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.

By Catherine Gander

In January of this year, I was awarded some money by the Irish Association for American Studies towards my travel to Austin, Texas, to present at the annual MLA convention. Funds are extremely limited at my institution for Arts and Humanities scholars to perform research, and without this bursary, I would not have been able to make the trip. I remain extremely grateful to the IAAS for its continuing support of scholars (established, early career, and graduate), and I owe particular debts of gratitude to the committee members for their enduring professionalism, kindness, and hard work. The IAAS is an association of which I am very proud to be a member (and to serve on a sub-committee), and I would urge people who may be considering membership to sign up. You won’t regret it!

I realise this report is rather late after the event. This is due to a number of reasons – not least the fact that, together with Philip McGowan and other staff at QUB, I was co-organising the IBAAS conference in April, and then organising a double panel at the biennial conference of the EAAS in Constanta, Rumania soon afterwards.  Now, as the dust has settled from the conference trotting, the examining, the marking and board meetings, I am very happy to have some space to report not only on my experience at the MLA, but on the multiple benefits of the travel bursary.

life of poetry

My panel at the MLA was a roundtable discussion, organised and chaired by Dr Rowena Kennedy-Epstein (University of Bristol), on Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry (1949). Rukeyser’s remarkable book is difficult to describe succinctly because it refuses classification. A cross-disciplinary treatise on the importance of poetry to social and personal life (and an examination of the ongoing fear of poetry that inhibits them), it takes in and makes meet elements of philosophy, science, pragmatism, poetics, aesthetics, the arts (including music, painting, photography and theatre), politics, protest, history, and literary lineages – to name just a selection of topics that Rukeyser addresses. The panel was named ‘(Re)considering Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry’, and was selected as a ‘special panel’ under the convention’s Presidential Theme of ‘Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present and Future’. Alongside me were other eminent Rukeyser scholars: Rowena Kennedy-Epstein (Bristol) Elisabeth Däumer (Eastern Michigan), Eric Keenaghan (Albany, SUNY), Stefania Heim (Duke), Cecily Parks (Texas State), Hadji Bakara (Chicago). Among the topics discussed at the session and well into the delicious Mexican lunch that followed it (Austin is a wonderful city if you’re a foodie), were pragmatist aesthetics and word-image relations (the basis of my own paper), eco-poetics and an ethics of responsibility (subjects explored by Elisabeth Däumer and Cecily Parks), the refugee crisis and the poet as advocate for international human rights (the timeliness of which was highlighted by Hadji Bakara), feminism and form (two aspects unpicked by Rowena Kennedy-Epstein and Stefania Heim: the former in relation to a counter-canon of poetic and political ideologies related to gender; the latter from the perspective of a ‘feminine poetics of war’), and the process of composition and revision of Rukeyser’s lectures that eventually made up the Life of Poetry, in the context of a Cold War ‘power culture’ (unearthed and delineated by Eric Keenaghan). You will find more information on the panel, and on Rukeyser scholarship, here.

final coverApart from having the chance to network internationally, to disseminate my research in the US and beyond, to visit the Harry Ransom Centre after the convention to carry out some crucial research for a new project (the HRC is on campus at the University of Texas, Austin, and an invaluable resource for scholars of American literature) and to connect, and re-connect with my fellow Rukeyser scholars, I was finally able to meet Bill Rukeyser in person – Muriel’s son, who had been so kind and accommodating when I was publishing my monograph on Rukeyser. Bill and I talked animatedly and at length about his mother, our mutual friends and acquaintances (Muriel Rukeyser’s influence stretched far and wide), and about his love for Ireland. Bill was a photojournalist in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and lived in the street next to mine for a time (with Rukeyser, coincidences never cease – I didn’t subtitle my book ‘the poetics of connection’ for nothing). Some of his images can be found here.

The Rukeyser scholars make a meal of it.
The Rukeyser scholars make a meal of it.

I’m pleased to say that since the MLA session, I’ve been able to secure a special issue of the journal Textual Practice arising from the event.  The collection of essays (publication date TBC), co-edited by myself and Rowena Kennedy-Epstein, will attend to the complexities and legacies of Rukeyser’s seminal and still essential text, offering a real intervention not only in Rukeyser studies, in American Studies, and in the study of American poetry, but also in scholarship addressing the role of the public intellectual, the place of poetry in times of crisis, and the shaping of a cultural consciousness. The featured scholars will bring The Life of Poetry into the present day, emphasising its continuing importance to current literary, cultural and political debates, and situating it as the forerunner of contemporary innovations by the likes of Claudia Rankine, Susan Howe and Jen Bervin, as well as the recent and controversial text The Hatred of Poetry (2016) by Ben Lerner (which annoyingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, fails to mention Rukeyser’s book).

A huge thanks again to the IAAS for making all this possible.