Cahalan, James M(ichael) 1953–
CAHALAN, James M(ichael) 1953–
PERSONAL: Born March 6, 1953, in Dayton, OH; son of William Francis and Renna Lee (Tway) Cahalan; married Lea Masiello (a professor of English), 1978; children: Carolyn, Clare, Rose. Education: New College (Sarasota, FL), B.A., 1975; National University of Ireland, University College, Dublin, M.A. (with first-class honors), 1976; University of Cincinnati, Ph. D., 1982. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Society of Friends (Quaker). Hobbies and other interests: Tennis and biking.
CAREER: University of Massachusetts, Boston, instructor in English, 1979–81; Northeastern University, Boston, instructor in English, 1981–82; University of Massachusetts, lecturer in English and director of the Irish Studies Program, 1982–84; Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, assistant professor, 1984–88, associate professor, 1988–92, professor of English, 1992–, director of graduate studies in literature, 1987–91. Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Commonwealth speaker, 1990–91.
MEMBER: International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature, Modern Language Association of America, American Conference for Irish Studies, Celtic Studies Association, American Federation of Teachers, Irish-American Cultural Institute, Mid-Atlantic Association for Irish Studies (officer, program chair, 1990–92), English Association of Pennsylvania State Universities, Association of Pennsylvania State College University Faculty.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow in Ireland, 1975–76; grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1986 and 1989; Indiana University of Pennsylvania Distinguished Faculty Award for Research, 1990.
Great Hatred, Little Room: The Irish Historical Novel, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1983.
The Irish Novel: A Critical History, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1988.
Liam O'Flaherty: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1991.
(Editor, with David Downing, and contributor) Practicing Theory in Introductory College Literature Courses, National Council of Teachers of English (Urbana, IL), 1991.
Modern Irish Literature and Culture: A Chronology, G. K. Hall (Woodbridge, CT), 1993.
Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1999.
Edward Abbey: A Life, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2001.
Contributor to books, including The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature, edited by Robert Welch, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1994. Also contributor to scholarly journals, contributor of entries to encyclopedias, and contributor of book reviews.
SIDELIGHTS: James M. Cahalan once told CA: "Four of my first five scholarly books focus on Irish literature and culture; the other one is a collection of essays about teaching introductory college literature courses in light of contemporary theory. That mix, with an emphasis on Irish literature, pretty much encapsulates the first part of my scholarly career.
"I have been writing about Ireland (particularly modern Irish fiction as it relates to history, folklore, language and politics) ever since my first trip to Ireland in 1973, when I fell in love with the place. I have returned to Ireland ten times in visits ranging in length from ten days to a year-and-a-half. Ireland offers, for me, a microcosm of interdisciplinary studies at their best: it is a country no larger than Massachusetts or West Virginia, yet the home of many of the most accomplished modern writers. Ireland is an intense, stimulating culture, in which there are myriad relationships among all kinds of people, and where everyone seems to know everyone else. As one Irish writer put it, 'In Dublin a literary movement consists of two or more writers who cordially despise each other.'
"I came to Ireland in a roundabout way. Active at the end of the 1960s in the grape boycott and United Farm Workers movement in my hometown of Cincinnati, I went to New College in Sarasota, Florida, largely so that I could continue those efforts. In 1973, halfway through my undergraduate career, while I was working for a few months fulltime for the Florida Christian Migrant Ministry, the United Farm Workers were forced to pull out of Florida, in order to defend an attack on their California base of operations by the Teamsters. At this point I pulled out of Florida, too, to go to Dublin, where I spent a semester writing a large paper on Michael Davitt, founder of the late-nineteenth-century Land League, a movement that coined the word boycott. My beginnings in politics and history have continued to mark all my work in Irish literature over the past twenty years."
Cahalan took a detour from his focus on Irish literature to pen the 2001 biography of writer and environmentalist Edward Abbey, in whom he became interested when he began teaching in Abbey's home county of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Abbey himself wrote novels and creative nonfiction (so creative that Cahalan had to be very careful to get the real facts about his subject), and worked both as a park ranger and as a professor of English at the University of Arizona. He is perhaps best remembered for his novel The Monkey-wrench Gang, which is said to have inspired the radical environmentalist movement called Earth First.
Among other achievements, in Edward Abbey: A Life, Cahalan refutes charges that his subject was a racist and a misogynist, despite Abbey's opposition to Mexican immigration and his infamous womanizing. Author T. Coraghessan Boyle, discussing Edward Abbey in the New York Times Book Review, noted that it "is thoroughly researched and impeccable in its recitation of the facts." Boyle went on to add that "Cahalan has unearthed some of Abbey's finest bon mots along the way." Morris Hounion, reviewing the biography in the Library Journal, concluded the "book offers both depth and detail."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Edward Abbey: A Life, p. 293.
Book World, December 23, 2001, review of Edward Abbey, p. 3.
Choice, May, 2000, D. W. Madden, review of Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction, p. 1647; R. Welburn, review of Edward Abbey, p. 1418.
Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Morris Hounion, review of Edward Abbey, p. 75.
New York Times Book Review, February 10, 2002, T. Coraghessan Boyle, "A Voice Griping in the Wilderness," p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, October 22, 2001, review of Edward Abbey, p. 64.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Web site, http://www.english.iup.edu/jcahalan (October 15, 2002), James M. Cahalan faculty profile.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Web site, http://www.post-gazette.com/ (November 24, 2001), Jon Caroulis, review of Edward Abbey: A Life.