about us

The Contemporary Irish Literature Research Network (CIL) is a postgraduate-led research group that aims to share research and bring together academics and practitioners in order to explore contemporary Irish literature.

We mainly publish two kinds of analysis of the Irish literary ecosystem:

  • On Spit the Pips, you can find academics, early career researchers and readers reflecting critically on various aspects of contemporary Irish literature.
  • In our Editorials blog, we invite publishers, editors at literary journals, and writers to give their insight into the contemporary Irish literary landscape. We also invite readers to reflect more broadly on Irish literary and reading culture.
  • Our Resources list is a one-stop shop for recent scholarly criticism, academic journals in this field, and the publishers and literary journals circulating much of this writing.

our mission statement

Contemporary Irish literature has been met with critical accolade, gaining both national and international recognition. The Irish Times reported in 2019 that it is ‘having a moment’. In many ways, the burgeoning field speaks to the urgency of the ‘contemporary’, which, to paraphrase Eric Falci and Paige Reynolds in Irish Literature in Transition, is perpetually encountered in midstream and hinges on transition. We do not conceive of the ‘contemporary’ as a finite historical period with start and end dates, but rather as an unfolding, reactive present encompassing several generations of writers (from Edna O’Brien to Kevin Barry to Naoise Dolan), and various styles of writing.

While the focus of Ireland’s current ‘golden age’ of literature has been on fiction, Julie Bates has suggested in The New Irish Studies that ‘the most exciting new writing in Ireland is happening in the field of non-fiction’, in the new styles of ‘essaysism’ demonstrated by writers like Brian Dillon. This wave of essay writing involves, as Bates details, ‘varying degrees of political radicalism or quietism’, but what it often shares is an orientation towards the future, ‘in terms of the new forms of thought it presents’. These works underpin how the contemporary is contingently bound up with anticipated futures as well as reckonings with the past, and we are eager to track these temporal considerations along the intersecting paths of Irish fiction, non-fiction, and anything in between.

Considering the relationship between formal expression and historical silences, Emilie Pine recently remarked in The Irish University Review that ‘innovation does not happen if we create more of the same.’ Ethical questions regarding historic and current exclusion in Irish society and Irish Studies have been thrown into sharp focus and are being theorised with renewed vigour by those within the academy and without.

Rónán McDonald, writing about ‘Irish Studies and its Discontents’, has argued that preoccupations and disagreements on the ‘national question’ have ‘sucked oxygen away from vital areas and a more expansive vision of Irish Studies’. In turn, ‘issues such as poverty, sexual ethics, gender rights, migration, and rights for travellers [have] tended to be marginalised’. We will redress these imbalances by shining a light on research conducted in these areas, as well as creating a space for new writing on them.

We are keen to challenge the homogeneity and narrowness of Irish Studies. Anne Mulhall has pertinently asked, ‘Several decades after its inauguration, does Irish Studies itself now need to be decolonized?’. Yet she is not optimistic that Irish Studies can be salvaged ‘as it is currently constituted, in its whiteness, its conservatism, and its elitist and hierarchical attachments’. Mulhall concludes, ‘it is quite possible that the field of Irish Studies does not appear particularly hospitable or relevant to present and future BAME critics, thinkers, researchers, and writers, most particularly people living and working in Ireland’. As a research network, we recognise that the current environment of Irish Studies, and academia more broadly, makes it an unsustainable place for many people of colour, and we will consistently seek to actively address this.

While the focus of this research group will be on contemporary Irish literature, we take a capacious view of what ‘Irish’ can mean for many people (including diaspora writing, writing taking place on the island of Ireland), and we are interested in literature beyond the borders of nationality, geography, and single identities. Even in bringing together a group of contemporary Irish writers, we see the parameters of Irish Studies, like the contemporary, as fluid and ever-evolving. We do not wish to rigidly categorise ‘Irishness’ or to operate through a supplementary approach to an existing canon.

Instead, we wish to see principles of diversification, de-colonisation and representation at the core of an Irish Studies built on awareness and inclusion of disregarded voices across race, gender, sex, socio-economic backgrounds, access and other minority identities. Equally, we are well-aware that contemporary Irish literature does not exist within a vacuum, and we are keen to emphasise the transnational contours of its development and contexts within broader world literatures and cultures.

Our commitments include:

  • To network and share ideas, impressions and research with other researchers working on contemporary Irish literature.
  • To amplify the diverse range of exciting work being undertaken in what has been called a ‘golden age’ of contemporary Irish literature.
  • To engage with this literature across various forms and genres – from new essays and fiction, to theatre and poetry – and the ecosystem that sustains the field, through indie publishing, anthologies of new writing, literary magazines and journals.
  • To provide support and advice for other postgraduates and researchers.
  • To share resources and materials regarding research practice and pedagogy.
  • To address imbalances across academia and those particularly pertinent to Irish studies – regarding gender representation, diversity, decolonising the curriculum.
Here are some (but not all!) of the writers we are interested in:

Adrian Duncan, Alice Lyons, Anna Burns, Anne Enright, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Arnold Thomas Fanning, Audrey Molloy, Belinda McKeon, Brian Dillon, Caelainn Hogan, Caitríona Lally, Caoilinn Hughes, Cathy Sweeney, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, Christine Dwyer-Hickey, Claire Keegan, Claire-Louise Bennett, Colin Barrett, Colin Walsh, Danielle McLaughlin, Danny Denton, Darran Anderson, David Hayden, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Donal Ryan, E.R. Reapy, Edna O’Brien, Eimear McBride, Eimear Ryan, Elaine Feeney, Emilie Pine, Emily Cooper, Emma Dabiri, Emma Donoghue, Gail McConnell, Ian Maleney, Jan Carson, Jessica Traynor, John Patrick McHugh, June Caldwell, Kevin Barry, Kevin Breathnach, Lisa McInerney, Louise Kennedy, Lucy Caldwell, Lucy Sweeney Byrne, Maggie Armstrong, Mark O’Connell, Mary Costello, Megan Nolan, Melatu Uche Okorie, Mia Gallagher, Mícheál McCann, Mike McCormack, Naoise Dolan, Nathan O’Donnell, Niamh Campbell, Nicole Flattery, Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe, Oein de Bhairdúin, Oisín Fagan, Oona Frawley, Rob Doyle, Róisín O’Donnell, Rónán Hession, Rosaleen McDonagh, Ruth Gilligan, Sally Rooney, Sara Baume, Seán Hewitt, Sinéad Gleeson, Stephen Sexton, Susannah Dickey, Supriya Kaur Dhaliwal, Tim McGabhann, Wendy Erskine,