Alison Garden on Colum McCann and the literature of diaspora

The last seminar speaker of this semester’s series was Alison Garden from the Literature, Languages and Cultures School at the University of Edinburgh. Alison’s paper was entitled ‘Migrating texts: Colum McCann and the literature of diaspora’ and was based on Alison’s recently handed in PhD thesis.


Alison’s paper was fascinating for many reasons. As a doctoral student whose thesis focus has just altered, I found Alison’s explanation of the changing focus of her research, from a survey of McCann’s works to a wider interaction with themes of migration and Irishness in McCann’s works (due to publications on a similar topic), useful and reassuring. The paper explored a number of themes, but the main ones were the race (or racism) and the Irish; and McCann’s use of migration and movement in his works. The ‘Green and Black’ – comparing, contrasting, and connecting tropes of Irish American and African American literature and history, which appear in both diasporic historiography and McCann’s books, were particularly interesting, and a theme that was picked up on a lot in the Q&A session.

The turnout for this seminar was particularly good, and Alison’s paper struck an excellent compromise between literature and history – appealing to the very mixed audience. This mix was reflected in the questions which ranged in subject from the Draft Riots and interracial violence, to the privilege of “migrant writers”, and short-stories as social capital.

Thank you to Alison, and all our speakers this semester – it’s been an eye-opening and fascinating series (even if I do say so myself).

We shall be reconvening in January – please keep an eye on this page for our upcoming speakers, and if you would like to speak in next semester’s series, there is still time to get in touch!


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