Villanova English Professor’s Book Honored by American Conference for Irish Studies

Mary Mullen, left, is pictured next to the cover of her new book, Novel Institutions: Anachronism, Irish Novels and Nineteenth Century Realism.

VILLANOVA, Pa. – In the study of English literature, mid-19th century Irish novels have often been overlooked, according to Mary L. Mullen, PhD, assistant professor of English at Villanova University. In Novel Institutions: Anachronism, Irish Novels and Nineteenth Century Realism (Edinburgh University Press, 2019), she shows the importance of these Irish novels to understanding British realism. The book claims that novels by Irish writers like Maria Edgeworth, William Carleton, Charles Joseph Kickham, and George Moore help us reinterpret novels by English writers like George Eliot and Charles Dickens.

In Novel Institutions, Dr. Mullen examines anachronisms in realist writing to redefine British realism and demonstrate how institutions constrain social relationships in the present—and limit our sense of political possibilities in the future.

Novel Institutions considers the ways in which institutions configure, regulate and foreclose time in that powerful 19th century form we call realism,” notes scholar Elaine Freedgood, PhD, a professor of English at New York University. “Mullen’s readings of a largely unstudied cache of Irish novels suggest that we are not obligated to inhabit the futures the dominant novel imagines for us, and that reading time out of joint can offer very realistic hope for changing the institutions that we inhabit.”

The book was recently awarded the 2019 Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature from the American Conference for Irish Studies, which called it “a fascinating study that reassesses both literary histories and current scholarship about the realist novel.”

Established in 1960, the American Conference for Irish Studies encourages research and writing in Irish studies by establishing communication among scholars in Irish history, literature, folklore, language, social studies, and fine and applied arts. 

In addition to teaching English, Dr. Mullen serves as a faculty member of Villanova University’s Center for Irish Studies in Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her research and teaching focus on the relationship between literature, history and politics with an emphasis on nineteenth-century English and Irish writing. Her articles have been published in Victorian Studies, Victorian Poetry, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, New Hibernia Review and Cultural Studies. This is her first book. Dr. Mullen holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About Villanova University’s Center for Irish Studies: The Center for Irish Studies at Villanova University has been a leader for four decades in interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship on Ireland in a global framework. The Center connects students to local community organizations while also preparing them to become citizens equipped to take on the world’s most pressing challenges. Through liberal arts-focused academics, multi-disciplinary scholarship and key partnerships, the Center provides students with research, study abroad, and employment opportunities.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenging and changing world. With more than 40 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.