Faculty Profile: Dr. Seamus O’Malley 

By: Chloe Baker  |  March 27, 2024

By Chloe Baker, Features Editor 

How long have you worked at YU?

I was brought in about 10 years ago in 2013.

What do you like most about working at YU? 

I think what I like the most is the way that the students are very appreciative of what I get to do for a living. I think there’s hardly any other campus where students will thank you after every class. That’s kind of a rare thing to experience as an academic. So there’s often that sense of an appreciation for what goes on.

What made you passionate about English Literature?

It was high school. I was reading a lot of comic books. Some of the more artistic or literary comics were like a gateway drug to more challenging forms of literature. And so when I started being forced to read complex novels in English classes, I think I already had an appreciation for them because of what comics were doing. Novels became as important for me as music and film. And from that point forward, I just knew I wanted to. I wasn’t yet committed of being an English major, per se, but I knew that I was just forever in the habit of reading and then eventually majored in English and decided to kind of go into academia, because I realized that I was going to do this anyway, so I might as well get paid for it. As far as reading fiction goes, I was also reading about fiction and reading criticism and biography in my spare time, so I might as well attach a salary to it. 

Is there anything interesting that you’re currently working on?

Yes, I just finished with the assistance of a student here (Rina Shamilov) transcribing an unfinished novel by an English writer named Mary Butts. She died suddenly, maybe 25% into a novel she was writing, and so it’s been just sitting in the Yale library for almost 100 years now. She has awful handwriting. And so I got a grant from the school, which I’m very grateful for. The grant came with student assistance, so Rina was my assistant and she helped me transcribe the manuscript. It’s going to be published in a journal coming soon.

Do you have any advice for students interested in a career in English? 

Yes. English, unlike a lot of the more obviously vocational majors, does not provide you with that obvious first job to go into after you graduate but especially nowadays, with the disruptions being caused by AI. English provides you with the skills necessary to survive in any professional environment. So in a sense with English you can do almost anything you want, because it’s teaching you how to write and how to think. And those are the skills that AI can’t yet do. So much of what we’re taught is going to be handed over to artificial intelligence, whereas thinking and actual writing is still for now the domain of humans and even what AI can do with writing is usually just kind of copy other people’s forms of writing, and it’s still going to take a human brain to make sense of it.

What is one thing you want students to know about you?

I think about this in terms of professors in general, I feel like it’s often news to students what we do when we’re not in front of the classroom. And how would they know? There’s no brochure saying “students, here’s what your professors are doing in their free time.” Every professor has three basic tasks. The teaching, the research, and the service. The service component can be being on an interview committee, hiring committee, or any committee the university needs you to be on. I want students to know that all their instructors, for the most part, are also researchers. I like when students ask me what I research and what I produce, and what I do when I’m not teaching, getting ready to teach, or grading. Roughly a third of my time is research. 

What are you researching?

I’m working on two things right now: 1. A chapter on the politics of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats for an upcoming book (it’s a book of essays, I’m just doing the one chapter).  2. I’m editing a new version of Ford’s Madox Ford’s trilogy of novels called The Fifth Queen that will be published by Oxford University Press in a few years. 

What book would you recommend everyone should read? 

Let’s see. I’m gonna have to say “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. 

If you could bring in any guest lecturer, alive or deceased, who would it be and what would they speak about? 

So many options. Good options. I might also go with Virginia Woolf. Not only was she a great writer, but she knew so many great writers and published great writers. She’s at the center of literary London. And so to be able to talk to her would be like talking to a whole scene. A whole network of writers.