Melissa Baird, Queen’s University Belfast

The Postgraduate (PhD) Travel and Research Bursary enabled me to travel to the United States for two weeks to gather sources from several different archives relating to my thesis which examines Irish-American responses to the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland from 1967-1972.

On this trip I spent the first week in Washington D.C., viewing the Ancient Order of Hibernians Collection held at the Catholic University of America, and the Department of State files on Ireland from 1963-1975, held in the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. The second week I spent in New York City, visiting the special collections held at St John’s University, New York University, and the American Irish Historical Society. At St John’s University, I reviewed the papers of Paul O’Dwyer, an Irish- American lawyer, and Hugh Carey, a congressman from New York.

In New York University, I visited the Tamiment Library to explore the Archives of Irish America, especially the papers of Judge James Comerford, who was a leading figure in New York Irish-American social circles, and oral histories interviews from Paul O’Dwyer. In the American Irish Historical Society, I reviewed their holdings of their journal The Recorder and the papers of another Irish-American organisation, The Friendly Sons of St Patrick. This bursary was an enormous help in allowing me to complete this trip and gain access to these sources. This material will massively inform my understanding and analysis of this topic, from which I will now be able to write at least two chapters of my PhD, detailing both the responses from Irish Americans at the grassroots level as well as Irish Americans involved in lobbying the United States, Irish, and British governments.


Jennifer Gouck, University College Dublin


The PCA/ACA national conference (17th-20th April, Washington Marriott Hotel) was my first experience of a large international conference, as well as my first time presenting a paper in the United States. With an attendance of around 5,000 delegates, the sheer size of this conference was the most difficult thing to wrap my head around. Indeed, its size was both its attraction and its downfall; with over 100 areas of interest, choosing which panels to attend was almost overwhelming. The stamina required for this conference, both mental and physical, was also astounding as panels ran back-to-back from 8am until around 9pm each day. This meant that I occasionally felt I was missing what looked to be a fascinating panel because although the mind was willing, the flesh was weak.

Given that my research into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in Young Adult literature, media, and culture is interdisciplinary and cross-media, I wanted to make the most of the variety of strands available to me and increase my knowledge of the fields in which I have less experience. On Wednesday 17th, I attended panels on the Netflix era of television, on YA novel adaptation, on femininity, masculinity, and empowerment in magazines and literature, and on animation and Disney (I’ll admit the last one was out of pure curiosity rather than for my academic enrichment). Thursday morning kicked off bright and early at 7am with the Graduate Student Breakfast. Although I was feeling nervous, this mixer proved to be a great opportunity to network, and I met a number of PGRs from across the United States and from across several disciplines. It was here I learned that keynote speaker, April Ryan, would be juggling several commitments that evening. As keen Americanists, readers will no doubt have noted that Thursday 18th April was the day the Mueller Report was released to the American public. Thus, though scheduled to speak at the PCA/ACA Grand Reception, Ms Ryan’s occupation as a White House correspondent meant that she would also have to participate in a segment for news channel CNN. To facilitate this, April gave her speech to the PCA/ACA delegates before dashing to the news trucks parked in the Marriott’s driveway to give her report. She then returned to the ballroom for a Q&A session. Needless to say, the delegates, the majority of which were US residents, were abuzz for most of the day. The deep anger amongst those present was palpable, and the Mueller Report dominated nearly every panel, regardless of its theme.

The following day, I presented on a panel entitled “Children’s and YA Literature and Culture IX: Changing Gender Role(model)s.” Using Franco Moretti’s argument in ‘Conjectures on World Literature’ (2000) that literature can be considered a planetary system, my paper argued that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope can be read in a similar way. I suggested that the Manic Pixie is not purely an invention of the twenty-first century but is instead a constellation of canonical literary and cinematic tropes which have evolved through patriarchal storytelling practices over thousands of years.

For me, attending and presenting at this conference was an enriching experience both academically and personally; I was able to travel to a part of the world I had never visited before, meet with upcoming scholars in the field of Children’s and YA Literature, and get a feel for scholarly developments ‘across the pond’. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the IAAS for this award. I have been involved with the Association since 2015 and their support has allowed me to take up more opportunities than I ever could have managed alone. I thank them not only for their financial support but also for the community’s genuine interest in my personal progress as well as in my research. Special thanks also go to Dr Patricia Kennon of Maynooth University who also supported me financially and gastronomically on this trip by buying me lunch on several occasions. I hope to pay this kindness forward in future.

The IAAS Postgraduate Symposium
“The Land of the (Un)Free: Interrogating Democracy in America”
University College Cork
rd  November, 2019

This year, the Irish Association for American Studies Postgraduate Symposium welcomes proposals for papers that interrogate Democracy in America – in how it is constructed, understood, and the extent to which it is successfully enacted. Inspired by current events and political trends within the United States, from the strict abortion laws imposed in Alabama in February, to the on-going humanitarian crisis at the U.S.- Mexico Border, we seek papers that engage with and respond to the paradoxical relationship between the American ideal of democracy, and the actual practice of that democracy. We invite papers that consider the gulf between democratic principles and fundamentally unconstitutional behaviours, with a particular emphasis placed upon undemocratic and authoritarian actions that have both historically shaped America and continue to resurge in the Trump era.

“The Land of the (Un)Free: Interrogating Democracy in America” is a one-day interdisciplinary symposium that seeks to provide an opportunity for Postgraduate Students and Early Career Scholars to share their ideas and contribute their individual voices to the inclusive academic community of American Studies across the island of Ireland.

We welcome proposals for fifteen-minute papers which engage with the concept of democracy within the field of American Studies, encompassing Continental American perspectives (Canada and South America) as well as those related to the United States. Proposed topics may include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Representations of American democracy, American people, and American culture in literature and film
  • Historical insights and social/political considerations regarding democracy and attacks on democracy, political polarisation and democracy
  • New perspectives on Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America 
  • The relationship between American exceptionalism and democracy
  • Philosophical conceptions of democracy and their application in the U.S. context
  • Explorations of democracy in American music, comics, popular culture
  • Issues of gender, sexuality, class & race in relation to American democracy
  • Democracy in visual culture

The deadline for submissions is Friday, 11th of October 2019. Proposals for papers should include a title, an abstract (max. 300 words), and a short biography. For more information, or to submit a proposal, please email

The deadline for bursary applications is Monday, 4th November, 2019.
There are two bursaries available for symposium presenters. Application forms and information can be found at References are *not* required for this bursary application process.