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Comparative Literature Program at Lehman College


Irish Studies at Queens College, CUNY

Following the focus on ethnic and area studies in the 1960s, Dr. Joseph S. Murphy, who served as President of Queens College, CUNY, in the first half of the 1970s, sought to established an Irish Studies program at Queens. [He served as Chancellor of CUNY from 1982 until 1990 establishing the CUNY Law School during his tenure in that office.] In line with President Murphy’s Irish Studies goal, Dr. Kevin Sullivan was appointed to the England Department at Queens College in the beginning of the 1970s. In 1973 until 1984, he directed the Irish Studies Program at Queens College. He also served as editor of The Recorder, the journal of the American Irish Historical Society. His colleague in the English Department, Prof. Maureen Waters was also an integral part of the Irish Studies Program there. Her recent Crossing Highbridge: A Memoir of Irish America (2001) was published just before retiring.

Prof. Catherine McKenna joined the faculty at Queens College in 1974 and served as director of the Irish Studies Program from 1984 to 1997. Having published research on Welsh poetry and prose and Irish saga and hagiography, her move to Harvard University’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures in 2005 points to the strong foundation from which Irish Studies grew at CUNY. One of the early Queens adjunct instructors for history was James McHugh whose Irish Studies library has recently been donated to the college by his family. Other adjunct instructors for history have included Kevin McKenny, Vincent Carey, and presently Patrick McGough. Several courses in Anthropology and Film Studies were taught by Thomas Wilson in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Prof. Paul Lonigan from Romance Languages also taught courses for the Irish Studies program, especially in early Irish history.

Prof. Clare Carroll, the current director of Irish Studies at Queens College continues a great tradition of such programming at CUNY. Prof. Carroll has several books and articles in publication, her most recent book being Ireland and Postcolonial Theory (2003). She has been instrumental in sharing the Irish Studies Program with all of CUNY through her role as Chair of the Institute for Irish-American Studies Faculty, establishing CUNY study abroad programs in Galway in drama, literature, and history, and in continuing a tradition of engaging events at Queens, most recently (2008) student performances of J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World with Stephen Rea as Artist in Residence.

[Written by Thomas Ihde, May 2009.]