School of Language Arts and Media


Maebh Long
  • Maebh Long
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    School of Language, Arts & Media
    Position Title:
    Lecturer in Literature
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    +679 32 32016
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Maebh Long has come to USP from the Department of English Studies in Durham University, UK, where she completed her doctoral thesis and subsequently worked as a tutor. Her thesis positioned Jacques Derrida within a lineage of thinkers who exploit irony, a non-propositional force of language, as a cognitive resource. She is currently writing a book entitled Assembling Flann O’Brien (London: Continuum, forthcoming 2013), which reads the Irish experimental author Flann O’Brien through theories of philosophical fragmentation.
Dr Long was Chief Editor of the Institute of Advanced Studies' journal Kaleidoscope, and convened a number of seminar series and reading groups for Durham University. Her published work includes chapters entitled “Stepping Away: Radical Digressivity and At Swim-Two-Birds” in Textual Wanderings: The Theory and Practice of Narrative Digressions, ed. by Rhian Atkin (Oxford: Legenda, 2011), and “A Step Askew: Ironic Parabasis in Blanchot” in Blanchot Romantique, ed. by John McKeane and Hannes Opelz (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010). She was also president of Durham University’s Whisky Society!


     “Derrida and a Theory of Irony: Parabasis and Parataxis”
    Department of English Studies, Durham University (2010).
    Supervisor: Professor Timothy Clark
    Internal Examiner: Professor Patricia Waugh
    External Examiner: Professor Nicholas Royle (University of Sussex)

This thesis presents a theory of structural irony gleaned from the irony theorised and performed in the texts of thinkers whose works operate on the border of the (non)propositional: Plato, Friedrich Schlegel, Maurice Blanchot, Paul de Man, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. While focusing on the irony performed in the texts of Jacques Derrida, and using his engagements with these thinkers as a frame, this is not a theory of “Derridean” irony, but an irony (primarily) elaborated through a deconstructive approach and vocabulary. Structural irony is seen to take the form of the transgressive step/counter-step of parabasis and the non-hierarchical disorder of parataxis. It is an anacoluthic force/weakness, and exhibits the conjunctive/disjunctive trait of hyphenation. It is neither of cynical, aesthetic distance nor humorous, parodic engagement, but is a productive movement of (impossible) negotiation between terms. Irony is an expression of the beyond, within, and this reworking of borders and limits is performed in the fragment/aphorism. The (ir)responsible step taken in Derrida’s texts is understood as a mode of structural irony, and it is proposed that the stylistic changes that occurred in Derrida’s “later” texts were in part due to the autoimmunity caused by an overexposure to the “laws of the interview”. Throughout the thesis styles that manipulate the unmasterable excesses of irony are investigated, and each chapter ends with a reading of one of Derrida’s more “literary” or “performative” texts, while recognising and playing with the falsity of such generic makers or divisions. Inscribing Derrida within a tradition of thinkers of the non-thetic both extends readings of that tradition and of irony itself, while affording a valuable way of approaching the “structures” within Derrida’s texts. Irony is not presented as the transcendental signifier of deconstruction, but as a profitable way of understanding deconstruction and its relation to other writers.

Online at the British Library:

Publications in USP Electronic Research Repository



  •    Assembling Flann O’Brien (Continuum, forthcoming 2013).

There is a marked absence of any extended engagement with O’Brien’s work that focuses on the radical experimentation with form, language and knowledge exhibited in his texts, and which does so with a sensitivity to current theoretical structures and debates. Assembling Flann O’Brien reads O’Brien’s texts as employing and performing an extreme form of “philosophical” fragmentation. Fragmentation is a paradoxical form of conjunction and disjunction that emphasises singularity and multiplicity, borders and frames. Hitherto O’Brien’s form has been read in terms of loose intertextuality; fragmentation allows readers to work through the conjunction/disjunction of his content and form, and understand how, within his work, frametales and narrative spaces are contaminated. This use of fragmentation enables us to place O’Brien alongside other performers and theorisers of fragmentation, such as Friedrich Schlegel, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, J.G. Ballard (The Atrocity Exhibition), Jonathan Safran Foer (Tree of Codes) and J.M. Coetzee (In the Heart of the Country).

While Assembling Flann O’Brien is grounded in an exploration of O’Brien’s play with formal and structural conventions, it also seeks to remedy the absence of feminist readings of his works. Throughout O’Brien’s texts is a blurring of boundaries between the body and technology, and this is read in terms of a deconstructive engagement with posthuman feminism. The specific postcolonial concerns of Ireland from the thirties to the sixties provide the backdrop to this reading, but its primary purpose is to consolidate O’Brien’s position within fields of twentieth century experimental literature


  • “Stepping Away: Radical Digressivity and At Swim-Two-Birds in Textual Wanderings: The Theory and Practice of Narrative Digressions, ed. Rhian Atkin (Oxford: Legenda, forthcoming 2011).
  • “A Step Askew: Ironic Parabasis in Blanchot” in Blanchot Romantique, ed. John McKeane and Hannes Opelz (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010).


  • “The Hedgehog and Lord Browne: The ‘to come’ of the Humanities” in World Picture 5 (Spring 2011).
  •  “Irony’s Chances: Derrida, Clinamen and Structural Irony” submitted as part of special edition of Derrida Today. Special issue proposal currently under review.



  • Review of Digressions in European Literature: From Cervantes to Sebald, ed. Alexis Grohmann and Caragh Wells (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011) in Comparative Critical Studies 8.2-3 (forthcoming 2011).
  • Review essay on The Ethics of Writing, Séan Burke (Edinburgh UP, 2008) in Culture Machine 10 (2009).
  • Review of Creators of Mathematics: The Irish Connection, ed. by Ken Houston in Kaleidoscope 1.1(2007).


  • “‘true Gaelic Gaels who speak in true Gaelic Gaelic’: Repetition, Fragmentation and Language in An Béal Bocht” . 100 Myles: The International Flann O'Brien Centenary Conference, University of Vienna, Austria (July 2011).
  • “Beckett and the Hedgehog: Theories and Archives”. Samuel Beckett: Out of the Archive, University of York (June 2011).
  • “‘master of the pharmakon’: Derrida, Socrates and Structural Irony”. Jacques Derrida ’11, University of Sussex (June 2011).
  • “The Hedgehog and Lord Browne: The ‘to come’ of the Humanities”. Quilting Points Theory Group, English Department, University of Sunderland [1 hour invited paper] (June 2011).
  • “Identity, Difference and Meaning: Philosophical Remarks on Derrida – Response”. Philosophical Society, Durham University [Invited paper] (May 2011).
  • “‘The powerful marvel of irony’: Derrida and Structural Irony”. English Department Staff and Postgraduate Seminar, University of Sunderland [1 hour paper] (April 2011).
  • “Interdisciplinarity, the Humanities and the Browne Report”. The Future of (Interdisciplinary) Humanities, Durham University [Invited speaker and chair] (March 2011).
  •  “The Hedgehog and Lord Browne: The ‘to come’ of the Humanities”. Quilting Points Theory Group, English Department, University of Leeds [1 hour invited paper] (March 2011).
  • “‘The powerful marvel of irony’: Derrida and Structural Irony”. English Department Staff and Postgraduate Seminar (staff led), Durham University [1 hour paper] (February 2011).
  • “Whither Deconstruction…? Wither Deconstruction…?”. Inventions of the Text Staff and Student Seminar, English Department, Durham University (December 2010).
  • Eine Aphoristiche Atemwende (An Aphoristic Breathturn): Celan’s Poetics of the Threshold”. Cosmopoetics, Durham University (September 2010).
  • “Autoinheriting the Autoimmune: Derrida in Interviews”. Derrida Today, The British Academy, London (July 2010).
  • “Teaching Literary Theory” on panel entitled “From Research to Teaching: New Directions in Literary Study”. Teachers of English Literature, Durham University (April 2010).
  • “Restyling Derrida’s Later Style”. Style in Theory/Styling Theory, University of Malta (November 2009).
  • “Derrida, Schlegel and Fragmentation”. Inventions of the Text English Department Staff and Student Seminar, Durham University (June 2009).
  • “The Fragments of a Life: Autobiography and Aphorisms”. Jacques Derrida 2009, Durham University (April 2009).
  • “A Step Askew: Ironic Parabasis in Blanchot”.Blanchot Romantique, Maison Française, Oxford (April 2009).
  • “Irony’s Chances”. Jacques Derrida 2008, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding [1 hour paper] (August 2008).
  • “Derrida and Chancing the Stars”. Stars, Durham University (July 2008).
  • “The Fragments of Digression”. Textual Wanderings: The Theory and Practice of Digression in Literature, University of Leeds (November 2007).


Jacques Derrida 2009

A two-day international conference on Jacques Derrida, held in Durham University. The conference, which specifically engaged with two of Derrida’s texts – The Ear of the Other and Spurs­ –  included academic papers, a reading group, a short film and the performance of a specially commissioned piece of music (April 2009).


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP). A Higher Education Authority (HEA) accredited qualification in third level teaching. Awarded by the Centre for Learning, Teaching, and Research in Higher Education (CLTRHE) in Durham University’s School of Education (Jan.-Dec. 2011).
  • Durham University’s Learning and Teaching Award (DULTA). This is a Higher Education Authority (HEA) accredited qualification in third level teaching (Apr.-Sept. 2010).


  • Modern Language Association [MLA].
  • Associate Fellow of Higher Education Academy [HEA], UK (May 2011).


  • Literary Theory, particularly Jacques Derrida
  • 20th Century British and Irish Fiction
  • Experimental Literature

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