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English Prof Explores Work of Award Winning Author

By Paola Guzman
Copy Editor

Margaret Hallissy, Professor of English, spent her sabbatical during the fall 2017 semester delving into the writing of Alice McDermott, for her book to be published later this year. The book, “Understanding Alice McDermott, will be published by the University of South Carolina Press as part of the “Understanding Contemporary American Literature” Series.

Photo by Paola Guzman
Margaret Hallissy, professor of English.

Hallissy resonated with McDermott, as they are both Irish Catholic Women raised on Long Island. Apart from admiring her writing, she also noted that Long Islanders can point on a map to where McDermott’s characters go. Her novels usually take place in Nassau or Suffolk county, with characters from Brooklyn or Queens.

Not only is that compelling to anyone who was raised on the Island, but it gave Hallissy an upper hand in her research. She did not have to travel for research purposes because she is familiar with Long Island’s features, sights, and landscapes.

Writing about a native Long Island author also gave her an ideal workspace, right from her home office on Long Island. “When I’m doing the actual writing, I do it at my office at home,” Hallissy said, “I have to be all by myself to write. I can’t write in a busy environment. I have to shut the door and be completely alone.”

Hallissy has finished a draft of eight chapters of her book, which discuss the eight books of McDermott. She is hoping to finish the introduction and conclusion, as well as final revisions, during her spare time and summer break.

Hallissy has been a constant in the English department since 1974. During her last sabbatical, seven years ago, Hallissy also took the time to write a book, “Understanding Irish Fiction and Drama.” It was published in 2016, also by the University of South Carolina Press, as part of its “Understanding Modern European and Latin American Literature” Series.

Hallissy teaches English 10 (Intro to Literature), English 35 (Childhood and Literature), and English 36 (Adolescence and Literature) as well as a class on Irish fiction and drama. She has also taught in the learning communities and in the Honors College.

While she was away, English Professor Wendy Ryden taught English 10. English 35 was not offered during the fall semester.

Hallissy hopes to eventually be able to teach her novels in her classes as well as write about them.

Hallissy’s manuscript is due to her publisher at the end of August 2018, and will the go through a publication process for a number of months. Books from this press are available via the press’ own website,, as well as through or (Barnes & Noble). The university library will also have it on the shelves in circulation.

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