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Otago Appoints NZ's First Irish Studies Professor

8 June 2006

Otago Appoints NZ's First Professor of Irish Studies

New Zealand’s first Professor of Irish Studies has been appointed at the University of Otago. The holder of the Eamon Cleary Chair in Irish Studies will be Associate Professor Peter Kuch from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

Currently Convenor of Irish Studies at UNSW, Associate Professor Kuch has a Master of Letters and a Doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied under Professors Richard Ellmann and John Kelly. The author of a highly regarded cultural history of the Irish Literary Renaissance based on the friendship between W B Yeats and George William Russell (“AE”), Prof Kuch has also published several other books, numerous articles and reviews, and has broadcast on television and radio.

In addition to being an internationally respected expert on Irish literature, he has a deep knowledge of modern Irish history and culture – including Irish theatre and film. He is the Director of the Irish Film Festival in Sydney and Melbourne, and is the representative for Australia and New Zealand on the international organising committee of the Irish Theatrical Diaspora project, a research project that is writing the history of the performance of Irish theatre from settlement to the present.

Besides his time at UNSW, Prof Kuch has taught at leading universities in Ireland, including Trinity College, Dublin, and at the Universities of Newcastle in Australia and Caen in France. He’s also been a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, at the Australian National University.

The Chair in Irish Studies has been made possible by a generous endowment to the University of Otago by Mr Eamon Cleary, an Irish businessman who now has a home in New Zealand. As part of the University’s Leading Thinkers Initiative, Mr Cleary’s gift attracted matching funding from the Government under the Partnerships for Excellence scheme.

In announcing the appointment, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Otago, Professor David Skegg, said that he was delighted that the University had been able to attract someone of Prof Kuch’s calibre.

“Professor Kuch is an ideal person to build up the Irish Studies programme at Otago. I expect that he will make a significant impact in New Zealand, not only in the study of Irish literature, but also in promoting Irish film and other expressions of Irish culture,” Prof Skegg says. “The primary role of the Chair in Irish Studies is to support research and scholarship, but I am sure that the work of the Chair will also help to strengthen the many links that exist between New Zealand and Ireland.”

For his part Prof Kuch said he was excited by the appointment. “Though both comparatively small and outlying countries, New Zealand and Ireland continue to make significant contributions to a wide range of issues facing the world. I see the Eamon Cleary Chair as the means by which each country can learn more about the other even as they come to understand more about themselves. This is a marvellous opportunity for the University and the community.”

Professor Kuch will take up his appointment at the beginning of September.


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