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October 04, 2018 : English instructor works with admired Irish author in Dublin, Ireland

by Sarah Shy


Ohio University Lancaster English instructor Mary Danahey traveled to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland—one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in Dublin—to conduct research and to work with Irish author Deirdre Madden.


For those unfamiliar with Madden’s works, she has written over ten novels and many children’s books. Many of her works have won awards including the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Madden teaches Creative Writing at Trinity College. Her husband Harry Clifton—who is also an accomplished Irish poet—also teaches at Trinity.


It was when Danahey was in graduate school she discovered a book by Deirdre Madden while rummaging through the stacks. She has been reading her books ever since. At that time, Madden had not been as well-known, but she had been reviewed in the New York Times.


Danahey spoke with fondness of Madden and said that the author has always been very welcoming, modest, and kind. Even students looking for help have been warmly received by the author.


“Madden has always been very generous to students that wrote to her and she has helped with student papers. She is warm and very generous.” Said Danahey.  


Along with her research, Danahey interviewed Madden and for conference papers or research articles. She said not much has been published on Madden and no one has focused a dissertation on the author. Danahey plans to change that.


After Danahey graduated from Ohio State University in 1993, she won the Shaprio Grant and used it to study abroad at Trinity College Dublin. While there, she had the opportunity to work and study with multiple accomplished people. One person was a young English Literature professor by the name of Brendan Kennelly. Besides teaching, Kennelly was also a prolific poet. Danahey had the chance to “follow” him around while she was there, learning greatly from him.


Danahey will also be working with several other scholars, some of whom she studied with while attending university herself. One scholar works mostly with Irish Folklore, another is head of the Anglo-Irish Literature department at University College Dublin. One particular person that she is eager to see again is a former monk. He eventually left the order and married a lovely woman he met while in Switzerland. Danahey said he is a historian and is a beautiful calligrapher and artist.


Since Danahey started teaching in 1997, she has met many outstanding individuals that still keep in contact with her today. However, one of the highlights in her teaching career came with a small diverse group of students. At the time, she was living in Chicago and teaching at William Rainey Harper College. It was a Saturday literature class of about eight people of various backgrounds, cultures, and ages. One morning, the students all started talking and became quite engaged in their conversations. They talked for over an hour and touched on many subjects like their family, lives, and backgrounds. Many subjects brought the students to tears. Danahey said the class started to talk more openly than her typical classes. Afterward, many of the individuals remained close and kept in contact with Danahey for quite some time.


“That’s what makes teaching satisfying, those relationships and being able to do that through language and writing. And, being able to share what I love.” she said with a smile.


Danahey has been teaching since 1997 in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio. She has been a part of the English faculty at Ohio University Lancaster campus since 2013. She hopes to start a new English course concentrating on Irish Literature in the coming semesters. With this possible literature course, she hopes to spark student’s interest in learning about Ireland’s greatest novels.