Reflection: Susan Cannon Harris

Seamus Deane was one of a kind. There was never anyone like him and there never will be. His loss is incalculable. We can only be grateful for the rich legacy he has left us, and the chance to continue it through our work here.

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Seamus Deane’s impact on my generation of Irish Studies scholars cannot be overestimated. Reading his Field Day pamphlet Civilians and Barbarians was a watershed moment for me in graduate school. His scholarship introduced me to concepts and methods that became part of the foundation of my own work. His uncompromising analysis of the exercise of state power during the Troubles continues to shape my understanding of power and its effects. All of Seamus’s academic writing had a lapidary precision that sharpened the brilliance of his insights. As a scholar and critic, Seamus taught me that you never have to sacrifice clarity for complexity.

During my early years at Notre Dame, Seamus was the life of the program. His leadership brought out the best in us and helped sustain us as we established the Irish Studies program. He was unfailingly kind to me, and generous in his efforts to help me establish my own career. His sharp sense of humor and his gift for storytelling brightened those days for all of us. I always counted myself very lucky to have him as a colleague; and I will always be grateful for the chance to know him.

Susan Cannon Harris is Professor of English and a Faculty Fellow of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies. Her most recent book is Irish Drama and the Other Revolutions: Playwrights, Sexual Politics, and the International Left, 1892-1964 (Edinburgh University Press, 2017).