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Reimagining Irish Studies for the Twenty-First Century


Edited By Eamon Maher and Eugene O'Brien

This landmark collection marks the publication of the 100th book in the Reimagining Ireland series. It attempts to provide a «forward look» (as opposed to what Frank O’Connor once referred to as the « backward look») at what Irish Studies might look like in the third millennium. With a Foreword by Declan Kiberd, it also contains essays by several other leading Irish Studies experts on (among other areas) literature and critical theory, sport, the Irish language, food and beverage studies, cinema, women’s writing, Brexit, religion, Northern Ireland, the legacy of the Great Famine, Ireland in the French imagination, archival research, musicology, and Irish Studies in North America. The book is a tribute to Irish Studies’ foundational commitment to revealing and renewing Irishness within and beyond the national space.

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8 Irish Studies in North America: Reflections



Academic Irish Studies in North America is framed inside a narrow timeline: the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) was established in 1960 and the Canadian Association for Irish Studies/L’association canadienne d’études irlandaises (CAIS/RCÉI) was founded in 1973. Both ACIS and CAIS have succeeded in attracting, developing and sustaining membership and scholarship through the past half-century. Before these organisations appeared, scholars whose work focused on Ireland and its Diaspora worked on the margins of other organisations such as the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association, organisations that aligned themselves with more traditional embraces of British and American literature, history, culture, methodologies and so on. For the purposes of this chapter, my focus will be primarily of Irish Studies in the United States. Except for joint ACIS/CAIS conferences, I have not had the opportunity to attend CAIS conferences or Irish Studies events in Canada, so my firsthand knowledge is limited.

Though they dominate the field today, ACIS and CAIS have not completely absorbed all Irish-focused scholarship: for complex reasons, Ireland’s history and literature continue to occupy space within the AHA and the MLA. What divides ACIS and CAIS from these older organisations is their wider critical lens focus, and their transgressive nature. Irish Studies is an interdisciplinary activity that allows one to cross boundaries and push down barriers. In separating itself from the MLA, while retaining a foothold there by hosting panels at annual conferences, ACIS was breaking with the older...

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