Michael Pierse


  • Room 01.005 - 1 University Square

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of:
- Twentieth and twenty-first century Irish writing (mainly drama and fiction)
- British and Irish working-class writing
- Community Theatre
- Diaspora and migrant writing
- Race/ethnicity in contemporary Irish theatre
I am also supervising/have supervised PhDs on other, related areas. Email m.pierse@quc.ac.uk for a chat.


Research activity per year

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Personal profile

Research Interests

My research focusses mainly on the neglected area of class in Irish Studies, particularly in terms of literature. With the support of the AHRC and other funders, this research has also moved into new multi-disciplinary themes and international contexts, including the study of festivals/marginalisation and participatory and co-produced theatre. My first monograph, Writing Ireland’s Working Class (2011), emerged from my PhD thesis at Trinity College Dublin, and focussed on the writing of working-class life in Dublin after Seán O'Casey. My edited collection, A History of Irish Working-Class Writing (2017), expanded on that research, and was named by Prof John Kerrigan in his 'Books of the Year 2017' (Times Literary Supplement). I am also co-editor, with Malik, Mahn, and Rogaly, of Creative Interruptions: Creativity and Resistance in a Hostile World (MUP, 2020), with Mac Ionnrachtaigh, of Féile Voices at 30: Memoirs of the West Belfast Community Festival (Orpen: 2018), and with Trew, of Rethinking the Irish Diaspora: After the Gathering (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). I am currently working with Iona Burnell-Reilly and Stephen Backer on a co-edited volume of autoethnographies by Irish working-class academics. These books have expanded my research, on diaspora writers, festivalisation and emancipatory practices in the arts, and class in the academy, and have been accompanied by a range of related publications in other journals and books, as well as by two exhibitions I curated, along with contribution to televised and radio documentaries. I have published articles and book chapters on class/race in recent Irish drama, and on writers such as Patrick MacGill, Seán O'Casey, Brendan Behan, Dermot Bolger, Roddy Doyle and others. I am Assistant Editor of the Journal of Class and Culture.

My research has also brought me to an interest in digital humanities methodologies, particularly where they help develop archives for working-class activists and artists: my collaboration with Prof Margaret Topping and Dr Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh on a crowd-sourced festival history project has produced a book, an exhibition and a BBC 2 documentary. I have also led the research side of a collaborative community theatre project: see my work with playwright Martin Lynch, Green Shoot Productions, Fionntán Hargey of the Markets Area Development Association, former civil rights activists and a range of LGBTQ+, women's reproductive rights, housing rights and refugee rights organisations: https://creativeinterruptions.com/portfolio_category/creative-connections-and-civil-rights/. The resultant play--a collaboration between theatre professionals and this range of activist groups--focussed on 'Civil Rights: Then and Now' and premiered at the Lyric Theatre in March 2018. The project also produced a Linen Hall Library exhibition, which moved to other libraries and featured at the British Film Institute in 2019, as well as in a range of schools/community outreach initiatives.  This project was part of the AHRC-funded Creative Interruptions initiative (http://creativeinterruptions.com/), which explores creativity in contexts of conflict and disenfranchisement in Britain, Ireland, India, Pakistan and Palestine. 

I teach on ENG1009: Writing from 21st-Century Ireland, LIB2001: Uses of the Past, ENG7163: Literary Research Methods, and convene ENG2081: Irish Literature, ENG3064: British and Irish Working-Class Writing, and ENG7037: A Space for Radical Openness? Writing the Margins in Twentieth-Century British and Ireland.

I also teach/have taught on Architecture, Liberal Arts and other English Literature modules, and currently supervise five PhD students, looking at topics ranging from gender/class in northern literature; philosophy and Flann O'Brien; working-class poetry; contemporary Irish fiction. I have examined PhDs on Irish diaspora writing; Irish working-class writing; LGBTQ writing; and a range of Irish writers, in Edinburgh, Southhampton, UCD and Liverpool. I am current external examiner to the School of English at University College Cork and former external examiner to Technological University Dublin.

Within the school of Arts, English and Languages at QUB, my administrative work includes the Lead Tutor role (overseeing all personal tutoring, facilitating peer mentoring, acting as student representative co-ordinator for the School, and engaging with various committees). I am also UCU Rep for AEL, and formerly an elected officer of the Union. I am interested in promoting Irish-language speaking on campus and have been active in the recent, successful Dearcán campaign for an Irish-language residential scheme, and am a founding member of the new (2024) minority langauges staff network, Iolra-Morra-More. I run a monthly Ciorcal Comhrá event at QUB.




As Lead Tutor to the School of Arts, English and Languages, I co-ordinate personal tutoring and peer mentoring across the School. Before joining Queen's, I taught for almost a decade in further education and adult education in Dublin, and I am a former member of the Teaching Council of Ireland and a current Fellow of the Higher Education Authority. I also formerly edited two regional newspapers in Ireland: the Cavan Echo and Monoghan Echo. See my current PhD supervisions above. Modules I teach or have taught on:

ARC3024 - History and Theory of Architecture

ENG1002 - Contemporary Fiction

ENG1009 - 21st-century Irish writing

ENG1006 - Sounds of the City: Belfast and Beyond

ENG2000 - Introduction to Critical and Cultural Theory

ENG2081 - Irish Literature

ENG3000 - Double Dissertation

ENG3064 - Representing the Working Class (convener)

ENG7163 (MA) - Literary Research Methods

ENG7370 (MA) - Writing the Margins (convener)

LIB2001 - Uses of the Past

I have also participated in teaching activities for the QUB Institute of Irish Studies Summer School.

I am External Examiner to the School of English at University College Cork.


Professional affiliations

Member of the Irish Labour History Society, the International Association for the Study of Irish Literature.

Fellow of the Higher Education Authority.

Former member of the Steering Group of the James Connolly Visitor Centre.

Awards/Reviewing/Other Activities

  • Winner, Vice Chanellor's Prize for Postdoctoral Research, 20 Nov 2015
  • Assistant Editor, Journal of Class and Culture
  • Fromer member of AHRC Peer Review College
  • Peer reviewer for a range of academic periodicals and publishers, including Irish Studies Review, Irish University Review, Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy, Irish Labour History Society, Neohelicon, Peter Lang, Postcolonial Text, Irish University Review, Cork University Press, Mosaic, AHRC, MRC/UKRI, Journal of Class and Culture, Litteraria Pragensia.
  • Invited an keynote speaker at various events locally and internationally
  • Former Northern Bridge AHRC panel reviewer
  • Former Network Member, 'Marginal Irish Modernsims'


Personal interests

I am chairperson of the Friends of St Gerard's charity for the education of children with special needs, a cause close to my heart. I am a former Committee Member and elected officer of the University College Union at Queen's and currently UCU representative for AEL. I also coach a little Gaelic football to children at Pádraig Sáirséil CLG (Sarsfield's). Before taking up my current role at Queen’s, I participated in voluntary community work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ireland, as a youth mentor with at-risk teenagers.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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