Kay Retzlaff, professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, recently published “Redefining Irishness in a Coastal Maine City, 1770–1870: Bridget’s Belfast” which examines how Irish immigrants shaped and reshaped their identity in a community rural New England.
Forty percent of Irish immigrants to the United States settled in rural areas. To succeed beyond the major urban centers required distinctive means of playing Irish. Class, status and gender were more important than ethnicity. Careful reading of diaries, newspapers, local histories and public records yields a nuanced understanding of immigrant life amidst stereotypes and the evolution of a 19th-century Scots-Irish identity.
Retzlaff grew up on a farm in Nebraska and earned her bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in history, as well as a master’s degree in English, with an emphasis on writing and rhetoric, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She got her doctorate. at the University of Maine in Orono where she wrote her thesis on the Irish medieval epic Táin Bó Cuailgne. (This is often translated as “The Cattle Raid of Cooley.)
In addition to her recent publication, Retzlaff is the author of two other books, “Ireland: Its Myths and Legends” and “Women of Mythology.” His short stories and poems have appeared in many small magazines and e-zines, including Plainsongs, Feile-Festa, The Prompt, Common Ground Review, among others. She also edited “Vietnam Memories: A Cookbook,” by Winterport author and gourmet chef Bich Nga Burrill. Retzlaff spent the summer of 2015 teaching world literature at Chonnam National University, Gwangji, Korea.
A recently released book details Rangeley’s story