Maggie O’Leary


Maggie O'Leary is a doctoral candidate at Cornell University. Her work is in global/postcolonial literature and theory (most frequently in 20th and 21st century Irish literature and poetry), body and disability studies, fat studies, and literature’s role in the development of contemporary human rights discourse.

Her dissertation is titled “Disorder, Digestion, and Metabolic Futures: Disabled Bellies in Contemporary Global Fiction.” Relying on Ann Laura Stoler’s theorization of “duress”and readings of Han Kang, Carmen Maria Machado, and J.M. Coetzee, she emphasizesthat the accumulative nature of medical knowledge and the ongoing project of medical pathologization is not only a product of colonialism, but also a potent means by which bodies are currently marginalized and further exposed to violence. Kang, Machado, and Coetzee resist the prevailing impulse to pathologize bodies and enforce diagnoses by staging resistance to these impulses via disordered eating, moments of digestive failure, and surgical interventions that purposefully target normal metabolic processes for permanent disruption. Each text, in showing the violence inherent in the acquisition and maintenance of “health,” also questions how current regimes of ableist violence are reinforced and supported by an apparatus that ostensibly claims to keep bodies safe, “whole,” and well. If the future is truly a liberatory one, it must emerge from revisiting the current overreliance on the assignation of positive morality to orderly, metabolically acceptable bodies.


Research Focus

  • 20th and 21st century Irish literature and poetry
  • global/postcolonial literature and theory
  • medical humanities
  • body, disability, and fat studies
  • gender and sexuality studies
  • human rights
  • pop culture

ENGL Courses - Spring 2024