Lecture Series Honors Late Irish Studies Co-Founder Adele Dalsimer

A lecture series honoring the late professor Adele Dalsimer, a founder of Boston College’s Irish Studies program, will be inaugurated with a talk by professor Margaret Kelleher this Thursday. Kelleher, a professor at the University of Ulster and BC ’92, will commemorate Dalsimer’s memory with a lecture on a pivotal incident in Irish history.

The new series, titled the Adele Dalsimer Memorial Lecture, is especially significant to faculty and students on campus who specialize in Irish Studies. In 1978, Dalsimer founded the BC Irish Studies program with the help of associate professor Kevin O’Neill.

With Dalsimer at the helm of the program, Irish Studies grew and began to receive international attention.

“One of the ironies about Adele is this,” said professor Oliver Rafferty, S.J., and the director of the Irish studies department. “Despite the fact that she was the founder of Irish Studies at Boston College, she was also a New York Jew.”

Dalsimer’s interest in James Joyce may have contributed to her decision, Rafferty said.

“The main character in Ulysses is a Dublin Jew, so I think this may have been a way into Irish studies for her,” he said.

Dalsimer’s impact on Irish studies, Rafferty said, has been extensive. “She was quite well known, very much esteemed,” he said. “People still remember her and talk about her.”

Dalsimer was recognized in Ireland as a leading scholar in Irish studies. The University of Ulster and the University College Dublin each awarded her honorary doctorate degrees and award-winning Irish poets Seamus Heaney and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill wrote poems in her honor.

Everyone within the Irish studies department feels involved with the upcoming event. Mollie Kervick, BC graduate student in the Irish studies department, will read the poem that Heaney wrote in Dalsimer’s honor, titled, “A Brigid’s Girdle,” at the lecture. Kervick’s own research has centered on Irish Women’s Writers, and she credits many of the opportunities she has had at BC as a second-year master’s student to Dalsimer’s advocacy for Irish women’s studies.

“[The lecture] is an important event in Irish studies at Boston College as it marks a moment of reflection on a past leader in Irish studies, but looks forward to continuing to showcase new Irish cultural scholarship,” Kervick said.

Kelleher’s presence at the event is also meaningful to Kervick because it symbolizes a continuum of knowledge. Kelleher was a Ph.D. student of Dalsimer’s before graduating from BC with her doctorate in 1992.

“To have Margaret Kelleher, who has done so much important work in Irish women’s studies, come to lecture at BC in honor of Dr. Dalsimer, is a testament to generations of powerful women that have contributed to Boston College Irish studies,” Kervick said.

Kelleher will deliver a lecture titled, “Focla Degheanach (Dying Words): The Execution of Myles Joyce (Galway, 1882) and Its Continuing Legacy,” and will focus on the 1882 execution of an Irish-speaking man named Myles Joyce, Rafferty said.

Joyce was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a English-speaking jury, although he was never provided a translator and was represented by lawyers who did not understand his language. Kelleher is going to lecture on why Joyce’s case created a continuing legacy, Rafferty said.

“It seems an extraordinary thing that the court didn’t attempt to provide translation,” Rafferty said.

Featured Image courtesy of The Boston College Chronicle