The Ways We Read, with Mary McCay

The Ways We Read: Different Theories of Literature
A Residential Course on Literature with Professor Mary McCay

Fee: 1,400 euros (includes tuition, meals and accommodation)

Claire Keegan is honoured to be hosting Professor Mary McCay’s six-day course exploring the different perspectives on both the critical and the creative processes involved in understanding literature and in creating it.

As an undergraduate in New Orleans, Claire Keegan was inspired to write by Professor McCay, who opened up the world of literature and its possibilities through her teaching and mentorship. Claire will be attending and making significant contributions to this course daily.

This course will introduce different ways in which reading creative works changed as different critical theories developed, and it will help writers focus on how they hone their own creative processes. We will discuss how the silenced voices of women and minorities challenged the canon and how we as writers are influenced not only by personal experience, but also by larger political and social movements. We read and write, not in an attic room but in a large and complex changing world.

To book your space or for further information regarding the course please contact

The Texts

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Billy Budd, a novella by Herman Melville

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
Equus, by Peter Shaffer 
My Beautiful Laundrette, by Hanif Kureishi
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? By Edward Albee

“What Is an Author?” Michel Foucault
“The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” Langston Hughes
“A Queer Encounter: Sociology and the Study of Sexuality” Steven Epstein
“The Meaning of the Phallus” Jacques Lacan
”The Archetype of Literature” Northrop Frye
“Tradition and Individual Talent” by TS Eliot
“One Is Not Born a Woman” by Monique Wittig
“The Laugh of Medusa” by Helene Cixous

New Course with Prof McCay: Native American Writing

Professor Mary McCay
Tuition: 300 Euro
Venue: Zoom
Dates: 7 March to 25 April 2022
Monday nights from 8pm to 9.30pm Irish time
In America today there are approximately 576 different Native American tribes with about 9.7 million people. In 1492 there were an estimated 112 million indigenous inhabitants of the “New World.” Of that number over 90% were killed by diseases, wars and resettlement brought about the colonizers. After the Civil War, the US Cavalry was charged with the removal of Native peoples from their lands to make way for westward expansion. After World War II there began a Renaissance in Native American writing. That period, called the First Renaissance, was followed by a second as American Native peoples, especially of the Plains and the West, continued to celebrate their identities, cultures and relations with the world around them. This course will study writers of those two Renaissances to see how Native Americans have survived and thrived, despite adversity. This course will examine writings from a number of different tribal groups, both those on reservations and those living among the “white eyes”, in order to understand the relationship between America and its first peoples.
Reading List
Vine Deloria (1933–2005)
Custer Died for Your Sins
N. Scott Momaday (1934–)
The Way to Rainy Mountain
James Welch (1940–2003)
Fools Crow
Leslie Marmon Silko (1948)
Joy Harbo (1951–)
Poet Warrior
Louise Erdrich (1954–)
Love Medicine
Sherman Alexi (1966–)
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Tony Orange (1982–)
There There

Mary McCay, Professor Emerita, has taught several weekend seminars in Ireland, including Southern Writers and W.B. Yeats. During the pandemic, she taught three Zoom classes to Claire Keegan’s groups: African American Voices, James Joyce, and Feminist Writings. Mary McCay was Claire Keegan’s advisor and professor during her time at Loyola University and is responsible for her introduction to and initial studies of literature.

New course with Prof Mary McCay: The American Short Story

Professor Mary McCay

Friday 26 and Saturday 27 November, 2021

Carmelite Centre, Aungier Street, Dublin 2, from 10am to 5pm

Tuition: 300 euro

To book or for more information, please email

The short story has been a staple of American literature since the American Revolution. Charles Brockden Brown, the first American to earn his living writing of strange phenomena and political conflict, wrote “Somnambulism” in 1805. Shortly after, Washington Irving popularized the form with “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” both of which created iconic American characters. Since then, American writers have been changing the form, testing its limits. And questioning what America really means. During this weekend, we will look at a series of short stories, examine the forms, critique the contexts, and understand the many variations of the short story in America.

Reading List

Classic American Renaissance Tales

“My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” Nathaniel Hawthorne (1832)

“Bartleby the Scrivener,” Herman Melville (1853)

The Harlem Renaissance

“Blood Burning Moon,” Jean Toomer (1923)

“Story in Harlem Slang,” Zora Neale Hurston (1942)

Money ad Manhood

“A Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” F. Scott Fitzgerald (1927)

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” Ernest Hemingway (1933)

Faces of the Thirties

“Theft,” Katherine Anne Porter (1930)

“Here We Are,” Dorothy Parker (1931)

African American Writing and Civil Rights

“Sonny’s Blues,” James Baldwin (1957)

“Everyday Use,” Alice Walker (1973)

New American Classics

“Where I’m Calling From,” Raymond Carver (1983)

“Brokeback Mountain,” Annie Proulx (1997)

Mary McCay, Professor Emerita, has taught several weekend seminars in Ireland, including Southern Writers and W.B. Yeats. During the pandemic, she taught three Zoom classes to Claire Keegan’s groups: African American Voices, James Joyce, and Feminist Writings. Mary McCay was Claire Keegan’s advisor and professor during her time at Loyola University and is responsible for her introduction to and initial studies of literature. She is vaccinated and will be in Ireland in November to meet with students interested in the American Short Story.

Upcoming Courses and Workshops

Photo by Green Chameleo

Claire Keegan’s January 2022 residential writing course in Tullow, as well as her September 2021 workshop on the short “Loss and the Short Story”, are now fully booked! However, writers and readers are welcome to get in contact with Monica at to place their names on the waiting list.

Due to a cancellation, one space has become available in the August 2021 “The Short Story and the Novel” workshop. If you would like to book a spot, please get in contact!

5-Day Residential Writing Course with Claire Keegan

Teach Bhride Holistic Education Centre

Tullow, Co Carlow

Jan 2-6, 2022

Fee 900 euro (meals and accommodation included)

This residential course is designed for writers of any level working in any genre who would like to begin the new year by immersing themselves in writing and studying how reading works. Participants will arrive and be welcomed early on the morning of January 2nd for an introductory session. The rest of that morning and all other mornings will be dedicated to participants’ own writing. In the afternoons, Claire will lecture on aspects of writing and literature using published works, a list of which will be forwarded to all participants in November. Everyone will depart after lunch on January 6th.

Please note that the venue is an old convent with a very pleasant atmosphere. The accommodation is no frills but all bedrooms are en-suite, and meals are home cooked. All meals for the 5 days and 4 nights’ accommodation are included in the fee.

Please note also that no phones will be allowed in the writing spaces. If you cannot sit and write without your phone, you are welcome to write in your room or look for another space in the centre. Even if your phone is turned off, I will ask that you please leave it elsewhere. You might like to bring your printer. If you are unable to sit and write for a few hours in the morning without your phone, you are, of course, free to leave the writing space and check messages, etc. But we must respect the quiet space and not disrupt others. If you are using your laptop, we ask that you turn off all WiFi while at work. No dings or pings please! The aim of this residential course, in part, is to get away from all outside communication, and concentrate on your writing until lunchtime every day.  And what you write is entirely up to you. No one will be asked to read aloud from their own work. 

To book a place or ask for more information, please email

You are welcome to make contact with Teach Bhride if you have questions about their facilities. There is ample parking. An infrequent Bus Eireann service (Route 132) runs between Dublin and Tullow. The centre is a 5-minute walk from town, located beside the RC chapel.

2021 Briena Staunton Visiting Fellowship Awarded to Claire Keegan

Trinity College Dublin and Pembroke College Cambridge are delighted to announce that Claire Keegan is the 2021 Briena Staunton Visiting Fellow. The fellowship has been generously endowed by Clinical Professor in Radiology James Meaney in memory of his aunt, Briena Staunton. Following an agreement between the two colleges, a leading international writer, nominated alternately by Trinity and Pembroke, will spend a month writing and supporting students in Dublin or Cambridge. This year Trinity nominated Claire Keegan, an international award-winning short-story writer, who will spend March 2021 in Cambridge.

Claire is an Irish writer whose stories have been published in English by Faber & Faber, have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, Best American Stories, won numerous awards  and are translated into 17 languages.  She is internationally renowned as a teacher of creative writing. 

Claire’s debut collection of stories, Antarctica, was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. The Observer called these stories: ‘Among the finest recently written in English’. It was also awarded the William Trevor Prize, judged by William Trevor. 

In 2007, her second collection, Walk the Blue Fields, was published to huge critical acclaim and went on to win The Edge Hill Prize for the strongest collection published in The British Isles. The prize was adjudicated by Hilary Mantel. 

Foster (2010) won The Davy Byrnes Award, then the world’s richest prize for a story. It was judged by Richard Ford: “Keegan is a rarity-someone I will always want to read’.” 

Residential Writing Weekend with Claire Keegan

January 1–3, 2021

Teach Bhride Holistic Centre, Tullow, Co. Carlow, Ireland

The residential writing weekend with Claire Keegan will see all participants arriving at Teach Bhride on Friday afternoon before dinner. The next two mornings will be spent writing in any genre in well lighted, quiet spaces without mobile phones.

Lectures and discussions will be held in the afternoons and evenings on the following:

  • Letters by Anton Chekhov & others
  • Letters by writers on writing
  • Essays by Eudora Welty, Frank O’Connor and Flannery O’Connor
  • Hemingway’s advice on writing
  • Some poems on writing and creativity
  • Viewing of A Private World, a documentary on John McGahern

Tuition includes all meals and two nights’ accommodation, with everyone arriving before dinner on Friday, helping themselves to breakfast both mornings, and leaving before dinner on Sunday evening. This course will suit anyone interested in a quiet weekend of writing. None of what is written will be read aloud. It’s a chance to engage with the intricacies of the creative process and use your imagination.

To book your place, contact Tuition is 500 Euro. A 50% deposit secures.

Read reviews of previous courses and workshops on

Claire Keegan’s story collections include Antarctica, Walk the Blue Fields and Foster (Faber & Faber). These stories, translated into 17 languages, have won numerous awards. Her debut, Antarctica, was a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. “These stories are among the finest stories recently written in English,” wrote the Observer. Walk the Blue Fields, her second collection, was Richard Ford’s Book of the Year in 2010, and won the Edge Hill Prize, awarded to the strongest collection published in the British Isles. Foster won the Davy Byrne’s Award, the then world’s richest prize for a single story. New Yorker readers chose Foster as their story of the year. It was also published in Best American Stories and is now on the school syllabus in Ireland. Keegan has earned an international reputation as a teacher of fiction, having taught workshops on four continents.

“Every line seems to be a lesson in the perfect deployment of both style and emotion.” – Hilary Mantel

“The best stories are so textured and so moving, so universal but utterly distinctive, that it’s easy to imagine readers savoring them many years from now and to imagine critics, far in the future, deploying new lofty terms to explain what it is that makes Keegan’s fiction work.” – The New York Times

“Every single word in the right place and pregnant with double meaning.” – Jeffrey Eugenides, The New York Times

“Keegan is a rarity, someone I will always want to read.” – Richard Ford