Madelyn Lugli: The interdisciplinary lens of Irish Studies

Author: Mary Hendriksen

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Madelyn Lugli graduated from Notre Dame as a History major and Irish Studies minor in 2016, winning the Donald and Marilyn Keough Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Irish Studies in the year of her graduation.

Now in her second year as a doctoral student in History at Northwestern University, her research centers on modern Britain and the intersections of empire, nationalism, and internationalism in the twentieth century. She is a member of the Institute's Ireland Advisory Council.

Madelyn offers this reflection on her experience an an undergraduate Irish Studies minor:

"As I continue with my Ph.D. studies at Northwestern University this fall, I am reminded of the many ways in which the Irish Studies minor cultivated my perspective in both academia and the broader world.

"Through my History major’s required courses, I developed an understanding of the methodologies, ideas, and questions that make up the basis of the field.  The interdisciplinary Irish Studies minor, however, injected the framework of History I had with new dimensions, formed by the questions, knowledge, and ideas of other disciplines. The introduction of new subjects into my academic thinking made my approach to History more robust and dynamic. Given that the focus of my major was specifically Irish History, I benefited from learning other disciplines’ tactics to deepening their understanding of our shared topic, Ireland. I began, almost unconsciously, to incorporate these alternative methodologies into my own work in History. For example, while writing about the historic consequences of the Great Famine, I drew upon my experience walking through Famine-era workhouses as part of an Irish Anthropology class. In addition, when analyzing the motives of women involved in the 1916 Rising, I considered not just the historical events of their lives, but how the plays and novels from my Modern Irish Literature course might have impacted the 1916 women’s consciousness.

"As I advance in my academic career, I see even more clearly that the interdisciplinary training I received in Irish Studies fostered an ability to incorporate diverse perspectives into my work, and to identify and approach History through unexpected and meaningful angles. 

"In addition to enhancing my academic point of view, the Irish Studies Minor has bettered my grasp on global trends and phenomenon. The overwhelmingly broad nature of the topics and events that dominate discourse today can make an understanding or connection to the topic at hand seem unobtainable, or worse, unnecessary. However, by viewing such matters through a well-developed and particular lens, the unwieldy becomes manageable, the incomprehensible, familiar. By providing me with a deep and multifaceted knowledge of Ireland, Irish Studies has given me such a lens. When forming opinions on expansive subjects such as emigration or de-colonization, I begin by drawing on the well-studied manifestations of these trends in Ireland, and proceed with my considerations from there. I am grateful for this global perspective as I encounter the world as a student of History and an engaged member of civil society."

A look back: "Seeing the world through Ireland" is Madelyn's tribute to her study-abroad experience in Ireland