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English Professor Margot Backus Named Fulbright Scholar

Dr. Backus will teach and conduct research at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland

Margot Backus

Margot Backus, professor in the Department of English, has been selected for the Fulbright – Queen’s University Belfast Award in Anglophone Irish Writing and Literature.

This U.S. Fulbright Scholar Award will allow her to teach and conduct research while in residence from January through June 2015 at the Seamus Heaney Center for Poetry within the Queen’s University Belfast School of English.

At the public research university, she will teach an undergraduate course on modern Anglophone Irish literature and a graduate seminar on twentieth-century Irish and Northern Irish scandals and scandal cultures.

“Given the time and effort that go into good teaching, particularly in an unfamiliar cultural and institutional context, I designed my teaching and research to be mutually reinforcing,” Dr. Backus said. “I will be researching and preparing specific presentations relating to my comparative work on the differing scandal cultures of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic during the semester and revising one presentation into a polished article during the summer after completing my teaching responsibilities.”

Dr. Backus’ time in the capital of Northern Ireland also will be spent researching the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal.

On July 7, 2014, Amnesty International recommended that a new United Kingdom child abuse investigation include a review of historic and new evidence about years of child rape, prostitution and sexual abuse at the Kincora group home for boys in East Belfast.

Three men on staff at the home were convicted and jailed in 1980 and 1981 for systematically abusing the boys in their care for years. However, journalists have reported that members of the UK secret service and British central government participated in or covered up the pedophilia scandal.

Dr. Backus’ areas of specialization include British and Irish modernisms and critical sexuality studies. Her book, The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order (Duke University Press, 1999), won the American Conference for Irish Studies’ prize for a first book.

Her second book, Scandal Work: James Joyce, the New Journalism, and the Home Rule Newspaper Wars (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), traces key stylistic and thematic elements of Joyce’s writing to the Home Rule debates, controversies, and scandals that rocked the Dublin of Joyce’s youth.

With distinguished Joycean scholar Joseph Valente of the University of Buffalo, Dr. Backus is co-authoring a book on twentieth-century Irish literary engagements with politically influential scandals. It will focus on literary representations of children in literature responding to politically salient scandals in Ireland over the course of the twentieth century.

Dr. Backus earned her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Texas-Austin. She has received University of Houston awards for excellence in both teaching and mentoring.