Susan Cahill on contemporary Irish literature has also been discussed between us, and could potentially lead to a post-doctoral role in Concordia in the future. Working with Emer O’Toole, there is also scope for a collaborative project on contemporary gender and the nexus of Ireland and Canada. If I can afford to attend CAIS 2020 in Newfoundland next year, I hope to assemble a dedicated panel with some of the post-graduate researchers I met with and worked with during my research visit. I have also encouraged many Concordia students to apply for the ICUF Flaherty Scholarship in future, and have committed to connecting them with appropriate project supervisors in UCD when the time comes.

In conclusion, my research visit to Concordia was both extremely productive and timely. Through my work with the School of Irish Studies, and CAIS in organising the 2019 conference, it has become clear to me that a future post-doctoral position working in Canada would be hugely beneficial to my work, and to the wider aims of Irish studies scholars in Canada. Furthermore, future collaborations with Canadian scholars in Ireland is something that appeals to me immensely, and is a group I hope to participate with in the near future, both here in Dublin, Concordia, or in Newfoundland next year for CAIS 2020.