Margot Backus

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Associate Professor

  • Phone: (713) 743-2970
  • Email: mbackus@uh.edu
  • Office: 236 A Roy Cullen Building

Margot Backus recently completed her second book, Scandal Work: James Joyce, the New Journalism, and the Home Rule Newspaper Wars (U of Notre Dame Press, 2013). Her first book, The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality and Child Sacrifice in the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order, came out from Duke University Press in 1999. With Joe Valente, she is completing work on “The Crux of the X”: Literary Dispatches from Ireland’s War on Children. This study examines literary engagements with a series of twentieth-century sex scandals that serially transformed Ireland’s moral and political landscape, considering the complex significance of juvenile narrators in the most influential of these engagements.

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Education

  • Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, English Literature
  • M.A., University of Texas at Austin, English Literature
  • B.A., University of Massachusetts/Boston, English Literature

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Scandal Work

Scandal Work

Prior accounts of homosexual sex scandals in British newspapers had ignored the influence of the 1883 Dublin sex scandal that produced new scandal conventions that led to the downfall of Radical MP Charles Dilke, Irish Home Rule leader Charles Stewart Parnell, and Oscar Wilde. Owing to this oversight, scholars working in the history of sexuality have viewed the fall of Oscar Wilde as unrelated to imperial politics. Scandal Work introduces a corrective reading of Wilde’s fall as the result of rapid changes in the conventions of the sex scandal within increasingly contentious imperial print networks and furthermore argues for Wilde’s towering influence on Joyce as a writer and a man, carefully tracing the many direct and indirect allusions to Wilde’s fate in Ulysses.

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Selected Publications

Books

  • 2015: The Crux of the X: Literary Dispatches From Ireland’s War on Children. With Joseph Valente. In progress.
  • 2013: Scandal Work: James Joyce, the New Journalism, and the Home Rule Newspaper Wars. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, October 2013.
  • 1999: The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Articles

  • 2013 The Woman Who Did: Maria’s Maternal Misdirection in James Joyce’s “Clay” (with Martha Stallman). Joyce Studies Annual, 129-150.
  • 2013 Kate O’Brien, The Land of Spices, and the Stylistic Invention of Lesbian (In)visibility (with Joseph Valente). Solicited contribution to queer theory/Irish studies special issue, Irish University Review 43.1 (2013), 55-73.
  • 2009 “The Children of the Nation?”: Representations of Poor Children in Mainstream Nationalist Journalism, 1882 and 1913. Eire/Ireland 44: 1 & 2 (2009). Special issue on children, childhood and Irish society, eds. Maria Luddy and James Smith, 118-146.
  • 2009 “’An Iridescence Difficult to Account For’: Sexual Initiation in Joyce’s Fiction of Development” (with Joseph Valente). ELH: Journal of English Literary History, 76:2 (2009), 523-545.
  • 2008 “’More Useful Washed and Dead’: James Connolly, W.B. Yeats, and the Sexual Politics of Easter 1916.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, special issue on James Connolly, 10:1, 67-85.
  • 2008 “’Odd Jobs’: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and the Scandal Fragment.” Joyce Studies Annual 2008, 105-145.

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Backus N daughter

Book Chapters

  • 2014 “Those Who Create Themselves Wits at the Expense of Feminine Delicacy”: W.T. Stead, James Joyce, and the  Maiden Tribute Sex Scandal. Ireland and the New Journalism, eds., Karen Steele and Michael de Nie.  Forthcoming, Palgrave MacMillan Press, 27 pp.
  • 2014 “The Children of the Nation?”: Representations of Poor Children in Mainstream Nationalist Journalism, 1882 and 1913. Children and Childhood in Ireland: 1700-2010. Eds. Maria Luddy and James Smith. Forthcoming, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 28 pp.
  • 2012 “An Encounter”: James Joyce’s Humiliation Nation (with Joseph Valente), in Collaborative Dubliners: Joyce in Dialogue, ed. Vicki Mahaffey. Syracuse University Press, pp. 48-68.
  • 2009 “’Things That Have the Potential to Go Terribly Wrong’: Homosexuality, Pedophelia, and the Kincora Boys Home Scandal.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Queer Theory, eds. Noreen Giffney and Michael O'Rourke. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 237-256.
  • 2008 “’Everybody Knew, Nobody Said’: Transnational Laundries and Transnational Trauma across the Irish/Northern Irish Border.” In Irish Studies: Geographies and Genders, ed. Marti Lee and Ed Madden. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 21-37.

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