Grace Kelly: An Understudied Irish-American Icon

Mary Burke's picture
Call for Papers
March 11, 2021 to March 14, 2021
Pennsylvania, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Ethnic History / Studies, Film and Film History, Women's & Gender History / Studies


Grace Kelly (1928-82) was a very successful Catholic Irish-American film actress who received the title of Princess Grace of Monaco upon her marriage in 1956, a decade in which, even though members of her ethnic community were increasingly assimilated into American society, they were still excluded from certain very exclusive roles. Thus, the impact of Kelly’s wedding cannot be underestimated: filmed by her studio, MGM, it was watched on television by an estimated 30 million people, which made it one of the largest international media events of that decade. As early as 1957, a communications theorist analyzed the “ladylike” persona created by MGM for Kelly, but in the case of the scholarship of Irish America, there is a startling absence of work on a cultured woman whose deep interest in her heritage led her widower to endow a library of Irish literature in her honor. Irish-American studies has traditionally been preoccupied with narratives of Irish suffering or with prominent and powerful men, which does not gel with the story of an exceedingly photogenic woman from an immediate background of some privilege who rose into the ranks of both major Hollywood stardom and minor European royalty. Nevertheless, this veneer of wealth and glamour is the end-point of a multi-generation family story that follows the broad contours of post-famine Irish immigrant experience: Kelly was the direct descendant of John Henry Kelly, who was born in poverty in the West of Ireland in 1847, two years into a famine that would profoundly alter Irish emigration patterns to the United States.

This panel seeks submissions for a 20-minute paper addressing any under-theorized or unexamined aspect of Grace Kelly’s persona, career, life, ethnicity, legacy, or contexts. All theoretical and Area Studies approaches are welcome, especially those with an Irish-American or Irish Studies focus or using a Cultural, Media, Gender, or Celebrity Studies lens.

Mary Burke, “Grace Kelly, Philadelphia, and the Politics of Irish Lace.” American Journal of Irish Studies 19 (2019): 31-46.


Panel will be part of the NEMLA Convention, Philadephhia, March 11-14, 2021.


Please submit a 200-300 word abstract to the Northeast Modern Language Association portal ( by September 30.

Contact Info: 

Mary M. Burke, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

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