Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies
Ireland is a remarkable place, at once traditional and futuristic. The varieties of national identity have always been keenly contested and still are today. In recent years many incomers from far-flung parts of the world have further enriched the debate. John Fitzgerald Kennedy once called the United States “a nation of immigrants,” but the phrase might be used today also of Ireland.
Notre Dame offers a serene space in which to study the past and present, and in which to reimagine the nation’s future. Our students come from an impressive range of backgrounds, some with formations in Irish-America and a great number informed by the pluricultural traditions of the United States. They ask unexpected, challenging questions. Many visit and study in Ireland, coming to know the country firsthand.
A further pleasure of teaching at ND is the interdisciplinary nature of Irish studies as a project. All of our scholars in the disciplines of Irish studies make valuable contributions, sharpened by comparison with life in the modern republic that is the United States. Students take courses in Irish language, history, archaeology, music, and folklore while investigating the immensely rich literary tradition in two languages. Some of the most exciting essays by students are written on the frontiers between different disciplines.
The University has in this way become the epicenter for Irish studies, not only enriching debate back on the island but also shaping the emergence of a global field and drawing numerous gifted scholars from an extensive international network to Notre Dame, as teachers or as students. It is a privilege to be part of their project.
Ireland is, in some senses, a test case for the years and decades ahead—whether in producing experimental literature, reconfiguring history, understanding the past, or shaping a peaceful planet. In coming to know this small island, all of us, faculty and students alike, can achieve new perspectives on the making of the modern world.