Student Spotlight: Ailbhe Darcy, Ph.D. 2015

Author: Mary Hendriksen


Ailbhe Darcy, who received her doctorate in English from the University of Notre Dame in May 2015 with an accompanying minor in Irish Studies, received the Graduate School’s 2015 Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Award in the Humanities at Commencement.  The Shaheen Award is the highest honor bestowed on a Notre Dame graduate student.

Throughout her time at Notre Dame, Ailbhe was associated with the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies.

The citation for her Shaheen Award honored Ailbhe for her extraordinary success both as a poet and as a literary critic.

Under the direction of Prof. Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, Ailbhe’s dissertation examines how contemporary Irish poets have responded to current pressures, including recession, emigration, and particularly the changing role of the Catholic Church.  Profs. Romana Huk and Maud Ellmann also served on her dissertation committee.

While a doctoral candidate, Ailbhe earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Notre Dame—advised in this endeavor by Prof. Joyelle McSweeney.  Ailbhe’s book of poetry, titled Imaginary Menagerie, was shortlisted for Ireland’s prestigious Strong Award, which recognizes new poets’ collections. In 2012, a poem from that collection was featured in The Guardian as the “Poem of the Week”—one week after the editors selected a poem by Shakespeare for this same honor.

Ailbhe is also an excellent and admired teacher. She twice won an Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award for her role with undergraduates, first for a course on writing and rhetoric and then for a course she designed on discovering America through Irish literature.

By virtue of her Shaheen Award, Ailbhe was the Graduate School’s 2015 nominee for the Council of Graduate School’s/Proquest Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Humanities/Fine Arts.

Currently living in Germany with her husband and young son, Ailbhe is engaged in creating new poems and other writing.

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