March 2017 Scholar Spotlight

Deirdre O'Boy, CUNY Lehrman

Posted by Stephanie on March 3, 2017

What is your area of research?
I work on contemporary Irish writing, particularly fiction (short stories and novels). Since the fall of the Celtic Tiger and during the slow creep back to early twentieth-century levels of material prosperity, there has been an exciting boom in new writing. Contemporary Irish writers are capitalizing on the increased fluidity of borders and identities and expanding the definition of what it means to be an exile. Ireland is no longer the third-world country that Roddy Doyle imagined in The Commitments; it is no longer a state in the shadow of an imperial power. It is a player in the global marketplace. I have been examining Irish fiction using diverse theoretical approaches, such as spatial theory, globalization theory, and feminist theory, and I have been attempting to come up with a twenty-first century way to view Irish literature, as well as Ireland more broadly.

Tell us why you decided to pursue your chosen field of study.
Going through some really old archives, I found my first paper on Irish literature: a comparison of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Borstal Boy. This eighth-grade attempt at scholarly engagement was the beginning of my love of Irish literature, and it sparked years of study (both in school and outside of it).

What have been the most rewarding experiences during your studies?
I recently went back to school, and I finished a second master’s degree in Irish and Irish-American studies through Glucksman House at New York University. Because I did not have any particular agenda for my studies, I took courses to complement my work in literature. I took history from the early modern period through the twentieth century. I revisited the Irish language. I took more courses on Irish literature. My time there tested any notions I had about fully knowing Irish studies, and I emerged with a broader view of the interconnectedness of the various academic disciplines that encompass Irish studies.

What have been the most challenging experiences during your studies?
I think that coming up with an interesting theoretical approach to call my own is what is haunting me. There are many ways to read Irish literature, but it often seems to come back to an examination of Ireland in the context of elsewhere.

What are you currently working on?
I am putting together an abstract to submit for the ACIS Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference at Georgetown next November. I’m revising a piece I wrote on Dermot Healy’s Long Time, No See, an analysis that considers the space, both literal and liminal, around Healy’s fictional Ballintra.

What are you currently (re)reading?
Works that I am teaching this semester: Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way, Mary Costello’s Academy Street, Oona Frawley’s Flight, Dermot Healy’s Long Time, No See, Claire Kilroy’s The Devil I Know, and Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart.

How do you hope your work will impact Irish studies?
I teach in the Department of English at Lehman College, a Hispanic-serving institution in the Bronx, and I love bringing Irish studies to a diverse audience. It is exciting for me because the vast majority of my students have never encountered Irish literature. They bring no preconceived notions or family history to the courses, and they have been teaching me (for years) to look at Irish studies from a global perspective.

What are your future plans?
This remains to be seen! I have to get two more sons off to college (the first is already gone). I’ll have to find something to fill in the time that will stretch before me, but I am certain it will be in Irish studies.