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John J. Burns Library


Burns Visiting Scholar

Boston College's special collections and rare books, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library building, north entrance.


Since 1991, the Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program has brought to Boston College a long and distinguished series of academics, writers, artists, journalists, librarians, and notable public figures who have made significant contributions to Irish cultural and intellectual life. Burns Visiting Scholars teach courses, offer public lectures, and engage with the rich resources of the John J. Burns Library in their ongoing research, writing, and creative endeavors.

The Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program is a cooperative venture between the Boston College Center for Irish Programs and the Boston College Libraries. It was established by and receives continuing support from the family and friends of the Honorable John J. Burns (Class of 1921), who also generously contributed to the creation of the John J. Burns Library and support the growth of its extraordinary collections pertaining to Irish history, literature, music, and culture. The Burns Visiting Scholar program has also benefited from support from the Office of the Provost.

In recognition of its 25th anniversary, Boston College Communications profiled the Burns Visiting Scholar program in a November 7, 2016 article.  In October 2016, Irish America magazine also published a special supplement in celebration of this milestone. One can read a web version online, or download the supplement as a high-resolution or low-resolution PDF.

CIARAN O'NEILL - Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies, Fall 2018

Ciaran O'Neill photo

Boston College is pleased to welcome Professor Ciaran O’Neill, Ussher Lecturer in History at Trinity College Dublin, as the Fall 2018 Burns Visiting Scholar.

Prior to his appointment in 2011, Professor O’Neill was Irish Government Senior Scholar at Herford College, University of Oxford, and trained at the National University of Ireland Galway before undertaking a PhD at University of Liverpool.

O'Neill's first book, Catholics of Consequence: Transnational Education, Social Mobility and the Irish Catholic Elite, was published by Oxford University Press in 2014 and won the Donnelly Prize for the best book published in History or the Social Sciences at the American Conference for Irish Studies in 2015. In 2013 he edited Irish Elites in the Nineteenth Century for Four Courts Press. He co-edits the "Reappraisals in Irish History" series for Liverpool University Press, along with Professor Enda Delaney and Professor Maria Luddy, and has served as President for the Society for the Study of Nineteenth Century Ireland 2014-18.

Recent work appears in Eire-Ireland, Gender & History, The Public Historian, and Historical Research, as well as the Cambridge History of Ireland (2018), and the Cambridge Social History of Ireland (2017). His current work revolves around questions of public history, modern Irish and British literature, history and fiction, and the social and cultural history of Ireland, Britain and the Empire in the nineteenth century.

While at Boston College, O'Neill will be working on a book about power and teaching a course on "History and Fiction in Irish Fiction." This latter research interest will be the basis for a day-long symposium planned for early December 2018.


Fall Course:

“History and Fiction in Irish Fiction”
HIST486601 (registration closed)
Wednesdays, 3:00pm-5:25pm
Burns Library

Historical fiction by definition offers the experience of imbibing an historic place, time, beliefs, and other issues of a particular time and place. What can we learn from works of pure fiction that give insight into a particular place, time, etc.? What can we learn of empire, colonialism, nationalism, war, rebellion, women's struggles in Great Britain and Ireland? Find out as we take a look at novels, essays, poems, and other types of works in this seminar that will meet in the John J. Burns Library for rare books, special collections, and archives. We will make use of the Burns Library collections as we delve into a tumultuous period in history.


"Love, Power, and Consent in Pre-Famine Ireland: A Dublin Courtship"
Tuesday, November 6, 4:30pm-6:00pm, reception to follow; all are welcome
Burns Library, Thompson Room

What constituted consent in an 1840s relationship? What were the power dynamics in a love affair? How can historians handle intimacy and emotion in their work? This Burns Lecture will open up a conversation around love, class, courtship, and moral conduct by drawing on an unpublished diary held at Trinity College Dublin. The diary is beautifully illustrated and is unique for the double-correspondence it contains between its author, a Trinity law student named James Christopher Fitzgerald Kenney, and his love interest, Mary Louisa McMahon. The diary is at times dark, and at times light-hearted, but it is always compelling.

Click here for BC Events calendar listing. For general directions and parking information, please refer to the University's Admissions site. We recommend parking in the Commonwealth Garage or on Commonwealth Avenue if parking is not available on Linden Lane next to Burns Library.


“By Counterfeit Enhanc'd? History, Fiction, & Adaptation in Modern Irish Culture”
December 1, 9:00am-4:30pm
Connolly House
300 Hammond Street, Chestnut Hill

Speakers include: Megan Crotty (Boston College), Aeron Hunt (Boston College), Lindsay Janssen (Radboud), Maia McAleavey (Boston College), James H. Murphy (Boston College), Patrick R. O’Malley (Georgetown), Ciaran O’Neill (Trinity College, Dublin), Alicia Oh (Boston College), Paige Reynolds (College of the Holy Cross)

Keynote speaker: Emma Donoghue.
4:45pm – 6:00pm
Devlin Hall, Room 101

Sponsored by the Thomas J. Flatley Fund. This event is free and open to the public.

Click here for BC Events calendar listing. For general directions and parking information, please refer to the University's Admissions site. We recommend parking in the Commonwealth Garage.



Follow the link below to read about each of the more than thirty Burns Visiting Scholars whom we have welcomed to campus since the program began in 1991. For several of our more recent scholars, you will find links to streaming recordings of their public lectures.

Previous Burns Visiting Scholars


Patrick Lonergan NUI Galway Spring 2019
Guy Beiner Ben-Gurian University of the Negev Fall 2019, Spring 2020