The Summer 2018 IRISH Seminar Provides “Full Immersion” into the Ireland of 1600 to 1800

Author: Mary Hendriksen

2018 Irish Seminar

Since 1999, the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies has sponsored a summer graduate seminar that brings together Irish scholars, graduate students, and faculty in Irish Studies.  An intense intellectual exchange and experience, the seminar has been a formative experience for scores of Notre Dame graduate students and their peers from universities around the world.

For Summer 2018, the theme of the IRISH Seminar was Ireland 1600-1800:  Kingdom, Colony, Union, Empire. The Seminar director was Professor of English and Faculty Fellow Christopher Fox, who co-founded the Institute in 1992 with Seamus Deane and served as its director from 2001 through 2017.  The seminar met in Dublin first, and then at Kylemore and at other locations in the west of Ireland.

“The years between 1600 and 1800 remain a seminal and highly-contested period,” Professor Fox explains, “when Ireland moved from a kingdom to colony, to union, and empire. Our seminar explored these transitions through a combination of historical readings and exemplary texts—for example, Edmund Spenser’s A View of the State of Ireland and Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent. We interspersed our studies with poetry, musical performances, walking tours, visits to galleries and museums, and a memorable trip to the West Coast-islands of Inishark and Inishbofin—where students saw a 1652 Cromwellian fort, still largely intact—to give students the full experience of Ireland during this remarkable period.”

IrishseminarAilbhe Darcy, Christopher Fox (Seminar Director), Paul Muldoon, and Catherine Wilsdon

And the promise of a “full experience” was most certainly met.

“This summer’s IRISH Seminar in Dublin and Galway brought a wealth of approaches to bear on the topic of Ireland from 1600-1800,” says Notre Dame English Ph.D. student Julian Dean, who is also earning a graduate minor in Irish Studies. “With lectures focusing on literature, history, folklore, archeology, and philosophy, the seminar delivered full immersion into the topic. This rich experience was balanced with cultural events such as poetry readings as well as time for independent research, which many of us undertook in various archives in Dublin. Not least of all, the seminar took us to the breathtaking Kylemore Abbey—the highlight of my travels in Ireland.”

Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon gave a reading to formally open the seminar in what was the first of four Madden-Rooney lectures.  In subsequent days, Keough-Naughton Institute faculty fellows Bríona Nic Dhiarmada (Thomas J. and Kathleen M. O’Donnell Professor of Irish Studies and Concurrent Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre) and Declan Kiberd (Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies, Professor of English and Irish Language and Literature) delivered the second and third Madden-Rooney lectures. Historian Nicholas Canny, National University of Ireland, Galway, was featured in the fourth and final public Madden-Rooney lecture.

There were also two book launches: the first by Ailbhe Darcy (Ph.D. Notre Dame 2015), whose new book of poetry, Insistence, was published by Bloodaxe Books, and then From Enlightenment to Rebellion: Essays in Honor of Christopher Fox (edited by James Buickerood), a Festschrift with submissions by colleagues and former students, that was first presented to Professor Fox on March 1 of this year. Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese, who wrote the foreword to the book honoring Professor Fox, attended the launch in Dublin.

A particular highlight for students this year was the opportunity to join in to Dublin’s festive Bloomsday celebrations. On Saturday, June 16, the students traced much of Leopold Bloom’s journey through Dublin, and then enjoyed a memorable swim at Sandycove Beach.

In addition to Christopher Fox, Notre Dame faculty lecturing and giving presentations were Patrick Griffin (Madden-Hennebry Professor of History and Director of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies), Peter McQuillan, Amy Mulligan, Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, Sara Maurer, Barry McCrea (Donald R. Keough Family Professor of Irish Studies and Professor of English, Irish Language and Literature, and Romance Languages and Literatures), Rory Rapple, John Sitter, and Jim Smyth.  Notre Dame Anthropology Professor Meredith Chesson along with Ryan Lash (ND ‘10), now a doctoral student in anthropology at Northwestern University, gave participants a tour of the archeological excavations on Inishbofin and Inishark—the focus of a multifaceted and multidisciplinary research project called Hidden Histories: Cultural Landscapes of the Irish Coast (CLIC) led by Faculty Fellow Ian Kuijt.

Some of the outside scholars participating in the 2018 IRISH Seminar were Thomas Bartlett, Ciaran Brady, Michael Browne, James Buickerood, Nicholas Canny, Daniel Carey, Claire Connolly, David Dickson, Aileen Dillane, Ian McBride, and Vincent Morley.

The IRISH seminar is administered by Catherine Wilsdon, Keough-Naughton Institute programme director in Dublin, who can be contacted at for further information.

See the complete IRISH Seminar 2018 schedule

Read more about the IRISH Seminar and its history


IrishseminarstudentJulian Dean, Bloomsday

Many more photos are on the IRISH Seminar Facebook page