During the course of my doctoral studies, which focused on a systematic comparison of mid-nineteenth-century American planters and Irish landlords, I became increasingly impressed by the importance of the many transnational connections between the two agrarian elites and their contexts. Perhaps the most notable of these connections were those that stemmed from mass migration from Ireland to the United States. In the half century before the American Civil War (1861-65) over two million Irish emigrants settled in the U.S. The exodus of these people had a dramatic effect on both their home and host countries. In Ireland, dislocated by the effects of economic depression and famines, emigration from rural districts helped to facilitate the widespread reorganisation of agriculture. In America, since Irish immigrants settled mostly in the urban centres of the U.S. Northeast and Midwest, their influx affected the balance of power between the ‘free  North’ and the ‘slave South,’ thereby exacerbating the antebellum sectional crisis that led to the secession crisis, the creation of the Confederacy, and the Civil War. My postdoctoral research project explores these developments in transnational perspective, thereby demonstrating historical connections between the causes of Irish emigration and the origins of the American Civil War.

In January 2018, in order to develop this project, I travelled to Washington, D.C., with the aid of an IAAS Early Career Travel, Research, and Conference Bursary. My two week trip included participation in the American Historical Association’s annual conference and subsequent research at the Library of Congress. At the AHA meeting, I delivered a paper that provided an overview of my research to date, arguing in particular that Irish immigration became increasingly worrisome to Southern planters during the course of the antebellum period, fuelling their paranoia about the long-term security of slavery within the United States and encouraging the rise of Southern nationalism. This paper was part of a panel I organised, titled “Race, Class, and Nation Building in the Euro-American World: Connections and Comparisons Between the United States, Ireland, Southern Italy and Russia, 1815-1900.” Chaired by Professor Peter Kolchin (University of Delaware), the panel also included Professor Enrico Dal Lago (NUI Galway) and Dr. Amanda Brickell Bellows (New York Historical Society), whose papers respectively explored similarities and differences between specific aspects of American, Italian, and Russian history. Professor Andrew Zimmerman (George Washington University) provided comments. As a whole, the panel demonstrated that the transnational connections that are the focus of my current research are part of a much wider constellation of parallels, contrasts, and links between nineteenth-century America and Europe, which have recently begun to be systematically explored by scholars and which should continue to provide fruitful ground for historical research for decades to come. The feedback that I received on my ideas was both constructive and stimulating. Additionally, attendance at the AHA allowed me to attend many panels on subjects related to my own and to converse with scholars working on complimentary issues or using similar methodologies and sources.

After the AHA conference concluded, I spent the remainder of my trip conducting primary research at the Library of Congress. One of my main aims was to find out more about antebellum Irish immigrants’ evolving attitudes toward the South’s ‘peculiar institution.’ To do so, I looked especially at many Irish American newspapers spanning from the early nineteenth century to the late antebellum period. These included the Shamrock, the Exile, the Irish American, and the Irish News. While the views on slavery articulated in these organs were heterogeneous, they provide clear evidence that the subject became increasingly central to not only the U.S. national conversation, but also to Irish American discourse as the antebellum period advanced. To compliment my interest in Irish American views of Southern slavery I also spent time in the Library of Congress investigating antebellum Southern slaveholders’ attitudes toward Irish immigration. As such, I examined the letters and diaries of several prominent planters, and I also read through a selection of Southern newspapers. While more research on this subject is necessary, it was apparent from the sources I consulted that the fact the free states were attracting more immigrants than the South was a serious concern to many planters in the decades before the Civil War.

Together, attendance at the AHA conference and research at the Library of Congress have provided me with new ideas, contacts, and sources, while also stimulating my desire to pursue promising new avenues of research. Ultimately, I hope that this project will lead to articles in suitable peer-reviewed scholarly journals on Irish immigrants’ relationship with Southern slavery and transnational connections between developments in Ireland and the antebellum U.S. sectional crisis. In turn, these articles will contribute to a monograph that will examine similarities, differences, and connections between American slavery and Irish landlordism. By helping to facilitate my recent trip to Washington, D.C., the IAAS Early Career Travel, Research, and Conference Bursary has aided with a step toward these goals.


Dr Cathal Smith is based in the History Department at NUI Galway

Several positions will be up for election at the Annual General Meeting of the IAAS which will take place on April 28th during the annual conference at UCD. Below is a brief description of the various roles to give you some idea of what each involves. If you are interested in standing for any of these positions, please contact the association’s Secretary (dalyj5@tcd.ie) by April 26th.


The main work of the Vice-Chair is the efficient running of the Prizes Sub-Committee. This involves advertising IAAS prizes and bursaries, identifying external reviewers, managing applications from IAAS members, and ensuring that the awards process is impartial and fair. They also work closely with the Chair and the rest of the Executive Committee to develop new initiatives to benefit IAAS members.


The Secretary maintains up-to-date membership lists and is the main point of contact for the IAAS, managing communications through regular mailings and the association’s social media channels. They are also responsible for taking minutes at committee meetings, and run the elections at the Annual General Meeting.


The Treasurer is responsible for the association’s finances and manages all of the association’s accounts. They prepare budgets and accounts, and report to the committee throughout the year, process payments and invoices, and monitor the association’s financial position to ensure that all commitments can be met.

EAAS Representative

The EAAS representative is the association’s representative on the board of the European Association for American Studies.

Ordinary Committee Members

Ordinary Committee Members have no fixed responsibilities on the Executive Committee but can bring any issues or ideas to the committee that they feel might have a positive impact on the association.


*** All of these positions are two-year terms, apart from the EAAS representative who is elected to a four-year term ***

The Annual General Meeting of the IAAS will take place at 4.30pm at University College Dublin on April 28th. All members are encouraged to attend if possible as your input helps to shape the future direction of the Association. A number of positions on the Executive Committee will be open for election at this year’s AGM.

We are particularly keen to encourage nominations from members who have not yet had an opportunity to serve on the committee. The IAAS is run entirely on a volunteer basis, and it can only continue through the involvement of its members. We would also encourage members from disciplines that are currently under-represented on the committee (History, Politics, Film, Social Studies, Art etc) to consider putting themselves forward. The Association has seen remarkable growth in recent years. New voices and points of view need to be heard on the committee so that the Association can continue to be relevant for its members. If you are interested in standing for one of the vacant positions, please feel free to contact any members of the current committee for more information.

Positions open for election at this year’s AGM are as follows:

  • Vice Chair
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary
  • EAAS Representative
  • Ordinary Committee Member (2 positions)
Other positions may become vacant as a result of these elections. If you are interested in serving on the Committee you must be a fully paid-up member of the Association before submitting your nomination. If you would like to nominate another member of the Association for any of these positions, you must have their written permission to do so.

Nominations should be emailed to the Secretary (dalyj5@tcd.ie) by April 27th.

Should more than one nomination be received for any position, an election will be held during the AGM. Only members present at the AGM will be able to vote.

The minutes from last year’s AGM are posted on the IAAS website here.


The IAAS Prizes Sub-Committee are extending the deadline for this year’s IAAS annual conference bursary.
There are two awards of €100 each: one for postgraduate applicants, and one for Early-Career applicants. Applicants must be presenting a paper at the IAAS’s annual conference at University College Dublin, 27-28 April 2018.
Applications must be received by Tuesday 3rd April, and should be emailed to Vice-Chair Dara Downey (dara.p.downey@gmail.com).
Further details and regulations regarding bursaries, along with an application form, can be found here: https://iaas.ie/funding-opportunities/. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that references have been sent to the above email address before the deadline.

The IAAS Prizes Sub-Committee are delighted to announce the winner of the Early-Career Travel, Research, and Conference Bursary. The prize has been awarded to  Dr Cathal Smith, who is based in the History Department in NUI Galway. The bursary supports his attendance at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2018, where he presented a paper entitled “Irish Immigrants and American Slavery in the Late Antebellum Era: Irish Landlordism, the Great Potato Famine, and the Roots of the American Civil War.” The IAAS Committee would like to extend their warmest congratulations to Dr Smith.

Annette Skade was the recipient of one our IAAS bursaries to assist with attendance at the postgraduate symposium.


As a researcher into allusion in the poetry of Anne Carson, the scope of my PhD naturally extends beyond the boundaries of the School of English, flowing into all areas of the Humanities, and so the IAAS Postgraduate Conference was of particular interest to me.  The IAAS Call for Papers for the Postgraduate Symposium “A More Perfect Union” had also grabbed my attention by posing the question “What is the state of this “more perfect Union” today? This was a Call For Papers very much for our times and called to mind Carson’s poem “Clive’s Song” which had appeared in The New Yorker early in 2017. I wrote the paper as a response to the call and the wide brief and time constraints allowed me to do one of the things I enjoy most: a close reading of a piece of poetry.

It was also a chance for me to read a paper before my post-graduate peers which was invaluable to me at this early stage of my PhD. I had given a paper in the DCU School of Humanities seminar series in September, and was due to give another at a The Politics of Space and the Humanities Conference  in Greece in December. The opportunity to speak at the IAAS symposium between these two events was a great help to me- a lesson in controlling my nerves and honing my skills in a more familiar environment before my first full Conference.

The day started with Sarah McCreedy’s thought-provoking paper on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and continued to fascinate, giving me insights into American History, Literature, Film and Politics. Some papers, such as Shane Morrisy’s which responded  to “the Visual rhetoric of the WPA Posters” were of interest because they tied in with aspects of my own research,  others revealed  the political chicanery underlying American Politics in the twentieth century and at the present time. William O’Neill’s paper “Backyard Alliances: An examination of the US foreign policy relationship with El Salvador during the civil war 1977-1992, and the impact of migration to the US”  was a particularly pertinent examination of that period and context, while bringing us right up to date by showing the same rhetoric at play in the Trump era. Many of the concerns of this paper were also touched on in Anne Carson’s poem, which was the subject of my paper. Just one example of how academic boundaries are blurred at Symposiums such as this.

Of course, the conversations between papers as well as those at the Symposium dinner were an important part of the day and added greatly to my enjoyment of it. I was pleased to meet other postgraduates and academics working in the field of American Studies throughout Ireland.

I would like to thank the organisers of the conference, James Hussey and Sarah Cullen, for doing such a great job, Ciaran O’Rourke, who chaired my panel so well, and  the IAAS Committee for awarding me a bursary to attend. I look forward to the IAAS conference in April.

Annette Skade



As a blossoming researcher occupying the void between MA graduation and the beginnings of a PhD, I was particularly grateful to be the recipient of this year’s IAAS Conference Bursary, which allowed me to present my research at the 2017 IAAS Postgraduate Symposium, held in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute on 25th November. I would like to extend my thanks to the Prizes Sub-Committee for awarding me this bursary of €50 towards my travel costs.

Bright and early on the cold morning of Saturday 25th November, choice of caffeine in hand, the Early Career Researchers and Postgraduates attending this year’s Symposium, “A More Perfect Union?” convened. After some opening remarks from the organising committee, the first panel, “The Public Life of Post-Truth” got underway with an opening paper from Sarah McCreedy (UCC) discussing naturalistic false consciousness in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. With The Road bringing back fond memories of my undergraduate degree at QUB, I was fascinated to hear Sarah’s new, exciting take on what is arguably McCarthy’s most recognisable – if not quotable – novel. Okay? Okay.

The morning’s second panel, chaired by Jennifer Daly, examined the state of health in the union, with Matthew O’Brien (UCD) and James Doran (UCD Clinton Institute) both forwarding new frameworks within which to understand the muddied waters of healthcare in the USA, the former examining the Chicago Black Panther Party and Health Care and the latter exploring presidents, their rhetoric, and health care policy. Particularly interesting was Matthew’s claim that the mistreatment of poor, black patients indicated that medical attention was for “wealth not health”– a mantra which sounds frustratingly familiar in Trump’s America.

Rounding off the morning’s panels was “Imperfect Union in Postmodern Society,” with Rebecca Murray (UCC), Anne Mahler (UCC), and Eva Burke (TCD) all presenting papers. A personal highlight of this panel was Anne’s paper, which focused on the Columbine Perpetrators and literary constructions of the hypermasculine school shooter. Taking Todd Strasser’s Young Adult novel Give a Boy a Gun (2002) as a starting point, Anne read this epistolary tale through the lens of R.W. Connell’s theories on hegemonic masculinity to put forward the idea that, in the high school setting, the masculinity celebrated is that of physical dominance. She also noted the fusion of hypermasculine entities through co-operative nature of the planned Columbine shooting – a fragile union. With my primary research interests lying in contemporary American YA fiction, as well as the representation of gender, masculinity, and femininity in those texts, Anne’s paper sparked new ways of thinking about my own work – thank you!

After a leisurely lunch, kindly provided by the committee, came my own panel, “Trauma on Screen,” chaired by Dara Downey. Here I presented alongside two UCC scholars: Sean Travers and Caroline Schroeter. Sean, whose work I always look forward to hearing, gave a paper entitled “’You’re not alone’: Trauma, Communal Healing and America in Contemporary Science Fiction,” focusing on the notions of metanarrative and the ‘flashes between’ two narratives in Netflix series Sense8. Caroline’s interesting paper on representing African Americans in cinematic slave narratives gave particular precedence to the ways in which trauma often confounds these kinds of narratives.

Finally, as the nerves almost became too much, it was time for my own paper. Entitled “’Welcome to your tape’: Union and Disunion in Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why,” this paper used the work of scholars such as Jason Mittell and Roberta Seelinger Trites to explore the various strands of union and disunion woven throughout Thirteen Reasons Why, both in its literary and televisual forms. In particular, I addressed the united front formed by the other recipients of Hannah Baker’s tapes. All the while, protagonist Clay actively resists this union, instead forming a complex, problematic one with Hannah. My paper examined the ways in which these unions highlight and intersect with issues of power, and also considered the role that the blurring of temporality and perspective plays. Finally, I asked how we can situate Thirteen Reasons culturally, particularly in the wake of its mixed critical and online receptions. The Q&A session after the panel was particularly helpful, allowing me to draw interesting parallels between the other two panellist’s work and my own, particularly in regard to the notion of duality upon which all three papers seemed to draw.

The last panel of the day, “Man on Stage: Masculinity and Performance,” was also of great interest (and help!) to my own research. Ciaran Leinster (University of Seville), Natalia Kovalyova (UCD Clinton Institute), and Catherine Casey (UCD) all provided interesting means of reading and understanding (hyper)masculinity in America, with Catherine’s paper offering readings of Trump through traditional theories of (American) masculinity, from the ‘self-made man’, to the ‘man’s man’, and beyond.

And with that, equally excited, inspired, and depressed, the symposium came to a close. We then retired to the upper level of the Long Room Hub for the presentation of the WTM Riches Essay Prize, some conference bursaries, and some well-earned drinks and nibbles.

I would once again like to extend my thanks to the IAAS for awarding me this bursary, as well as to Sarah Cullen and James Hussey for organising such a wonderfully successful symposium.

The IAAS is delighted to announce that Professor Tom Moylan will deliver this year’s W.A. Emmerson Lecture.

You can listen to a recording of Prof. Moylan’s lecture here.

Prof. Moylan is the Glucksman Professor Emeritus at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Limerick. In 2016, Prof. Moylan was the recipient of the Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in Science Fiction research.

His lecture, ‘“A life worthy of human beings in the darkness”: Reflections on Radical Nonviolence and Utopian Agency,’ will take place at 4.30pm on Friday, March 23rd at the University of Limerick. Further details will be announced in due course.

The W.A. Emmerson Lecture is named in honour of one of the IAAS’s founding members and is a highlight of the association’s events. Information on previous lectures can be found here. The lecture is free and all are welcome to attend.

To facilitate attendance at the EBAAS conference in King’s College London (4-7 April 2018), the IAAS Prizes Subcommittee are pleased to announce that we are offering 4 bursaries of €100 each, for postgraduate and early-career IAAS members who are presenting at the conference.

EBAAS is a joint event, combining the annual British Association for American Studies conference with the biennial conference held by the European Association for American Studies. The event brings together scholars from Britain, Ireland, and across Europe, and the IAAS is therefore delighted to be able to support scholars from Ireland whose papers have been accepted by the conference organisers. Please note that we will not be offering separate BAAS conference bursaries this year, as EBAAS comprises both events.

To be eligible for these bursaries, applicants must:

  • complete and submit the application form by January 15th, 2018
  • be current members of the IAAS
  • have been accepted to present a paper at EBAAS 2018

Applications and supporting references should be emailed to Dara Downey at dara.p.downey@gmail. com by January 15th.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.