Irish writer to teach at ‘Nova spring semester

Katherine Buckley

Each year, the Irish Studies Department invites an Irish writer to teach for a semester and hold the Heimbold Professor post.

Short story writer Claire Keegan has been chosen for the post this year. She is an award-winning, published Irish author, and she will teach two English courses this spring.

“Past students have been thrilled with courses with visiting writers,” said Professor Jim Murphy, head of the Irish Studies Department who offered Keegan the post. “It’s an exciting opportunity to study with a writer so highly regarded in her field.”

“I am thrilled about my new post as Heimbold Professor at Villanova,” Keegan wrote in an e-mail to The Villanovan. “I simply can’t wait to start.”

Keegan will teach two courses titled Fiction Workshop and The Modern Irish Story.

According to Keegan’s course description, the fiction workshop is aimed at students who are interested in writing stories or a novel and will involve close readings of works by John McGahern, Flannery O’Connor, Chekov and other famous writers.

The other course will focus on the themes and style of the Irish short story and will discuss stories by James Joyce and other Irish writers.

“I hope my students will be finer readers by the end of term,” Keegan said. “Teaching and writing are both concerned with reading closely, with the close examination of text, with learning how to read. After reading literary fiction for 20 years, it’s only now I’m learning how to read properly.”

Keegan, who has published two collections of short stories to date, will bring previous teaching experience to Villanova.

While completing her Master’s degree in the teaching and practice of creative writing, she taught writing at the University of Wales, Cardiff.

She was also writer in residence at Dublin City University; at University College, Dublin; and at University College, Cork.

“Oh yeah, she’s enthusiastic,” Murphy said. “I think she’s eager to reconnect with American undergrad students and see what has changed since she went to school.”

Keegan had originally completed her undergraduate degree in the United States at Loyola College in Maryland.

“It will be really interesting to sit – or stand – at the other side of the desk,” Keegan said.

Keegan’s works have won numerous literary awards, including the William Trevor Prize, the Kilkenny Prize and the Olive Cook Award, among others.

“The Heimbold chair really attracts good writers,” Murphy said. “I think it’s because a lot of writers need to get away from home to gain perspective.”

Since publishing her debut collection “Antarctica” in 1999 and her latest collection “Walk the Blue Fields” this year, she has been traveling and working on a novella.