Tracy McAvinue, second-year PhD candidate in the School of English, Irish and Communication, is researching the representation of “Home” by Irish women writers in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Funded by the Faculty of AHSS, Tracy attended the EFACIS PhD seminar in Irish Studies in Leuven. She writes about her experience here:
In September 2018 I attended my first international conference. This was the fifth EFACIS PhD seminar, which is held biennially in the idyllic setting of the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies (LCIS), Belgium, an interdisciplinary research centre of the Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Leuven.
The building in which the Irish College is housed has a fascinating history, the full details of which are easily accessed through the exhibition on the ground floor of the college. The Irish College was founded in 1607, as were many Irish Colleges in university towns across Europe during this period. This was due to the suppression of Catholic educational institutions in Ireland in the early 17th century during the Protestant reformation, where the founding of Trinity College in 1592 saw Catholic contemporaries flock to the continent for their educational needs. In the early 1980s the Irish Franciscans gave the Irish College in Leuven to the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe.
Each day of the conference commenced with lectures by keynote speakers, and here we were treated to presentations of some interesting current research from renowned scholars from a wide range of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. We participated in a series of workshops led by senior scholars in the field of Irish Studies that covered a range of fascinating critical theories including the Anthropocene, post-humanism, digital humanities, and trauma theory.
Central to this experience, however, were the student presentations. There were twenty-two student presentations in all, where participants were given the opportunity to present their own research for an audience of their PhD peers and senior scholars who could then give feedback or suggestions for further research. Some highlights included a comparative study of the works of Iranian playwright Naghmeh Samini and Marina Carr, a brilliant presentation on digital reception and the addition of “noise” to Irish popular music, and a study of narrative strategies in trauma theory, where SEIC’s Paula McGrath offered an insightful examination of representations of trauma in Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing.
Though it was admittedly daunting presenting my own work at such an early stage in my research, the congenial environment that this conference fostered ensured my nerves were at a minimum. The students commented on the supportive atmosphere of the conference and the constructive feedback that was delivered following each set of presentations.
This opportunity to share research-in-progress across a range of disciplines and nationalities allowed for a deepening of knowledge of the different aspects of Irish literature and culture, history and society and really demonstrated the avid interest in Irish studies on an international scale. Overall, this experience has really highlighted the value of international conferences, and I highly recommend this conference to PhD candidates at any stage in their studies.