Professor of English, University of Connecticut
Professor of English, University of Connecticut
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
AREAS OF TEACHING
Mary M. Burke, Professor of English at University of Connecticut, publishes widely on Irish and Irish-American culture, minorities, and identities. Her book, Race, Politics, and Irish America: A Gothic History https://tinyurl.com/2p9se2vp will publish with Oxford UP in early 2023, as did her cultural history of the indigenous ethnic minority Irish Travellers https://tinyurl.com/3phec2mm. Her collaboration with Tramp Press on the reissue of Traveller-Romany Juanita Casey’s The Horse of Selene, for which she wrote an Afterword, appeared in July 2022: https://tinyurl.com/unesxcdn. That month she conducted a 20-minute live interview on Casey on RTÉ (Irish national radio) https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22126992/ and her article on Casey placed with the broadcaster’s site: https://tinyurl.com/2tx5z232
Burke’s public-facing and creative work has placed with NPR, the Irish Times, Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, Tramp Press, and Faber. She is a former NEH Fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute at University of Notre Dame. A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and Queen’s University, Belfast, she is a TCD Long Room Hub Visiting Fellow in 2022. In 2019 and 2021 she served on the Fulbright National Screening Committee (Ireland study proposals), and has formerly served as MLA Irish Literature Committee chair and a President of her region’s branch of ACIS, the largest Irish Studies organization in North America.
Abstract of Race, Politics, and Irish America: A Gothic History (OUP, 2023):
Figures from the Scots-Irish Andrew Jackson to the Caribbean-Irish Rihanna, as well as literature, film, caricature, and beauty discourse, convey how the Irish racially transformed multiple times: in the slave-holding Caribbean, on America’s frontiers and antebellum plantations, and along its eastern seaboard. This cultural history of race and centuries of Irishness in the Americas examines the forcibly transported Irish, the 18th-c. Presbyterian Ulster-Scots, and post-1845 Famine immigrants. Their racial transformations are indicated by the designations they acquired in the Americas: ‘Redlegs,’ ‘Scots-Irish,’ and ‘black Irish.’ In literature by Fitzgerald, O’Neill, Mitchell, Glasgow, and Yerby (an African-American author of Scots-Irish heritage), the Irish are both colluders and victims within America’s racial structure. Depictions range from Irish encounters with Native and African Americans to competition within America’s immigrant hierarchy between ‘Saxon’ Scots-Irish and ‘Celtic’ Irish Catholic. Irish-connected presidents feature, but attention to queer and multiracial authors, public women, beauty professionals, and performers complicates the ‘Irish whitening’ narrative. Thus, ‘Irish Princess’ Grace Kelly’s globally-broadcast ascent to royalty paves the way for ‘America’s royals,’ the Kennedys. The presidencies of the Scots-Irish Jackson and Catholic-Irish Kennedy signalled their respective cohorts’ assimilation. Since Gothic literature particularly expresses the complicity that attaining power (‘whiteness’) entails, subgenres named ‘Scots-Irish Gothic’ and ‘Kennedy Gothic’ are identified: in Gothic by Brown, Poe, James, Faulkner, and Welty, the violence of the colonial Irish motherland is visited upon marginalized Americans, including, sometimes, other Irish groupings. History is Gothic in Irish-American narrative because the undead Irish past replays within America’s contexts of race.
Synopsis of Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller. Oxford UP, 2009:
Travellers are members of a historically nomadic and non-literate indigenous ethnic minority that has been documented in Ireland for centuries. Travellers have been racialized as a ‘lower caste’ sub-population as a result of their cultural difference from mainstream culture in Ireland, which has led to their romanticization and demonization in Irish cultural productions and to ‘writing back’ by contemporary Travellers, as my book explores.
PROJECTS AND EXHIBITIONS
- Race, Politics, and Irish America: A Gothic History. Oxford UP, March 2023.
- Afterword & contributing editor, Romany-Traveller Juanita Casey’s The Horse of Selene. Dublin: Tramp Press (Recovered Voices Series), July 2022.
- Commissioned forward to Jamie Johnson, Growing Up Travelling. Kehrer Verlag Art & Photography, Germany, 2020.
- Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller. Oxford UP, 2009
July 2022 live interview on Juanita Casey’s Horse of Selene reissue (with my afterword). “Arena,” RTÉ (Irish national radio), July 27, 2022. https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22126992/
Interview on Ireland’s Same-Sex Marriage Referendum on current affairs series Where We Live. With John Dankosky. WNPR (Connecticut public radio), June 11, 2015. https://www.ctpublic.org/politics/2015-06-10/exploring-european-conservatism#stream
NPR segment on Irish Traveller Women for “The Hidden World of Girls.” NPR, April 29, 2010. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/125907642
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