The teaching of Irish Studies at the Institute of English and American Studies at the University of Debrecen was launched officially in September 1990 with the appointment of Associate Professor Csilla Bertha to establish a program of Irish Studies. She joined Fulbright and Soros Professor Donald E. Morse who had taught seminars in James Joyce and in 1993 they were joined by Assistant Professor Marianna Gula. Other faculty contributing regularly include István D. Rácz and Tamás Bényei. Several visiting professors and lecturers contributed to the programme with courses in Irish history, literature, mythology, and the Irish language.
International Conferences and Publications
In 1989 Debrecen University hosted the prestigious international conference of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures organized by the late Professor István Pálffy, Associate Professor Péter Szaffkó, Morse, and Bertha. This venture led in turn to two major university publications: A Small Nation’s Contribution to the World (ed. Morse, Bertha, and Pálffy) the first publication of the University of Debrecen Press and simultaneously published by Colin Smythe in the UK, and Barnes & Noble in the USA. A volume of essays by Bertha and Morse, Worlds Visible and Invisible: Essays on Irish Literature became the University of Debrecen Press’s second publication. Bertha and Morse also hosted the 2003 international IASIL conference in Debrecen and published a highly selected volume of essays based on the conference. In addition, the Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS University of Debrecen) has published five special issues devoted to Irish Studies thus far. Also, Morse and Bertha together with Mária Kurdi edited The Dramatic Artistry of Brian Friel the first HJEAS book published in Dublin and launched in the Abbey Theatre. Gula and Rácz together with Mária Kurdi edited The Binding Strength of Irish Studies: Festschrift in Honour of Csilla Bertha and Donald E. Morse. Debrecen: Debrecen UP, 2011. All the members of the research group have published widely on Irish subjects in many countries of the world.
To create an Irish Studies Library, the Irish government presented the University of Debrecen with a collection of primary and secondary sources, including classroom sets for the teaching of significant Irish works, to which the Irish Embassy has generously added over the years. A most substantial donation of books from publisher Colin Smythe enabled the Irish Studies program to offer a range of different classes and to encourage a variety of MA theses. In addition, Irish scholars around the world donated books, including several hundred from Canadian Irish scholars.
Over the years many distinguished Irish scholars have visited the institute and given lectures, including Professor Christopher Murray (University College Dublin), Professor Nicholas Grene (Trinity College Dublin), Professor Riana O’Dwyer, Associate Professor, Patrick Lonergan, and Lecturer Keith Hopper (National University of Ireland—Galway), and Professor and Dean Robert Welch (University of Ulster, Coleraine). Dr. Patrick Burke (St. Patrick’s College, University of Dublin) spent his sabbatical at the institute giving seminars and directing students in the Hungarian premiere of Brian Friel’s Translations. The latter had an enormous impact on the students participating (one became a playwright and actor while another taught practical theatre in the Institute for years), and gave significant impetus to the institute’s theatre concentration. Ten years later Irish playwright Dermot Bolger would see his play, The Passion of Jerome, performed by institute students. The institute has also hosted Irish poets, John Montague, Desmond Egan, Matthew Sweeney, who gave poetry readings and the latter also conducted a poetry workshop. In the framework of the EFACIS Irish Itinerary Northern Irish poets Medbh McGuckian Gearóid MacLochlainn, and Northern Irish novelists Glenn Patterson, Deirdre Madden and Jan Carson have given readings at our institute so far. The Irish story-teller and traditional singer, Michael Geaney, gave performances of Irish folk music and singing and lectures on ancient Irish culture and history. The Hungarian expert on Irish mythology, Gáborján Kovács taught Irish mythology for several years. Several Irish Ambassadors to Hungary have visited and supported the Irish Studies programme and Ambassadors Jim Flavin, Martin Greene, John Deady, Kevin Dowling, Pat Kelly, and Ronan Gargan have lectured on Irish subjects to students.
A required lecture course in Irish Literature and Culture for 3rd - year BA British track students is complemented by numerous required-optional or optional courses including seminars on Joyce, Yeats, the Irish Renaissance, the Irish Short Story, Contemporary Irish Drama and Theatre, Twentieth-Century Irish Fiction, Postcolonial Irish Literature, Irish popular culture, Contemporary Northern Irish Film and Fiction, and so forth. Faculty who have taught Irish courses in the past 30 years include Csilla Bertha (Associate Professor—drama, short story, culture), Marianna Gula (Assistant Professor—Joyce, Flann O’Brien, film and culture), Donald E Morse (University Professor—Joyce, literature and history since the famine, poetry, drama), István Rácz (Professor, Irish poetry, Yeats, Mahon, Heaney) and Tamás Bényei (Professor, Popular culture, Modernism, Contemporary Fiction). Bertha and Gula have also offered Ph.D. seminars on postcolonial Irish drama and Joyce's Ulysses respectively. Current offerings in Irish Studies may be found here.
Thus far, one Ph.D. dissertation (Marianna Gula, summa cum laude on Joyce) has been successfully defended. Over the years a large number of MA and BA theses have been written on a wide variety of Irish subjects.
International services and honours
Bertha has been a member of the Bibliography Committee of Irish University Review (UCD) since 1987 responsible for the Hungarian section and in 2003 was invited to be on the Irish University Review’s International Advisory Board. She was also elected a member of the IASIL Executive as one of the three European representatives from 2000 to 2003 and again from 2003-2006. Morse was also an elected member of IASIL Executive representing the United States. Both regularly serve on dissertation defense committees and often review essays for Irish studies journals in several countries. Gula was part of a team of scholars re-editing and re-translating Ulysses in Hungarian and has been an invited lecturer at the Zürich James Joyce Foundation, the Trieste Joyce School, and the Dublin Joyce School. She has also given papers at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, at International James Joyce Symposia in Trieste, Dublin, Budapest and Utrecht. Bertha and Morse are members of the Founding Committee and Advisory Board of the International Centre for Literatures in English, Graz – Innsbruck, from 1987. Between 2013 and 2019 Gula served as EFACIS representative for Hungary.