ACIS Logo 2016 ACIS Book and Dissertation Prizes

On behalf of our organization, ACIS Vice President Timothy McMahon and the chairs of each of the ACIS prize committees are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s book and dissertation prizes. The winners were honored at the General Business Meeting at the ACIS National Meeting at the University of Notre Dame, IN, April 1, 2016. Information on these prizes and on this year’s awards committees can be found on the ACIS website.

The 2016 winners for books published in 2015 are:

Rhodes Prize for Literature and Language

Tom Walker Louis Macneice Tom Walker
Trinity College Dublin
Louis MacNeice and the Irish Poetry of His Time
Oxford University Press, 2015

Read the Prize Committee's Citation

The committee unanimously concluded that this monograph achieved a highly compelling mapping of MacNeice’s engagement with both Yeats and his own contemporaries, one likely to drive additional reassessment of both MacNeice’s achievement and of 20th-century Irish poetry.

The quality of Walker’s research, the forcefulness of his argument, and the clarity and appeal of his writing also impressed the committee. Indeed, Louis MacNeice and the Irish Poetry of His Time exemplifies the high standard of literary scholarship encouraged and celebrated by the Rhodes Prize, and we congratulate Tom Walker for his stellar work.

Duais Leabhar Taighde na Bliana/ACIS Irish Language Research Book Award

Sa Bhearna Bhaoil by Cormac Ó Comhraí Cormac Ó Comhraí
Independent Scholar
Sa Bhearna Bhaoil: Gaillimh 1913-1923
Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 2015

Read the Prize Committee's Citation

Leagan Gaeilge
Ba thréimhse corraithe na blianta ó 1913 go 1923 do mhuintir na Gaillimhe idir chathair agus chontae. Tharla athruithe ar shaol polaitiúil, eacnamaíoch agus sóisialta an cheantair díreach mar a tharla timpeall na tíre sa thréimhse céanna. Tháinig meath ar an bPáirtí Dúchais agus fágadh spás ansin d’fhorbairt Shinn Féin agus an IRA. Chuir Éirí Amach na Cásca, Cogadh na Saoirse agus Cogadh Cathartha athruithe eile ar an réigiún de réir a chéile. Cíortar sa leabhar seo an tslí ina ndeachaigh na hathruithe seo i bhfeidhm ar mhuintir na Gaillimhe; an dream a thacaigh leo agus iad a chuir ina n-aghaidh agus, cuirtear príomhcharachtair na coimhlintí ar gach taobh inár láthair.

Tharraing an t-údar ar réimse leathan foinsí; leabhair, cáipéisí atá foilsithe agus foinsí neamhfhoilsithe chomh maith, béaloideas agus scéalta príobháideacha a fuair sé trí agallaimh ó bhun go barr an chontae. In ainneoin comhairle a fuair sé d’éirigh go maith leis an ábhar seo a cíoradh le gaolta an dreama a bhí páirteach in imeachtaí na tréimhsí trioblóideacha sin.

Baineann an chéad chuid den leabhair leis an gcomhthéacs agus le hÉirí Amach na Cásca, baineann an tarna chuid leis an réabhlóid pholaitiúil agus le fás Shinn Féin, pléann an tríú cuid le príomhimeachtaí a bhain le Cogadh na Saoirse i nGaillimh agus pléitear an Cogadh Cathartha ag an deireadh.

Ní theipeann an leabhar scéalta na tréimhse seo a thabhairt dúinn díreach ó phobal na Gaillimhe, pé chúlra a bhí acu. Tá fonótaí iontacha ar fáil agus bailiúchán ghrianghraf den scoth sa lár. Scríobh an t-údar ón tús sa Ghaeilge, agus mar a luaigh sé is le muintir dheisceart Chonamara an stair seo, mar sin ba chóir dó an leabhar a bheith scríofa ina dteanga féin, ár dteanga.

English Version
The period from 1913 to 1923 was one of great change for the people of Galway both city and county. There were upheavals in the social, economic and political environments which mirrored changes which were taking place all over the country. This book investigates in detail the effects of these changes on Galway and pays particular attention to activists on all sides of the complicated developments before, during and after 1916. It also explores the lead up to the War of Independence, subsequent Civil War and their consequences for people with differing viewpoints living in this region.

The book is very well researched drawing from many primary sources; newspapers and magazines of the period, British police and military documents, documents from the Irish military archive, accounts written by loyalists applying for compensation, IRA documents, along with oral accounts and folklore collected by Ernie O’Malley. The work of many historians was also examined. Relatives of members of the IRA in the nineteen-twenties were interviewed and found to be willing participants in the gathering of data needed to complete the picture.
The book is divided into three sections; the first deals with the home environment which fueled support for The Easter Rising in many quarters. The second section considers the political revolution and the growth of and the resistance to Sinn Féin. The third section deals with the War of Independence and the final section studies the Civil War and its legacy in this part of Ireland.

Along with its verifiable facts this book never fails to present its story through the eyes of the local people whatever their stance, whether shoneen, republican or loyalist. It has excellent footnotes, a selection of photographs made available from myriad sources and is beautifully produced by Cló Iar-Chonnacht. The book is a wonderful addition to Irish historiography and, as the author mentions, as this narrative is that of the people of Galway, it belongs to them and by right is written Irish, their own language, our language.

James S. Donnelly, Sr., Prize for Books on History and Social Sciences

Gavin Foster's The Irish Civil War Gavin M. Foster
Concordia University
The Irish Civil War and Society: Politics, Class, and Conflict
Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

Read the Prize Committee's Citation

In this lively examination of how social inequality was connected to the Irish Civil War, Foster explores key issues such as social status, signifiers of respectability in lifestyle and sartorial choices, and why the events that followed the civil war – in spite of de Valera’s exhortation that there would be no “Wild Geese” – included an exodus. In this penetrating and compelling work, Foster explains the social fissures that found expression in the Civil War and its aftermath by focusing on what he convincingly establishes was the key issue of conflict over ideas of respectability. Because of former taboos surrounding serious and detailed discussion of the Civil War, Foster’s work is a welcome and fascinating addition to the new canon. He has read widely, and in ways that have allowed him access to attitudes more typical of people who are “anonymous” in the usual archives.

Committee members noted that Foster’s work is qualitative rather than quantitative. His Weberian approach to status inequality is very convincing and enlightening, and reveals new insights and areas for investigation. Early chapters about the language of othering are imaginative and convincing, revealing the wide matrix within which micro-distinctions of insults shaped individuals; these are key moments that open up new research terrain. The work is historiographically astute in its critique of other studies of the Civil War; because it includes the “cold war” that followed the shooting war, it makes a persuasive case that the longer term effects had as much to do with the aftermath as what happened during the months of the hot war. Foster is a perceptive and imaginative historian, who writes with verve and precision. Readers of this work will find that it has much to say that is new about social relations and hierarchy in Ireland in the 1920s.

Adele Dalsimer Prize for Distinguished Dissertation

Jay Roszman
Carnegie Mellon
“‘Outrage’ and ‘Justice’: Irish Agrarian Violence and British Governing Policy during the Age of Reform, 1835 to 1841”

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Roszman’s work focuses our attention on the Age of Reform, and specifically on the second half of the 1830s. Irish political historiography has understandably highlighted the alliance between Daniel O’Connell and the Whig government led by Lord Melbourne in these years, while British historiography has focused on issues such as electoral reform and abolition. Roszman does not ignore high politics, but his social historical approach seeks both to place Ireland more centrally into that British historiography and to tease out the relationship between those innovative Whig politicians who believed that government could act justly toward Ireland and Irish peasants’ own sense of “justice.” Utilizing a previously underappreciated source, the Reports of Outrage — daily updates on agrarian crime that enabled Roszman to augment the more familiar Outrage Papers at a granular level — he traced not only patterns of agrarian violence but the actors’ motives as well, thus joining a rich literature on popular agrarianism in a fresh way. That freshness comes from the interrelationships at the heart of two nexuses: elite actions and popular responses; and popular actions and elite responses. Teasing out this ebb and flow presents a distinct approach to understanding agrarianism and the high political world, as the Whigs sought to make the Union of Great Britain and Ireland work. The committee — made up of Timothy McMahon (Marquette University), Jane Elizabeth Dougherty (Southern Illinois University), and Jill Bender (University of North Carolina-Greensboro) — congratulate Jay Roszman and his dissertation supervisor David W. Miller for this fine work.

Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Books

Nels Pearson Irish Cosmopolitanism WINNER: Nels Pearson
Fairfield University
Irish Cosmopolitanism: Location and Dislocation in James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, and Samuel Beckett
University Press of Florida, 2015

Read the Murphy Prize Committee's Citation

Nels Pearson’s Irish Cosmopolitanism: Location and Dislocation in James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, and Samuel Beckett exemplifies the global turn in Irish studies, surely one of the most significant new approaches in the transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary field of Irish studies. Pearson’s monograph — brilliantly conceived and executed – argues that a new discourse of cosmopolitanism and a new critical approach to global democracy best illuminates the study of expatriate Irish experiences. Looking at the writing of three exemplary Irish expatriates who lived in Trieste, London, and Paris, Pearson challenges both postcolonial and modernist approaches that tend to view Joyce, Bowen, and Beckett as either Irish anti-colonial Irish writers or international modernists. Pearson shows how these writers oscillate between a sense of incomplete national belonging and humanistic connection tied to their new global environments.

Pearson’s work will surely have a direct influence on the new modernist studies and on the sizable cadre of scholars who teach and study the works of Joyce, Bowen, and Beckett. The committee believes his study will also inspire far more complicated analysis of any “national,” “international,” “colonial” or “postcolonial” works by Irish authors from Maria Edgeworth and Sidney Owenson to Colm Tóibín or Colm McCann. Pearson illuminates and provides a critical framework for studying the displacement felt by many Irish writers in the changing landscape rocked by both colonization and decolonization, helping us to attend more carefully to how writers grapple with national identity while acclimating to a fluctuating cosmopolitan world.

Cian McMahon Global Dimensions of Irish Identity HONORABLE MENTION: Cian T. McMahon
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880
University of North Carolina Press, 2015

Read the Murphy Prize Committee's Citation

Cian McMahon’s The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880 offers a compelling and persuasive account of the transnational evolution of Irish nationalism, particularly in the United States, from the 1840s through the 1870s. His study demonstrates that in the second half of the nineteenth century Irishness was a flexible identity that operated simultaneously at the global and national level, created and sustained by transnational networks yet also profoundly shaped by the local experiences of Irish men and women in Ireland, America, Australia, and elsewhere. The chief vehicle for exploring and contesting the various aspects of Irishness was a popular press that was thoroughly transnational in its outlook and distribution, creating in McMahon’s words “a borderless reading public.” Mailed to friends and family across the world, these newspapers became a key component of the global Irish network and played a critical role in Irish efforts to combat American nativism. McMahon argues that Irish migrants gradually overcame the deep hostility they encountered in the United States with an adept combination of global ethnic solidarity and claims for civic pluralism that together gradually expanded the boundaries of American citizenship. This engaging and original work will be useful to a wide range of scholars, providing a model of how to explore and analyze the transnational Irish experience.

Michael J. Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture

Anne O'Dowd Straw, Hay, & Rushes Anne O’Dowd
Curator (Emeritus) National Museum of Ireland
Straw, Hay, & Rushes in Irish Folk Tradition
Irish Academic Press, 2015

Read the Durkan Prize Committee's Citation

Anne O’Dowd’s Stray, Hay, and Rushes in Irish Folk Tradition is a beautifully produced book, and its research content fully matches its splendor as a material object. The study reads like the culmination of a life’s work, and indeed O’Dowd takes up the responses from questionnaires sent out by the Irish Folklore Commission in the 1950s and 1960s, and builds on the research of former director of the National Museum of Ireland, A.T. Lucas. Thus this book represents not only this scholar’s significant body of work, but also completes the projects of researchers and those contributing to the Folklore Commission early in the century.

Anne O’Dowd’s research methods here admirably combine archival museum retrieval of folk materials with cultural analysis. She draws on the vast collections of photographs and artifacts housed at the National Museum of Ireland, including collections of St. Brigid’s Crosses, Harvest Knots, hens nests and other containers, fishing traps, animal hobbles, and rush seating, all of which are catalogued at the conclusion of each chapter and will undoubtedly provide a valuable resource for future scholars. O’Dowd combines this archival material with careful analysis of information from the National Folklore Commission alongside a host of other cultural sources. She adds to this her own years of research into the history of the use of cultural artifacts that seemingly touch on all aspects of Irish rural life over several centuries.

Ostensibly dealing with a narrow aspect of Irish material and folkloric culture, O’Dowd’s study is ultimately huge in scope and could be cited in a wide range of Irish Studies genres. The early chapters on the brideogaí and Straw/Wren boys offer new information that could easily be picked up by historians of religion and agrarian protest. Its research into the use of straw in practices of hospitality and welcome hold possibilities for scholars of the politics of culture. Anne O’Dowd’s work also includes a remarkable variety of social and cultural information, from details on the practice of using straw as costuming, to thatching and building practices, to intricate transportation methods, to the sleeping arrangements and bedding of rural families. Many of these carefully researched practices augment literary and visual representations of Ireland over the centuries, including traveller’s narratives, historical paintings, and poetry. Finally, her work provides etymological investigation into the variety and the evolution of the naming of objects by townland and by county, coupling linguistic change with the variety of uses and associations made with objects and tools.

This beautiful book offers a significant and lasting contribution to the field of Irish Studies, and is a tour-de-force of folklore scholarship. Congratulations to Anne O’Dowd for this achievement.