Institute for the Study of Irish Culture

Affiliated Faculty

The Institute for the Study of Irish Culture (ISIC) has a number of faculty affiliates in several departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Fine Arts and the College of General Studies. ISIC is also affiliated with local centers of Irish Culture, other Irish Studies Programs in the Greater Boston area, and international organizations, including the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL). The range and diversity of disciplines found in the faculty associates is impressive. ISIC faculty associates are also top practitioners of their fields, earning numerous awards and levels of distinction as well as making major contributions inside and outside the university, nationally and internationally.

Kevin Barents is a lecturer in the CAS Writing Program at BU. For four summers, he has co-directed and taught for James Madison University’s Creative Writing Program in Ireland, which has taken students all around Ireland, including Dublin, Cork, Sligo, Dingle, and the Aran Islands, and to events such as the Centennial Bloomsday Conference. During these semesters, he arranged for students to meet with Irish writers such as Louis de Paor and Paula Meehan, and to attend readings by major poets like Paul Muldoon, Eavan Boland, and Seamus Heaney. In 2005, he presented a paper, “A Farewell to Readership: Michael Hartnett in the Face of Self-Marginalization,” as part of a panel entitled “Except in Irish: Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Irish Language” at the 20th Century Literature Conference in Louisville, KY. His poetry has appeared on Slate and AGNI online, among other places, and he recently read as part of the “Emerging Poets” series at the Blacksmith House in Cambridge, MA.

Amanda E. Daly Berman is currently a visiting lecturer in the music and dance Department at Salem State University. Her research interests include digital social capital, the Cape Breton diaspora in the greater Boston area, medical ethnomusicology, and the music-war-peace continuum.

Arianne Chernock is an associate professor of Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. Her research focuses on modern British and European history, with an emphasis on gender, culture, and politics. Her first book, Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism (Stanford University Press, 2010), called fresh attention to the forgotten but foundational contributions of men to the creation of the “rights of women” in late-eighteenth-century Britain. The book won the 2011 John Ben Snow Prize from the North American conference on British Studies. Articles based on this project have appeared in the Journal of British Studies, Enlightenment and Dissent, and the edited collection Women, Gender and Enlightenment (Palgrave, 2005). Her next book, provisionally titled The Queen and I: The Right to Reign and the Rights of Women in Victorian Britain, will be a cultural and intellectual history of British encounters with female sovereigns, both at home and abroad, over the long nineteenth century. Material from this project will be published in Victorian Studies and in the edited collection Engendering Women’s History: A Global Project (New York University Press). Chernock co-organizes the British Study Group at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. Her research has been supported by grants from the Mellon Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa, Huntington Library, the Humanities Foundation at Boston University, and the American Philosophical Society.

Christopher Coffman is a senior lecturer of humanities at Boston University College of General Studies. He holds a graduate degree in Anglo-Irish literature from Catholic University. His research on contemporary literature includes significant engagements with Irish fiction and poetry in its international contexts, with a particular focus on the works of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Paul Muldoon. He has taught several courses on twentieth-century Irish literature, and has led travel-study to the Republic and the North.

Sheila Cordner is a lecturer of humanities at Boston University College of General Studies. She grew up listening to Irish music and hearing stories about Ireland. She loves teaching Irish literature and has taught writing intensive courses on twentieth-century Irish authors and contemporary Irish writing. In her research, she focuses on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature and education in Britain and Ireland. Her recent talks include “Thomas Hardy’s Autodidacts” at the Victorian Literature and Culture Seminar, Harvard University, and Guest Speaker for the Educating Rita post-performance “Humanities Forum” at the Huntington Theatre Company. She holds degrees from Smith College, Columbia University, and Boston University.

Augusto Ferraiuolo is a visiting researcher and lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Boston University. Augusto’s work focuses on ritual and performances in a transnational and diasporic perspective. Under this general frame his research topics are diversified: from vernacular healing to religious festive practices in North America, from Southern Italian folk music and dance to traditional Irish music sessions in New England, Ireland and Italy. His initial fieldwork in Southern Italy was about hegemonic and subaltern relationships as expressed in work songs, folk tales and a peculiar form of oral stories, defined as “uncanny tales.” His work led to various ethnographic reports, such as the books La Storia, la Memoria e i Racconti (1982) and I racconti meravigliosi (1995). In his book Pro Exoneratione Sua Propria Coscientia (2000) Dr. Ferraiuolo extended his analysis to the 16th and 17th century witchcraft trials, focusing on the peculiar dialectic between the Holy Inquisition and magic, as expressed by local agents and their denunciations. For his doctoral thesis he made his fieldwork in the Italian-American neighborhood of Boston’s North End. Through the study of local ethnic borders, identity creation and negotiation he analyzes the transformation of a community seeking to safeguard its increasingly valuable, and increasingly elusive, scarce resource of ethnic identity. The results of his research are expressed in the book Religious Festive Practices in Boston’s North End: Ephemeral Identities in an Italian American Community, (2009). Meanwhile he is writing about traditional Irish music sessions, as performance of a strategic community, designated by a complex dynamics where music, gossip, chat, slang, a peculiar use of proxemics and kinestetics, and power relationships are displayed. He is a recorded musician of Southern Italian folk music. In 2010 he founded in Italy Ár Meitheal, a world fusion music band bringing all together traditional Irish, jazz and other ethnic music. This is an example from their last CD, Riverrun.

Kyna Hamill is assistant director of the Boston University College of Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum. She studied theatre history and drama at Tufts University. Her research areas include modern Irish drama and film with a focus on the idiom of violence and gesture. Recent publications examine violence as cultural branding in the works of Synge, Behan, Keane, McDonagh and McCaffrey. Kyna also researches the intersection of theatre and war and is currently researching the performance history of plays by Dave Duggan.

John Mackey is master lecturer of social sciences at Boston University College of General Studies. He earned a B.A. in history at Dickinson College, where he was awarded the Morris W. Prince History Prize, and a Ph.D. in history from Boston College. His major fields of interest include the history of modern Britain and the British Empire, modern Irish history, modern Chinese history, and nineteenth-century intellectual history. He contributed chapters on the industrial revolution, nationalism, and imperialism to The Modernization of the Western World: A Society Transformed (M.E. Sharpe, 2013). He has taught courses in history and literature at Boston College, Suffolk University, and Harvard University.

Michael Patrick MacDonald is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, All Souls: A Family Story From Southie and the acclaimed Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion. He has been awarded an American Book Award, A New England Literary Lights Award, and a fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center. MacDonald has written a number of essays and short stories, including The Resurrection of Cornelius Larkin, An Immigrant’s Tale written for the Dropkick Murphy’s theme album: “Going Out in Style.” He serves as Author-in-Residence at Northeastern University’s Honors Program, where he has developed and teaches the curricula: “Non-Fiction Writing & Social Justice Issues” and “The North of Ireland: Conflict, Reconciliation, & A Lasting Peace With Justice” every Fall. He is also Guest Lecturer at California State University, Northridge CA during the Spring, and at University of Mannheim in the Summer.

Stephanie Nelson is assistant dean at Boston University College of Arts and Sciences, director of Core Curriculum, and associate professor of classical studies. Her works include studies on Joyce’s Ulysses.

Ronan Noone grew up in Ireland and is the author of nine plays, including the Steinberg-nominated and Elliot Norton-award-winning, The Blowin of Baile Gall, and the Kennedy Center and IRNE-award-winning, The Lepers of Baile Baiste. Locally, his plays have opened at the Huntington Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival and The Culture Project in New York. His full-length plays are published by Samuel French Ltd and Dramatist’s Play Service, and his essay on theatre, “Being Afraid to Breathe,” is published by Princeton University Library Chronicle, Vol. LXVIII. He has attended the Sundance Theatre Lab, The Orchard Project, NY, New York Stage and Film, The Lark Play Development Center, and The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Manasota Key, FL. His teaching interests include contemporary American and Irish drama. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor of English at Boston University where he teaches in the MFA for Playwriting.

Joshua Pederson is associate professor of humanities at Boston University College of General Studies. He holds an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in religion and literature from Boston University. His research focuses on allusions to scripture and theology in modern literature, including the works of Samuel Beckett. His critical essays have appeared in Twentieth-Century Literature, Contemporary Literature, Religion and Literature, and Religion in the Arts. He is the author of The Forsaken Son: Child Murder and Atonement in Modern American Fiction (Northwestern University Press, 2016).

Carrie Preston is associate professor of English at Boston University College Arts and Sciences and director of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at CAS. Her publications include works on James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and William B. Yeats.

John Paul Riquelme is a professor of English at Boston University College of Arts and Sciences. His publications include works on Oscar Wilde, William B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce.

Holly Connell Schaaf is a lecturer in Boston University’s CAS Writing Program whose interests include modern Irish fiction and contemporary Irish poetry. She has written conference papers on novelists ranging from Owenson to Joyce and on poets Cannon, Yeats, and Ní Dhomhnaill. Her dissertation focuses on Irish and British fiction of the Second World War through chapters on Flann O’Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, and Samuel Beckett. She has taught writing courses with the themes Twentieth-Century Irish Rebellion and Irish Literature: Home, Exile, Art. These and other of her courses feature writers such as O’Brien, Bowen, Beckett, Yeats, Kavanagh, Mangan, Stoker, Wilde, Synge, Joyce, Heaney, Ní Chuilleanáin, Meehan, MacNeice, Ní Dhomhnaill, Cannon, Friel, O’Malley, Boland, and O’Connor.

Sally Sommers Smith is an associate professor of natural sciences and mathematics at Boston University College of General Studies. While she was trained in human anatomy and developmental cell biology, she also has a passion for traditional music as preserved and played by Irish and Scottish emigrants to North America. She studied ethnomusicology under Mícheál O Súilleabbháin at the University of Limerick and Irish fiddle under Laurel Martin, Séamus Connolly, and Kevin Burke. She has published widely on the evolution of traditional music in North America, and is finishing a book on how traditional music is learned and taught at summer camps both here and in Ireland. She performs regularly with her husband, Paul F. Wells, a noted musician and scholar of American fiddle traditions.

Kevin Stoehr is an associate professor of humanities at Boston University College of General Studies. His publications and research chiefly revolve around the intersections between philosophy and film studies and he has a special interest in the life and work of the legendary Irish-American filmmaker John Ford (born Sean Feeney). He has been an active contributor to the Maine Historical Society and to the Maine Irish Heritage Center in his (and Ford’s) hometown of Portland, Maine. Kevin has given several presentations on the ways in which Ford’s Irish roots have helped to inform many of his cinematic works (including The Informer, The Quiet Man, The Long Gray Line, and The Last Hurrah). Kevin has served as Associate Editor of the journal Film & Philosophy and has co-authored Ride, Boldly Ride: The Evolution of the American Western (University of California Press, 2012), co-edited Focus on John Ford: Essays on the Filmmaker’s Life and Work (McFarland & Co., 2008), authored the book Nihilism in Film and Television: An Overview from Citizen Kane to The Sopranos (McFarland & Co., 2006), and edited the collection Film and Knowledge: Essays on the Integration of Images and Ideas (McFarland & Co., 2002).

Megan Sullivan is an associate professor of rhetoric and associate dean of faculty research and development at Boston University College of General Studies. She has taught Irish literature, film and drama. Her publications include Women in Northern Ireland: Cultural Studies and Material Conditions. University Press of Florida: Gainesville, August 1999; Irish Women and Cinema: 1980-1990. Nova Southeastern University. Published as a Special Edition of Working Papers in Irish Studies: Fort Lauderdale, July 2001; and many articles and essays on Irish literature, theatre and film in journals such as New Hibernia Review, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, The Irish Review, Eire Ireland, Irish Literary Supplement, and others.

Meg Tyler is associate professor of humanities at Boston University College of General Studies. Director of the Poetry Reading Series, she is also the author of A Singing Contest: Conventions of Sound in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, published by Routledge in their series, Studies in Major Literary Authors. A recent chapter on Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and other writers of sonnets appeared in the Cambridge Companion to the Sonnet (Cambridge University Press, 2011). She has also contributed essays, reviews and poems to The Kenyon Review, Agni, Literary Imagination, The Irish Literary Supplement and the Harvard Review, among other publications. In 2012 she was the Fulbright Visiting Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Innsbruck.

Jeffery Vail is a master lecturer of humanities at Boston University College of General Studies. He has written widely on Romantic-era literature, especially that of Lord Byron and the Irish Romantic poet and songwriter Thomas Moore. He is the author of The Literary Relationship of Lord Byron and Thomas Moore (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001) and the editor of The Unpublished Letters of Thomas Moore (Pickering and Chatto, 2013). He has lectured on British and Irish Romanticism in the US and abroad, including Dublin, Galway, Belfast, Paris, Salzburg and the University of Nottingham, where he was Visiting Lecturer in Romantic Studies.

Paul F. Wells is director emeritus of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University. As first director of the Center, a position he held from 1985-2010, Wells guided all aspects of the Center’s development. He oversaw its growth from empty rooms and a concept into the flourishing, internationally-known and respected archive and research center that it is today. Prior to his work at MTSU Wells held positions with the John Edwards Memorial Foundation at UCLA, and with CMH Records in Los Angeles. He has published widely on a broad range of topics in American music, and has produced and annotated more than twenty LPs and CDs. Three of his productions, New England Traditional Fiddling, Johnny Gimble’s Texas Fiddle Collection and The Joe Maphis Flat-Picking Spectacular, were nominated for Grammy awards. Among other professional activities, Wells served as President of the Society for American Music from 2001-2003 and in 2012 was awarded that group’s Distinguished Service citation. In 2010 Wells and Sally K. Sommers Smith co-edited a special issue of the Journal of the Society for American Music devoted to Irish music in the United States. He was one of the Contributing Editors for the second edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music, writes regularly for The Old-Time Herald, and is completing work on a volume of fiddle tunes for the Music of the United States of America series. Other current projects include serving as music editor for a collection of tunes compiled by master Irish fiddler Seámus Connolly, and collaborating with the staff of the Portland Public Library on an exhibit of fiddling in Maine. In addition to his academic work, Wells is an accomplished musician, a published photographer, an avid bird-watcher—he’s the current President of the York County Audubon Society—and a composer of tunes that have entered Irish-American tradition. He now makes his home in West Kennebunk, Maine.

Thomas J. Whalen is an associate professor of social sciences at Boston University College of General Studies. He is the author of Kennedy versus Lodge: The 1952 Massachusetts Senate Race, Dynasty’s End: Bill Russell and the 1968-69 World Champion Boston Celtics, and When the Red Sox Ruled: Baseball’s First Dynasty, 1912-18. Whalen’s book, A Higher Purpose: Profiles in Presidential Courage, resurrects Truman and eight other American leaders and the moments that defined their political careers, using John F. Kennedy’s 1955 best-seller, Profiles in Courage, as a touchstone. His latest book, Spirit of ’67: The Cardiac Kids, El Birdos, and the World Series That Captivated America, shows how the Red Sox and Cardinals waged an epic battle for baseball supremacy that captured the imagination of weary Americans looking for escape from the urban riots, racial turmoil, and antiwar protests that were roiling 1960s society. An expert in modern American politics, American foreign policy, and the American presidency, Whalen’s expert commentary has appeared in the New York Times,, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, The Economist, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the AP. He has also appeared on several national and international broadcast outlets including CNN, NPR, BBC Radio, Swiss Radio, German Phoenix Television, Canadian Broadcasting Company and Reuters TV.