Dr Ellen McWilliams

Research interests

Ellen has research interests in twentieth-century women's writing, Irish, American, and Canadian literature, writing and diasporic identity, and transatlantic literary relations. She has also published on life writing, self-fashioning and dandyism, New York magazine culture, and James Joyce and influence. Her work has appeared in Women: A Cultural Review, Journal of Gender Studies, Irish Studies Review, The Irish Review, and Éire-Ireland.

Her first book, Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman, was published in 2009. It received the Margaret Atwood Society Award for Best Book in that year and was reviewed in The European Journal of American CultureThe Review of English StudiesThe Journal of American Studies, Contemporary Women’s WritingThe European LegacyThe Routledge Bibliography of English StudiesThe Year's Work in English StudiesZeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, and Études Anglaises.

Her second book, Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013. An early review of the book concluded: ‘McWilliams makes a major contribution to the study of contemporary Irish fiction as well as to the study of the Irish diaspora. Although this is certainly a scholarly book and McWilliams shows a broad and deep understanding of an enormous range of scholarly and theoretical texts, her writing is so direct and clear and her arguments so carefully made that this work will be of interest to and readable by many people outside of the field of literary study… In short, McWilliams gave me a new way of thinking about this fiction, which is exactly what we hope for when we begin reading a scholarly work but all too seldom find’ (Professor Maureen Reddy, Journal of Interdisciplinary Feminist Thought).

Her third monograph, Irishness in North American Women’s Writing: Transatlantic Affinities, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan. 

She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Margaret Atwood Studies and Irish Studies Review and is a reader and reviewer for Women: A Cultural Review, Contemporary Women’s Writing, Journal of Gender Studies, Irish Studies Review, The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, and Canadian Literature


Awards for Research

Fulbright Scholar Award in the Humanities; AHRC Fellowship; John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies Visiting Fellowship - Free University of Berlin; University of Notre Dame Cushwa Centre for Irish-American Studies Research Award; Fulbright Occasional Lecturer Bursary; Boston College Institute for the Liberal Arts Bursary; Institute of English Studies Visiting Fellowship, School of Advanced Studies, University of London; Clinton Institute for American Studies Visiting Fellowship, University College Dublin; Moore Institute Visiting Fellowship, NUI Galway (2012 & 2015); Margaret Atwood Society Award for Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman; British Library-Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship in North American Studies; Canadian High Commission Faculty Research Award; International Council for Canadian Studies Fellowship; Bath Spa University Research Fellowship – Promising Researcher Award. 

Recent and Forthcoming Invited Lectures 

May 2018 'Reading Contemporary Irish Women's Fiction', Kellogg College, University of Oxford. 

November 2017 'Style and Self-Invention in the Writing of Maeve Brennan', Maeve Brennan Centenary Symposium, University College Dublin. 

April 2016 'Mary McCarthy, Irish America, and the Making of an Original Vassar Girl', Department of English, Vassar College. 

March 2016 'Frank O'Connor and Alice Munro', Frank O'Connor Symposium, School of English, University College Cork. 

January 2016 'Looking for Irish America in the Writing of Mary McCarthy', School of English, Trinity College Dublin. 

November 2015 ‘Maeve Brennan and Irish Modernist Legacies’, Marginal Irish Modernisms - AHRC Network Symposium, St Mary's University, London. 

March 2015  'The Art of Fashion in the Short Fiction of Maeve Brennan', Centre for Irish Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway.

October 2014 'Transatlantic Affinities: Maeve Brennan and James Joyce', Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen.

August 2014 'Emotion in the Writing of Edna O'Brien', 'Emotional Life in Ireland', Merriman Summer School, Co. Clare. 

May 2014 'Celebrity, Harper's Bazaar, and the Writing of Maeve Brennan', 'Gender, Sexuality, and Culture: A Symposium in Honour of Professor Patricia Coughlan', University College Cork.

April 2014 ‘Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction’, Irish Literary Society, London.

April 2014 'Migrant Histories in the Contemporary Irish Novel', Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool.

March 2014 ‘James Joyce and the Lives of Edna O’Brien’, ‘Afterlives of Modernism in Irish Literature',  Boston College – Ireland. 

October 2013 Invited Panellist, Inaugural Meeting of the Fulbright Commission of Ireland Research Mentoring Network, Trinity College Dublin.

February 2013 ‘Reading the Irish Diaspora: London to New York’, ‘Cultural Intersections: Ireland/London, Writing and the Arts’, Hammersmith Irish Cultural Centre, London.  

December 2012 ‘Ideas of Exile in the Writing of Maeve Brennan’, Diaspora Research Seminar, Boston College.

December 2012 ‘Women and Migration in the Contemporary Irish Novel’, Institute of Irish Studies, Fordham University, New York.

May 2012 ‘The “Creative Migrant” in Colm Tóibín’s The South’, Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

May 2012 ‘John McGahern and Edna O’Brien’s Irish Women Migrants’, The Irish in Britain Seminar Series, Institute for the Study of European Transformations, London Metropolitan University.

March 2012 ‘Women, Exile, and Censorship in John McGahern’s The Leavetaking’, ECHO Humanities Seminar Series, Moore Institute, NUI Galway.

Research collaborations

Ellen has participated in a number of programmes funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, including the AHRC Engaging with Government Programme (Institute of Government, 2013) and the AHRC Leadership Programme (Clore Duffield Foundation, 2012). She is a member of the Fulbright Ireland Research Mentoring Network.