Research Radar – Aileen Ruane

Aileen Ruane received her PhD in Literary Studies from Université Laval and is now a post-doctoral fellow at Concordia University working in comparative literature, theatre, and translation. She is also the current Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies. Last month, Aileen was awarded a bourse postdoctorale from the FRQSC for her project, “L’éthique féministe de la traduction : Meilleures pratiques pour élargir le canon du théâtre traduit au Québec.”

© Étienne Richard

Who is your favourite academic?

Probably too many to name! I’d have to start with Dr. Rose Bank, professor of theatre history at Kent State University. From my very first class with her, she modeled strength, intellectual rigor, and compassion. Of course, I have to mention my thesis director, Dr. Brad Kent – it’s a cliché to say but he really walks the walk. He goes out of his way to help you “professionalize” without selling your soul. Furthermore, he puts more time into providing the highest quality feedback on papers, conference talks, and chapters than anyone I’ve ever met, and it has enormously impacted my writing.

Dr. Patrick Lonergan at NUIG is another extraordinary scholar – he always makes space for ECRs and has remarkable intuition with regards to where Irish theatre is going. I think he knows everything about theatre in a global sense. I also greatly admire Dr. Zélie Asava for her depth of knowledge and generosity in sharing that knowledge. She really helped me to make some important breakthroughs in the work I want to do going forward regarding whose Irish theatre is being translated in Quebec. Finally, my postdoc supervisor, Dr. Sherry Simon, has been a huge influence from my MA through my postdoc. She’s supportive, STILL a legend in multiple fields, and someone who fights for the newbies.

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

I’ve tried to make a point of getting back into leisure reading in my post-PhD life, since that’s the reason I started down this path, a love of reading! For leisure, I’m in the middle of a bunch of books: Robert Cardinal Sarah’s La Force du silence, Larry Tremblay’s Tableau final de l’amour, Lori Saint-Martin’s Pour qui je me prends, and Sioned Davies’s new translation of The Mabinogion. For work, I’m reading Kate Briggs’ This Little Art, which chronicles her work translating Jacques Derrida’s lectures, but expands into discussions about what it means to translate, particularly as a woman, the ethics of different translation relationships, and the connection between being a reader and a writer.

What podcast do you recommend?

I highly recommend Dr. Jennifer Frey’s (University of South Carolina) “Sacred and Profane Love” podcast, which features discussions between Frey and various guests on the intersections of theology, philosophy, and literature. I also really enjoy “Plus on est de fous plus on lit”, which keeps me up to date on the Québécois perspective of literary and cultural news. For the spooky-inclined, “Honestly? Haunted” is fantastic. I met one of the hosts, Dr. Erin Grogan, at an IASIL conference in 2018, and can’t speak highly enough about her work (and there’s a bonus “favourite academic” for you).

What is your favourite archive or library? 

I’ve had a few opportunities to work in person in the Abbey Theatre archives at NUIG. While it’s great to be able to access these digitally, nothing beats wading through programmes, photos, set design mockups, and videos whilst being there on-site in the reading room. Dr. Barry Houlihan knows the Abbey’s archives inside and out (voilà, another sneaky addition to my “favourite academics” list!), which helps to narrow down the search and tend to any practical issues, such as rights and permissions, that may crop up. I also have a special place in my academic heart for UIUC’s Kolb-Proust Archive. When I was doing my MA there, we were given the opportunity to handle and translate one of Proust’s letters.

What book or movie changed your life?

There’s too many to count, but I think, in terms of what convinced me of the power of theatre, I’d have to go with Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s The Exonerated.  I attended a production of it when I was finishing undergrad, and hadn’t yet experienced anything like it. Blank and Jensen created this monologue play based on a series of interviews they conducted with inmates on death row in the USA. It questions what is meant by the term “exonerated” and the effect of this declaration on formerly incarcerated men and women, even decades after their release. The play uses the accounts of six of the men and women that Blank and Jensen interviewed who were sentenced to capital punishment for crimes they did not even commit and were eventually “exonerated”; it haunts me to this day. Being in attendance with my friends opened up so many discussions and I came away from it with a very different mindset regarding capital punishment.

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

Yes! I love music. Unfortunately, during the later stages of my PhD, I found I would get distracted by my old standbys of classic rock and punk, so I got really into doom and stoner metal instead – no lyrics, very loud, very long. My friend Max’s band The Death Wheelers is my favourite. Also, you can’t ever go wrong with Gregorian chant.

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

Everyone works on their conference papers right up till the day they present, especially on the voyage to the conference. Look at feedback on papers right away – feel the fear and do it anyway. If you are getting ready for your viva or job interviews, treat them like a marathon: don’t do anything different the night before, have your outfit planned out, and try to get a good night’s sleep three and/or two nights before the day; guaranteed that the night before, you’ll probably be too excited/nervous to sleep well. Good sleep on the lead-up to the event means you won’t be rolling in on the outskirts of pure exhaustion.

What is your favourite way to de-stress?

To de-stress, I go for very long runs, very early in the morning. The earlier, the better, so it feels like I have the city to myself and there’s room for thinking, or not thinking, or some combination of the two. As much as possible, I also try to get to mass during the week. I prefer the usus antiquior, or the Tridentine/Extraordinary form, for its reverent silence and absence of ego, but mostly because it always brings me back to the truth that my identity is not rooted in what I do for work or how productive I am.

One thought on “Research Radar – Aileen Ruane

  1. Just love this interview! One comes away feeling that you know the interviewee a little better- and the enormity of the study she has accomplished- well done!


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