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Keynote Speakers &
Participant Bios

Midwest Regional Conference

Northern Illinois University

DeKalb, IL

Keynote Speakers 

Jill C. Bender

“The Marriage Force”:

Irish Women,

Assisted Emigration,

and the mid-nineteenth-century British Empire

David Cregan

"Transversing Identity Politics":

The Epic and the

Turn to the Subject in

Irish Theatrical Vision and Form


Jill C. Bender

Jill C. Bender is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After graduating from the College of William Mary, she received her M.A. from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and her Ph.D. from Boston College. She is the author of a number of works on Ireland, India, and the British Empire, including The 1857 Indian Uprising and the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016) and a chapter on “Ireland and Empire” in The Princeton History on Modern Ireland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016). Her research has received funding support from a number of bodies, including Fulbright New Zealand, International Security Studies at Yale University, and the National Humanities Center. Her latest book project examines state-sponsored efforts to transport Irish women across the nineteenth-century British World.

David Cregan

David Cregan is the Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Academic Advancement in the College of Professional Studies at Villanova University.  He is also an Associate Professor of Theatre at Villanova. David received his Ph.D. in Drama Studies at the Samuel Beckett School of Drama at Trinity College Dublin. Additionally, he has an M.A. in Irish Studies from the Catholic University of America, a M.Phil in Irish Theatre and Film from Trinity, and an M.Div. from the Washington Theological Union. David has published broadly in Irish theatre studies.  He has a chapter in a book on the Irish author Sebastian Barry in Out of History, on the American character in Irish drama in We Will Be Citizens, and on Pilgrimage as Performance in Crossroads: Performance Studies and Irish Culture. He has also published articles on Brian Friel and Masculinity (Peter Lang), Ireland and Memory (Syracuse), and a piece on Frank McGuinness in the the Irish University Review. He has published a monograph with Peter Lang on the plays of Frank McGuiness. David initiated the Philadelphia Theatre Research Symposium at Villanova University in 2006 in order to create an opportunity for new scholars to present and publish their work in the areas of theatre and performance.  Previous to his academic career he was a professional actor and has directed many plays while teaching at Villanova.

Participant Bios



Andrew Auge is a professor of English at Loras College. He has published on a variety of Irish cultural issues, with a specific focus on modern Irish poetry. His book, A Chastened Communion: Modern Irish Poetry and Catholicism, was published by Syracuse University Press in 2013.


Karen Babine is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and the two-time Minnesota Book Award-winning author of All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer and Water andWhat We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life. She also edits Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies and is the Midwest regional representative for ACIS.


Sylvie Mae Baldwin is an actress, musician, and third year MFA acting candidate. She has worked at South Coast Rep, Antaeus Theatre Company, Seattle Public Theater, Book It Rep, Lexington Children’s Theatre, and many others. Sylvie is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and represented by 10MGMT in Chicago.


Erin Barr is a doctoral candidate at Purdue University’s Department of History, and studies under Dr. David Atkinson. Her dissertation will focus on the political culture of Irish immigrants to the United States and their descendants, and tracks its transplantation and new growth in North America alongside its progress in Ireland.


Abigail Bernhardt is a PhD candidate at Marquette University. Her dissertation blends political and cultural history, examining the relationship between soccer, politics, and identity in post-partition Ireland.


Mathieu W. Billings is an Associate Faculty member at the University of Indianapolis. He is co-author (with Sean Farrell) of The Irish in Illinois (SIU Press, 2021). His research explores the political culture of working-class Irish emigrants and Irish Americans in the pre-Famine era. He is currently revising his dissertation, “Potent Legacies: The Transformation of Irish-American Politics, 1815-1845,” into a book.


Kurt Bullock is a professor of literature and critical theory at Grand Valley State University. Having published on such early twentieth-century Irish figures as Thomas MacDonagh, Joe Plunkett, and William Butler Yeats, Kurt’s current focus is the writings and paintings of Yeats’s younger brother, the Irish artist Jack B. Yeats.

John Burney was a professor of Modern European History as well as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Loras College, Drake University, and Doane College. He served as Chair of the Reacting To The Past Board and Consortium from 2006-16.

Alex Mackintosh Carlson received his Master’s in History at Northern Illinois University where he wrote his graduate paper on People’s Democracy and its role in the greater civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. His historical focus has been on socialist republicanism and left laborism within modern Irish history.

Stanton Davis is an Associate Professor in NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance specializing in voice and speech. He received his MFA in acting from the University of Delaware's Professional Theatre Training Program. He has worked professionally as an actor, director, voice coach, and dialect coach at theatres throughout the country. At NIU he teaches voice/speech, rhetoric, verse drama, dialects, and stage combat.


Barry Devine is an Assistant Professor of English at Heidelberg University. His research includes work on James Joyce's Ulysses manuscripts, Irish modernism, Medical Humanities, and John Quinn. He is a contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Centenary Ulysses and the U22 podcast. He is also the host of The John Quinn Lecture Series.


Sally Barr Ebest is Professor Emerita of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She co-edited two collections: with Ron Ebest, Reconciling Catholicism and Feminism? (Notre Dame, 2003); with Kathleen McInerney, Too Smart to Be Sentimental (Notre Dame, 2008).

She is the author of The Banshees (Syracuse, 2013).


Bridget English is a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, co-convenes the Irish Studies Scholarly Seminar at the Newberry Library, and is the current Literature Representative for ACIS. She holds a PhD in English from Maynooth University. Her monograph Laying Out the Bones: Death and Dying in the Modern Irish Novel was published by Syracuse U.P. in 2017. Her research interests lie in theories of the novel, Irish literature and culture, modernism, and medical humanities. She is working on a book project titled, “Self-Destructive Modernisms: Suicide, Medicine, and Failure in the Modernist Novel.”


Colleen English is a Lecturer in the English Department at Loyola University Chicago and co-convenes the Irish Studies Scholarly Seminar at the Newberry Library. She holds a Ph.D. in British and Irish Romantic literature from University College Dublin. Her current book project, “Writing the Dead: Epitaphs, Elegies, and Communities of Sentiment in Romantic Ireland” interrogates the role elegiac poetry written in Ireland in the early to mid-nineteenth century played in reconfiguring the spheres of political and aesthetic influence and fostering transnational connections.


Kevin Farrell is an Associate Professor of English at Radford University, where he teaches courses in both composition and literature. His research interests include James Joyce, modernism, postmodernism, and popular music, and his work has appeared in The James Joyce Quarterly, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and New Hibernia Review.


Sean Farrell is a Professor of History and Interim Chair of the History Department at Northern Illinois University. A past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies, he has published a wide range of articles and books on the history of nineteenth-century Ulster. His latest project is a recently completed book manuscript entitled Thomas Drew and the Making of Victorian Belfast.


Molly Ferguson is an Associate Professor of English and Affiliate Faculty in Women's and Gender Studies at Ball State University. Her research focus is in contemporary Irish literature, with a specific interest in gender, folklore, and the literature of austerity. She has published articles in journals including Women’s Studies, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, LIT, and New Hibernia Review, and is working on a book about contemporary feminist reinterpretations of Irish folklore. She is the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies representative for ACIS.


Samantha Haddad graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2019 with a degree in History and Art History and New York University in 2021 with a master’s in Irish and Irish American Studies. She hopes to continue to pursue her research interests of the intersections between Irish republicanism, gender, and sexuality through a PhD.


J. Hollis Harris is a first year Ph.D. student at Northern Illinois University specializing in the history of modern Britain, Ireland, Irish America, and the British Empire. Thus far, her research has focused on British imperialism, political violence, and militant republicanism in the Irish diaspora at the turn of the twentieth century.


Jessie Wirkus Haynes is a Ph.D. candidate and instructor at Marquette University with interests in Irish and British literature of the long 19th century and gender studies. Her dissertation considers the fluid nature of national and personal identities through an exploration

of what it meant to be an Irish author under and after British rule.


Joseph Heininger is Professor of English at Dominican University. His research interests include modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. He has published on Heaney’s Dante and Joyce’s use of advertising fictions in Ulysses, and on Micheal O’Siadhail’s Gossamer Wall. His article on Irish poets’ elegies for Seamus Heaney was published in New Hibernia Review in

2020, and he is writing a study of Seamus Heaney and Translation.


Jane Kennedy lives in St. Paul, MN. Her interest in exploring Irish famines is linked to her family’s emigration in the 1880s from County Mayo, Ireland. She has a B.A. in English and Journalism from St. Catherine University and an M.A. in Business Communications from the

University of St. Thomas.


William Kerwin is an associate professor of English at the University of Missouri. In addition to editing a book of essays on Brian Friel, he has published on the work of Peadar O’Donnell and William Trevor and presented numerous papers at meetings of ACIS. In the fall

of 2017 he hosted the Midwest ACIS meeting in Columbia, MO.


José Lanters is Emerita Professor of English and Celtic Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a former president of ACIS. Her books include The ‘Tinkers’ in Irish Literature (2008); The Theatre of Thomas Kilroy: No Absolutes (2018); and Beyond Realism: Experimental and Unconventional Irish Drama since the Revival, co-edited with Joan FitzPatrick Dean (2015). She most recently published essays on Martin McDonagh, Sean O’Casey, and Marina Carr.


Kay Martinovich is an associate professor of acting in the School of Theatre and Dance at NIU and a professional theater director based in Chicago. For Irish Repertory of Chicago, she directed the American premiere of By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr. She holds a PhD in Theatre Historiography and an MPhil in Irish Theater and Film Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. She is a proud member of SDC.


Timothy G. McMahon is an associate professor of history at Marquette University and author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (Syracuse,2008). He is a past president of the ACIS and is currently writing a book about Partition and

identities on the island of Ireland.


Christine D. Myers is an independent scholar. Her current research is about murder/crime history, which she presented about at MWACIS in 2019. Her paper for MWACIS 2021 draws on knowledge gained while teaching a course on the European Union

for several years before and after the Brexit Referendum.


Brian Ó Conchubhair is Associate Professor of Irish Language and Literature at the University of Notre Dame. His publications include Fin de Siècle na Gaeilge: Darwin, An Athbheochan agus Smaointeoireacht na hEorpa (An Clóchomhar, 2009) and numerous articles and chapters on modern Irish culture, history, and literature. Brian is a past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies.


Timothy O’Neil is a professor of History at Central Michigan University. An historian of immigration and labor, he has published widely on twentieth-century Irish and Irish-American history.


Conor O’Shea is a licensed landscape architect and Assistant Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who works on contemporary urban trends in design, including freight geography, e-commerce, and urban wildlife. He aspires to a deep understanding of place and community through repeated on-site observation, aerial photography, 3D modeling, mapping, and a close reading of local journalism.


Mary Rose O’Shea is a secondary English teacher, labor activist, and doctoral candidate in Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on critical literacy pedagogy, teacher beliefs and ideologies, and broader understandings of the term literacy.


Michael O’Shea is a PhD candidate in higher education at the University of Toronto whose research focuses on Indigenous higher education access and sovereignty along the U.S.-Canada border. Michael also lends his energy and time to a variety of social and political causes, including the New Leaders Council, a national training program for progressive leaders.


James Silas Rogers is the retired director of the Center for Irish Studies at the University of St Thomas and editor emeritus of New Hibernia Review.  His publications focus on Irish American writing, including Irish-American Autobiography (CUA Press, 2017). He is a past president of ACIS.


Kenneth L. Shonk is a Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is also the History Representative to the Executive of the American Conference for Irish Studies. His most recent publication, Ireland’s New Traditionalists—Fianna Fáil republicanism and gender, 1926-1938 is out with Cork University Press in 2021.


Eamonn Wall is Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor of Irish Studies and Professor of English at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His prose books include Writing the Irish West: Ecologies and Traditions (Notre Dame, 2011) and From the Sin-e Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish (Wisconsin, 2000), and he has published seven collections of poetry with Salmon Publishing in Ireland. He is a past-president of the American Conference for Irish Studies.


James P. Walsh is an Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Colorado Denver and co-author of Irish Denver. Walsh has been researching and writing about Leadville’s Irish community for fifteen years.


Brandon Wardell is an Associate Professor in the School of Theatre and Dance at Northern Illinois University and a freelance lighting and scenic designer in Chicago. In addition to his work at NIU, he an Ensemble Member with Adventure Stage Chicago and Backstage Theatre Company, as well as an Artistic Associate with Steep Theatre Company. Brandon earned his MFA from Northwestern University.


Rachael Yoder is a third year MFA Acting candidate at NIU. Her NIU credits include The Wolves, Girls and Dolls, and Everybody. She has also appeared in productions at Capital Repertory Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, Maine Stage Shakespeare, and Stella Adler Studio. Rachael also serves as Managing Director of The Outer Loop Theater Experience, overseeing partner projects in Tanzania. She is a proud member of AEA.

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