Faculty Fellow Amy Mulligan Wins the ACIS' Murphy “First Book” Prize for "A Landscape of Words"

Author: Mary Hendriksen


Keough-Naughton Faculty Fellow Amy Mulligan (D. Phil, University of Oxford) has won the American Conference of Irish Studies’ (ACIS) Donald Murphy Prize for a Distinguished First Book for her monograph, A Landscape of Words: Ireland, Britain and the Poetics of Space, 700–1250 (Manchester University Press, 2019).

In awarding the prize, the ACIS committee called A Landscape of Words “a fresh, thoughtful, exciting book whose concern with place, space, imagination, and belonging speaks to the interests and concerns of many scholars within and beyond medieval history.”  [See the ACIS awards page]

In recent decades, “spatiality,” or consideration of what it means to be situated in space, has become a key concept in understanding human behavior, and has resulted in a widespread “spatial turn” across the disciplines. The development of spatial practices and their theorization has been tied to major historical innovations, including exploration of the Americas, the industrial revolution, and movement of populations to urban centers, as well as to empire-building and subsequent experiences of colonialism and diaspora.

In A Landscape of Words, Professor Mulligan demonstrates that a sophisticated consideration of space, place and identity really began with medieval Irish thinkers and writers. Their ideas about place, both religious and secular, circulated throughout Europe and had a great impact from the Middle Ages onward.

“The medieval Irish theorization of place-writing, not to mention the extensive movements of Irish scholars and texts throughout Europe,” she explains, “enacted a medieval ‘spatial turn’–one that has extensive implications for both medieval literature, contemporary spatial theory, and an understanding of how we engage with worlds built out of words.”

In the book’s analysis, Professor Mulligan focuses on the theories and poetics of Irish place that were developed over six centuries (700-1250) in response to a variety of political, cultural, religious, and economic changes.These are what she calls “the greatest hits” of medieval Ireland—and include Táin Bó Cuailnge (‘Cattle-Raid of Cooley’), Togail Bruidne Da Derga (‘Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’), and Dindshenchas Érenn (‘Placelore of Ireland’)—and a look at representative examples from a range of genres to track the consistent prioritization of spatial discourses, including those that involve Britain and other North Sea neighbors.  

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Professor Mulligan won two prestigious grants to support the research and writing of A Landscape of Words. In 2015, she received a National Endowment for the Humanities award and, in 2016, a Fulbright award to spend a year in the United Kingdom, at the University of Nottingham, which houses the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age and the Institute for Name-Studies.other North Sea neighbors.  

In November 2019, the Keough-Naughton Institute hosted a festive book launch for A Landscape of Words in Professor Mulligan’s honor.

Also in 2019, Professor Mulligan edited, with Else Mundal, the volume Moving Words: Literacies, Texts and Verbal Communities of the Nordic Middle Ages (Brepols, 2019).

An additional research focus of hers is the Irish American experience in Chicago, including its roots in medieval Ireland. She is currently writing a book titled Medieval Chicago: Irishness, Whiteness, and the Allure of the Past 1871-1934.