Catching up with Carol Kealiher

Catching up with Carol Kealiher

Last spring, we caught up with Carol Kealiher — the longtime and much-admired editor of The University of Tulsa’s James Joyce Quarterly. Sit back and enjoy Carol’s reminiscences and reflections.

How long have you been with The University of Tulsa? How/when did you get started at the James Joyce Quarterly and what is your role today?

woman with short hair and glasses wearing a blue top and holding a book entitled Finnegan's Wake
Carol Kealiher

I began my graduate work at TU in the early 1980s, hoping to get a quick master’s degree that would qualify me to teach English in the public schools. With that done, I found graduate studies so fascinating that I didn’t want to stop!

I was hired as the managing editor of the James Joyce Quarterly (JJQ) while I was finishing my dissertation and am just completing my thirtieth year of working at the JJQ. So, obviously, I still don’t want to stop!

I’d especially like to mention some of the outstanding professors here who have made work at TU so fulfilling. We still miss Joseph Kestner, a brilliant specialist in the classics and in Victorian literature and art, who left us too soon. Gordon Taylor, who taught American Studies, has now retired; he was a fascinating lecturer who made me a Henry Adams and Joan Didion fan. Holly Laird, fortunately, is still teaching and is an icon in feminist studies, and I will always be grateful to Bob Spoo and Sean Latham, the wonderful editors of the JJQ during my time here. Both have had fascinating careers: Bob attended the Yale University Law School and eventually returned to TU where he is now the Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law; Sean is the director of the TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies and the founding director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. I am looking forward to working with Jeff Drouin and once again with Bob Spoo as the journal’s new coeditors.

What have been some of the changes that have occurred with the journal and scholarly publishing during your time with the JJQ?

The JJQ had just acquired a computer when I started my tenure, and I remember being saddled with a PC hard drive and Apple printer, which never worked together at all. We had only the most primitive kind of email with the typical squealing of an AOL account startling everyone on the staff when a message arrived. Also we had no way of producing camera-ready proofs then but had to use an expensive typesetter, and if we needed copies of anything we had to walk over to McClure Hall and ask to use a copier there.

We now have effective software to produce the text of an issue, which I can upload to our printing company in under five minutes, and we have the option of electronic proofs, although I’m old-fashioned enough to prefer hard copy at that important stage. We derive much of our current income in royalties from the compilation websites Project MUSE and JSTOR. Any person or entity in the world that subscribes to these sites can access most of the run of the JJQ and read essays dating back to our first issue in 1963.

The University of Tulsa has generously continued to support the JJQ and also our sister journal Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature (TSWL) through the years. My colleague Karen Dutoi has been an exceptional managing editor at TSWL.

What are some highlights – including, perhaps, memories of students and faculty members–that stand out to you from your career with the JJQ?

one man and three women standing side by side with their hands clasped in front of their bodies
Carol with three JJQ graduate assistants

The English Department was rather different when I began at the JJQ and perhaps could be described as more eccentric then. We used to have wonderful department Christmas parties, and the JJQ always sponsored a St. Pat’s Day party, complete with Irish coffee and Irish soda bread.

The most constant joy, however, has been working with many JJQ graduate assistants through the years. They have truly been the heart of the JJQ and have contributed a great deal to the excellence of the journal.

What are some of your favorite books? Favorite works by Joyce, even? Outside of your JJQ work, what do you enjoy doing?

I love Joyce’s writing, especially Ulysses and Dubliners, and I still reread Jane Austen’s works which I first discovered in high school. I find that her texts provide balance during turbulent times. I also enjoy detective stories, perhaps because most of them have a strong narrative thread that carries the reader along to the revelation at the end.

Additionally, I have fun keeping up with grandkids, playing ’50s and ’60s rock and roll on the piano, growing orchids and serving as a majordomo for some extremely spoiled cats.