Academic Advisor and Lecturer:
Sophia Hillan was born in Belfast and educated at Queen’s University, where she took her B.A. and M.A. in English Language and Literature, and her Ph.D on the work of Irish novelist and short-story writer Michael McLaverty. Beginning her career as a teacher of English, she spent five years as the first Head of English at Dublin’s pioneering Greendale School. While working at Carysfort College, under the direction of her former university tutor Seamus Heaney, she began her doctoral studies, and was awarded a Research Fellowship by Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute of Irish Studies. She went on to become its first woman Associate Director, and Director of the International Summer School in Irish Studies.
In addition to her critical work on Michael McLaverty, who appointed her one of his two Literary Executors, she has published widely on Irish literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the work of William Carleton, Edna O’Brien and Seamus Heaney. Encouraged in the writing of fiction by the award of prizes from the BBC and the then foremost Irish literary editor, David Marcus, she has been published in Marcus’s New Irish Writing and the first Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories. Her work has also been broadcast by the BBC.
She has lectured on nineteenth and twentieth-century Irish literature throughout Ireland, the United States and Britain, where she was a speaker at the 2012 Oxford Literary Festival. In 2013 she will speak at the West Cork Literary Festival and the Kate O’Brien Festival. Her most recent work, on a newly-discovered literary connection between Regency England and nineteenth-century Ireland, is May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland. (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011).
May, Lou and Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2011).
“On the Side of Life: Edna O’Brien’s Trilogy of Contemporary Ireland,” in Wild Colonial Girl: Essays on Edna O’Brien, ed. Lisa Colletta and Maureen O’Connor (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), in the series Irish Studies in Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Patrick Gillespie.
“The Cocktail Hour,” in The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories, ed. David Marcus (London: Faber and Faber, 2005). This story was runner-up to playwright John Arden’s winning entry in the first Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Award, 1999.
“Wintered into Wisdom: Michael McLaverty, Seamus Heaney and the Northern Wordhoard,” New Hibernia Review 9, no.3: 86-106 (Autumn 2005), St. Paul Minnesota.
The Edge of Dark: A Sense of Place in the Writings of Michael McLaverty and Sam Hanna Bell (Bethesda, Maryland: Academica Press/ Maunsel, 2000).
Hope and History: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Twentieth-Century Ulster, ed. with Sean McMahon (Belfast: Friar’s Bush Press, 1996).
“Pictures Drawn from Memory: William Carleton’s Experience of Famine,” The Irish Review 17/18 (Winter 1995): 80-89.
The Silken Twine: A Study of the Works of Michael McLaverty (Dublin: Poolbeg Press, 1992).
“Conscience and the Novelist: Michael McLaverty’s Journals and Critical Writings of the Forties,” Studies 78, no.309 (Spring 1989): 58-71.
In Quiet Places: The Uncollected Stories, Letters and Critical Prose of Michael McLaverty, edited, with an introduction (Dublin: Poolbeg Press, 1989).
“The Cliff Path,” in New Irish Writing, ed. David Marcus, Irish Press, October 1980. This story was a prize winner at the 1980 Writers’ Week at Listowel, and short-listed for a Hennessy Award.