The Irish Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley was launched in Fall 2016. Supported by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and in partnership with the Consulate General of Ireland to the Western United States, Irish Studies at Berkeley brings together scholars, students, and the Bay Area community around a shared interest in Ireland and Irish culture.
For more than a century, the University of California, Berkeley has been a locus for the study of Irish culture, language, and literature. In 1911, the first North American degree-granting program in Celtic Languages and Literatures was founded at Berkeley, and the Celtic Studies Program thrives today, offering the only undergraduate degree in Celtic Studies in North America. W.B. Yeats spoke at Berkeley in 1904, and since then many important figures in Irish politics and culture have visited. Seamus Heaney was a lecturer in the English department in 1970-1971, and he returned throughout his life. In 1989, Paul Muldoon was the Roberta C. Holloway Lecturer in the Practice of Poetry in the English Department, and Medbh McGuckian took up the same post several years later. In 1991, President Mary Robinson visited campus and was awarded the Berkeley Medal, the university’s highest honor. President Michael D. Higgins made a major visit in October 2015 and announced the founding of the program during his time on campus.
Situated within the Institute for European Studies, Irish Studies at Berkeley harnesses the campus’s broad strengths and draws on the wide range of expertise across the University of California system. It aims to deepen relations between U.C. Berkeley and Ireland, foster scientific cooperation with universities and research centers, and promote contacts between Berkeley researchers and Irish initiatives. We invite notable artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, scholars, and writers to campus for lectures, seminars, and performances. As we reach out to the large and active Irish-American community in the Bay Area, we mean to bring together and foster an intellectual community around shared interests in Ireland and Irish-America.
Irish Studies at Berkeley hosts high profile events as well as more intimate gatherings—readings and discussion groups, film screenings, musical sessions, and happy hours and teas. As we develop the program, we also aim to develop opportunities to fund graduate student and undergraduate research about Ireland, to bring Irish scholars and cultural figures to campus for more extended periods, to enhance the campus’s course offerings on Ireland and Irish culture, and to develop collaborative projects and exchanges between U.C. Berkeley and Irish universities.
Director, Irish Studies Program at U.C. Berkeley
Associate Professor, Department of English