New Irish studies director brings experience to position

From the Villanovan:

As thousands of freshmen adjust to new schedules, new tasks and new living spaces, one newly arrived professor, Joseph Lennon, has been quietly getting into a routine of his own as he begins his first year at the University, moving into the position of director of the Irish Studies program.

Lennon, who arrives from Manhattan College in New York City where he was an associate professor of English, replaces the recently retired professor and founder of the Irish Studies program, James Murphy.

Lennon comes from a background rich in Irish culture, both professionally and personally, having been raised in Newport, R. I. by parents with ties to Irish-America.

“My family grew up in really strong Irish-American communities,” Lennon said. This cultivated in Lennon a desire to one day travel to the country where his great-grandparents lived. “I always wanted to go. It always seemed like this romantic place.”

Lennon began his education at Knox College, a small liberal arts school notable for its many prominent political commencement speakers, where he majored in English. After earning his degree, he traveled to Ireland where he lived for the next year.

“I lived in Ireland because I wanted to write, and I wanted to read,” Lennon said. During the summers between his years of post-undergraduate study, he returned to Ireland. “In the summer I would air-hitch over to Ireland, climb mountains, go to pubs and play in a band.”

Continuing his study of literature after graduating from Knox in 1990, Lennon pursued his M.A. in British Literature at Northern Illinois University, where he experienced a change of heart with regard to his studies. After finishing his degree, he went to Boston College for a second M.A. in Irish literature and history before earning his Ph. D. from the University of Connecticut in 2000.

“It dawned on me halfway through the first M.A. that I wanted to study Irish literature, not just British literature,” Lennon said, speaking on the perception that British literature is often seen as the standard in academia. He has published a book on Irish Orientalism and has a book of poetry, “Fell Hunger,” coming out from an Ireland-based publisher of poetry, Salmon Press, in the spring. He is also researching hunger strikes in late 19th and early 20th century Ireland for a second book.