Research Radar – Teresa Dunne

Teresa Dunne is a PhD student at NUI Galway’s Centre for Irish Studies, focusing on issues of gender, national identity, and the bilingual study of Irish literature.  The working title for her thesis is “Dead Men Talking: Masculinities and Literary Representations of Death in Post-independence Ireland” which is funded by the Irish Research Council and supervised by Prof. Louis De Paor.  Her MA dissertation, also supervised by Prof. De Paor in conjunction with Prof. Niamh Reilly, was “The Body and Soul of the Nation: National Identity in Irish Literary Representations of Crisis Pregnancy and Abortion, 1978-2018.”

Who is your favourite academic? / Who (academic or not) has shaped your critical thinking the most and why? 

Whoever I’m reading at the moment really; right now, Sarah McKibben, who looks at Irish language literature from a gendered perspective and in particular has done a lot of work on masculinities and bardic poetry.  Angela Bourke and Margaret Kelleher also come to mind; both straddle post-colonial theory and feminist theory in an Irish Studies context. I find there’s often a hesitancy on behalf of feminist thinkers in Irish Studies to engage with post-colonial readings as the field can be viewed as effectively nationalist in outlook.  They manage to combine the two areas very well, however, and are two academics I really admire and would like to emulate. Finally, in terms of who has shaped my critical thinking the most, I would honestly have to say my dad.  He’s very interested in Irish history and politics, and part of my own interest in these topics stems from him.  His current obsession is Brexit and if he finds a news article interesting, he sends it to me and later rings me to discuss it.

What are you reading for work and/or for leisure these days?

I’m just finishing Tom Garvin’s Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland 1858-1928.  That’s been great; I don’t think he set out to talk about masculinities, but incidentally ended up focusing on them.  I just started Reclaiming Gender: Transgressive Identities in Modern IrelandOne chapter in particular that struck me was “A Nation of Abortive Men: Gendered Citizenship and Early Irish Republicanism” by Nancy J. Curtin.  My primary source reading essentially serves as my reading for leisure: right now, Liam O’Flaherty’s Thy Neighbour’s Wife.  I also have a stack of books unrelated to work that I’ve been meaning to read.  I’m half-way through Just Eat It: How Intuitive Eating Can Help You Get Your Shit Together Around Food.  Emma Dabiri’s Don’t Touch my Hair has been sitting on my shelf for six months, it’s just that Liam O’Flaherty has sort of taken over…

What podcast do you recommend?

I’m in a long distance relationship, so I listen to podcasts when I drive/when I’m on the plane.  “The Irish History Podcast” by Fin Dwyer; it’s so well-researched.  Also, “Censored” by Aoife Bhreatnach.  She’s a historian who looks at books that have been censored by the Irish Censorship Board.  I would love to do an episode with her on Liam O’Flaherty.

What is your favourite archive or library? / What is your fondest research memory?

I don’t work much in archives, at least I haven’t yet.  In terms of libraries, there is a little local book swap box, “the Little Free Library,” next to the health centre back home in Mullinahone.  I’ve left books there, namely A Swift Pure CryI hope someone reads that.  And, of course, the National Library in Dublin.  The services are great, I love the little green lights and even the bathrooms.

What book or movie changed your life?

The Road to Brightcity, a translated collection of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s short stories. I had been studying English and Philosophy in NUIG when I took a course called “Negotiating Identities: Aspects of Twentieth Century Irish Writing” in the Centre for Irish Studies which examined Irish literature in English and Irish language literature in translation.  When studying Irish literature for my English modules, I felt like half the story was missing.  Then I did this course and I found Irish language writers that I absolutely adored and found a place to study both literatures in tandem and I’ve never looked back.  Máirtín O’Cadhain’s work stood out to me in particular and I still absolutely love his work.  Without that course and the availability of Eoghan Ó Tuairisc’s translation, I likely wouldn’t have been exposed to his work for quite a while.  It turned out that the course had been designed by my current supervisor Louis De Paor and I’m also lucky enough to be able to teach the course myself next semester!

Do you play music while you work?  If so, what?

I don’t, no, I would get too distracted by the lyrics.  A lot of my favourite music is rap and that is obviously heavy on the lyrics!  I don’t like the dead silence either because it is equally distracting, so I’m looking to find something in between that I could have as background noise as I enjoy the din of noise when working in a café but haven’t had the opportunity to work in cafés much lately because of the pandemic.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career/degree?

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be to your supervisor (although that is helpful).  It can be a mentor or another (possibly more senior) PhD student in your department.  When you feel imposter syndrome, you feel like you are the only person experiencing it, but that’s so not true.  PhD study is difficult, particularly remotely, so take advantage of university supports and look into availing of counselling or therapy if you’re really struggling. 

What is your favourite way to de-stress?

I love cooking and baking, especially baking.  Knitting as well.  But I love baking the most, and going along with that, I love watching “The Great British Bake-Off.”  I’m vegan, so there is also an element of experimentation when I try new baking recipes.  

Is there a research initiative that you would like to use this platform to highlight?

The Tuam Home Oral History Project.  It’s absolutely fantastic and the project is going to be nation-changing.  Also, the Grave Matters: Death Studies Discussion Group.  It’s a really interesting discussion space which was set up on Twitter and they are running their second session on the 22nd of November.

What are your essential research tools/supplies and why?

My printer.  I’m terrible at reading on my computer, I get too distracted.  Other than that, pencil and highlighter; I use the former for book readings and the latter for my printed articles.

How has the pandemic affected your research practice?

I’ve had to rely much more on online sources and had to book my library time.  I’ve gotten quite used to that, so when they opened up the library again and I could actually browse the shelves, I didn’t know what to do with myself… so much freedom!

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