Gail McConnell

      Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 1073

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      Research Interests

      My research interests are in modern and contemporary British and Irish literature, particularly poetry. My monograph explores the relationship between theology and form in Northern Irish poetry, with attention to the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon. Recent research has focused on Seamus Heaney and photography, Samuel Beckett and Protestant theology, Northern Irish poetry after the peace process and contemporary British poetry. More broadly, I'm interested in the politics of aesthetic form; and in the relationship between violence, artistic practice and literary reception.

      My long poem, 'Type Face', was published in Blackbox Manifold in December 2016 and concerns my experience of reading a Historical Enquiries Team report. Shorter lyrics are published or forthcoming in PN Review, The Manchester Review, past simple and The Tangerine.

      With Co-Investigators Dr Jo Scott (University of the West of Scotland) and Dr Deborah Maxwell (University of York), I was Principal Investigator for 'Listening to Voices: Creative Disruptions with the Hearing Voices Network' funded by the AHRC under the Connected Communities Programme (March 2015 - March 2016). The project brought together voice-hearing networks, independent artists and academics to develop resources for creative listening practice, to analyse notions of ‘voice’ and to foreground what is challenging and meaningful about the collaborative process and the politics of authority in textual production.

      I am a co-editor of The Irish Review with Clare O'Halloran and Colin Graham. The journal has provided a forum for critical and creative writing since 1986. With an editorial policy that is pluralist and interdisciplinary we publish articles on the arts, society, philosophy, history, politics, the environment and science. Our aim is to serve a general rather than a specialist readership.

      Research Statement

      My monograph, Northern Irish Poetry and Theology, was published by Palgrave in 2014. The book examines how theology shapes the status and constitution of subjectivity, language, and poetic form in the work of Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon, and critiques contemporary debates about poetic negotiations with religion and politics in Ireland. It draws on early modern scholarship to theorise the relationship of literature and theology, and traces continuities and parallels between early modern religious culture and contemporary Northern Irish culture. While Northern Irish literature has traditionally been examined through a sociology of religion, this study proposes a theology of the text. 


      ‘Gail McConnell is an insightful and incisive writer. Northern Irish Poetry and Theology… is striking in its care and attention to detail. The close readings of each poet’s work are the sites of deep insights and persuasive questioning.’

      ‘McConnell sets her close readings of the poets’ works within a clear and concise context of contemporary criticism, historical analysis, and early modern religious history, drawing parallels with contemporary Northern Irish culture.’

       ‘a compelling analysis’

      Northern Irish Poetry and Theology is an important and challenging document within contemporary criticism and… clearly situates Gail McConnell as a key figure within upcoming Northern Irish criticism.’

      Literature and Theology


      ‘Gail McConnell is adept in her uses of the theology of the text.’

      ‘McConnell [stresses] critical hermeneutics… she ably characterises the differences between the three poets in question.’

      ‘an admirable analysis… rich hermeneutical drive’

      ‘the focus of Mahon through the lens of Calvinist theology enlarges our understanding’

      Irish Studies Review


      ‘A significant contribution to the field, deepening our understanding of the theological issues at stake in modern Irish and Northern Irish poetry.’

      Irish University Review



      I teach across a range of undergraduate modules. I lecture and teach at stage one on 'English in Transition', 'Sounds of the City' and 'English in Context: An Introduction to Contemporary Fiction' and, at stage two, on 'Literature and Society, 1850-1930' and 'Irish Writing'. I currently convene the third year module 'Contemporary Literature: Poetry and Precariousness in the Twenty-First Century'.

      At postgraduate level, I teach on a range of modules on the MA in Poetry: Creativity and Criticism: 'Reading and Writing Poetry', 'Structure and Serendipity', 'The Poetry Collection' and 'Irish Poetry from W.B. Yeats to the Present Day'. I also teach on the MA in Irish Studies and as part of the Irish Studies Summer School.

      Current PhD supervision

      Patrick Macfarlane, 'Labour in Modern Irish Poetry'. (With Professor Fran Brearton)

      Tara McEvoy, 'The Poetry of 1970s Northern Ireland and the Politics of Reception'. (With Professor Fran Brearton)

      Brendan McLoughlin, 'Loss and Sexuality in Contemporary Irish Literary Fiction', Critical Component of Creative Writing PhD. (With Dr Darran McCann)

      Amy Finlay, ‘Tracing Herstory: Representing Lesbians in Irish Fiction’. (With Dr Steffi Lehner and Dr Sinéad Sturgeon)

      Completed Theses

      Timothy Carson, '"Perpetual Benedictions": Wordsworth and the Bible'. (With Dr Daniel Roberts) Completed June 2017.

      Stephen Sexton, Creative thesis: If All the World and Love Were Young; Critical Thesis: “A Body That is Made into A Sign”: Elegy, Translation and Ekphrasis in Anne Carson’s Nox (With Professor Sinéad Morrissey). Completed May 2017.

      Charlene Small, 'The Father Figure in Contemporary Irish Poetry’. (With Professor Fran Brearton) Completed March 2015.

      Alice Lyons, 'The Breadbasket of Europe: new poems and moving images; Perpetual Speech: Hollis Frampton's Gloria! as Lyric Poem’. (With Professor Ciaran Carson and Dr Colin Graham) Completed May 2014.

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      ID: 2506285