Virginia Blankenhorn


  • Celtic and Scottish Studies
  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

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Celtic and Scottish Studies
50 George Square

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Born and raised in California, Dr Virginia Blankenhorn received her B.A. in music from Wellesley College (1969), her Master’s degree in Celtic Languages and Literature from Harvard University (1975), and her Ph.D. in Celtic Studies at the University of Edinburgh (1987), where her doctoral dissertation examined Irish accentual verse-practice.

After coming to Ireland in 1975 and spending a year as an unmatriculated student at University College Galway, Dr Blankenhorn held a two-year scholarship at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1976-78), where she studied and wrote about intonation in the Irish of Connemara, Co. Galway. In 1978 she was appointed to a temporary lectureship at the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh (1978-81), where she specialized in Scottish Gaelic poetry and song, and subsequently to a lectureship at the University of Ulster (1981-88), lecturing in Irish language, Scottish Gaelic language and literature, Irish folklore and traditional song, and the art of translation.

After a nineteen-year absence from full-time academic life, Dr Blankenhorn returned to Ireland in 2007. In 2009 she held a temporary appointment in Irish Folklore at University College Dublin, where she lectured in traditional song and song-collecting in Ireland. Later the same year, she took on a postdoctoral fellowship at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she curated a website devoted to the career of the great Connemara sean-nós singer Joe Heaney ( In 2011 Dr Blankenhorn rejoined the University of Edinburgh where, in addition to pursuing long-held research interests in Scottish Gaelic and Irish song, she also teaches Irish literature from 1600 to undergraduates.


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Research summary

Dr Blankenhorn researches primarily in the fields of Scottish and Irish Gaelic song and verse. She places a strong focus on the ethnological aspects of her research, emphasising the context of performance in the transmission of music and metre. Recently she has become known for her work in experimental song workshops and for the Joe Heaney online archive (, which she helped curate while employed as an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow at NUI Galway. A complete list of her publications is available at, where all of her shorter works can be downloaded free of charge.

Current research interests

Dr Blankenhorn is currently preparing a study of Joe Heaney's relationship with the international folkmusic revival during the 1960s and 1970s, and is also working on an analysis of Scottish Gaelic vernacular poetic metres, complementing the study of Irish accentual metres that she published in 2003.

Past research interests

At the start of her career, Dr Blankenhorn took a sustained interest in paralinguistic features of spoken Irish, publishing articles on the intonation patterns of Connemara Irish, and on the phenomenon of forward-stress in Munster Irish.