Abby Palko

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Abby Palko

Director of the Residential Commons Program

Department/Office Information

Residential Life

As the inaugural Director of the Residential Commons Program at Colgate University, I work with and across the four Residential Commons to support the intellectual life component of Colgate’s Living-Learning communities. My own undergraduate years, spent in the liberal arts tradition, were a profound influence on me, both professionally and personally, and I bring this conviction of their transformative power to my work with the Residential Commons Program.

My scholarship focuses on cultural and literary representations of mothers and motherhood, with a particular interest in the ways that rhetoric about motherhood shapes and influences women's mothering practices. I serve as a Board Member for IAMAS (the International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship). I have taught course in Irish literature, comparative literature, gender studies, and motherhood studies at every level from middle school through graduate school.

When I reread the concluding stanza to Robert Frost’s poem, “Two Tramps in Mud,” the words echo through my mind in my English advisor’s voice and I remember the great gift it was to be encouraged to “unite / My avocation and my vocation.” Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned during my undergraduate studies is encapsulated in Frost’s final lines:
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.
The memory of her verbal inflections carries me right back to the classroom in Fournier Hall where we discussed poetry and novels and plays – and what it means to read and think and live and be in today’s world. Although the “when” of today has changed, the heart of a liberal arts education remains for me: work as play for the sake of the future.

BA, English and French, Chestnut Hill College; MA, English, Rutgers University (Camden); PhD, Literature with a graduate minor in Gender Studies, University of Notre Dame


Imagining Motherhood in Contemporary Irish and Caribbean Women’s Writing. New Caribbean Studies series edited by Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell and Shalini Puri. Palgrave Macmillan. 2016.

Edited Anthologies

Monstrous Mothers: Troubling Tropes; co-editor with Andrea O’Reilly. Demeter Press, 2021. 

Feminist Responses to the Neoliberalization of the University: From Surviving to Thriving; co-editor with Sonalini Sapra and Jamie Wagman. Lexington Books, 2020. 

Breastfeeding & Culture: Discourses and Representations; co-editor with Ann Marie Short and Dionne Irving. Demeter Press, 2018. 

Mothers, Mothering, and Globalization; co-editor with Dorsía Silva-Smith and Laila Malik. Demeter Press, 2017.

Articles and Chapters

 “An ethics of maternal monstrosity.” The Mother Wave: Matricentric Feminism as Theory, Activism, and Practice. Eds. Andrea O’Reilly and Fiona Joy Green. Toronto: Demeter Press.  forthcoming.

“The Maternal Maleficent.” Monstrous Mothers: Troubling Tropes. Eds. Abigail L. Palko and Andrea O’Reilly. Toronto: Demeter Press, 2021.  85-103.

“Monstrous Mothers.” Maternal Theory: Essential Readings, second edition. Demeter Press, 2021. Invited contribution.

“Emma Donoghue.” Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literature. Wiley Blackwell, 2020. Invited contribution. 

“There is No Surviving Without Thriving.” Feminist Responses to the Neoliberalization of the University: From Surviving to Thriving. Eds. Abby Palko, Sonalini Sapra, and Jamie Wagman. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020.  

“(Breast)Milking the Situation: Other Mothering and Wet Nursing in Sherley Anne Williams’ Dessa Rose.” Cultural Representations of Breastfeeding. Eds. Ann Marie Alfonso Short, Abigail L. Palko, and Dionne Bremyer. Toronto, Canada:  Demeter P, 2018. 

“Abortion Politics in Edna O’Brien’s Down by the River.” Mothers, Mothering, and Globalization. Eds. Dorsía Silva-Smith, Laila Malik, and Abigail L. Palko. Toronto: Demeter P, 2017. 163-82. 

“Emma Donoghue, in conversation with Abby Palko.” Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality in Irish Studies. Special issue of Breac: A Digital Journal of Irish Studies. Eds. Moynagh Sullivan, Sinead Kennedy, and Abigail L. Palko. 6 (2016). 

“A Triography of Polymaternity: Becoming Mamas to Triplets.” On Mothering Multiples: Complexities and Possibilities. Ed. Kathy Mantas. Toronto: Demeter P, 2016. 86-103. 

“Queer Seductions of the Maternal in Dorothy Macardle’s Earth-bound.Irish University Review. 46.2 (November 2016): 287-308. 

“‘No mother nor nothing to me’: Excavating the Maternal Figure in Kissing the Witch.” Irish women’s writing and experience. Special issue of Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Eds. Brian F. McCabe and Jaji H.C. Hammer. 44.7 (October-November 2015): 917-39. 

“Finding a Daughter: Gisèle Pineau’s L’espérance macadam (Macadam Dreams).” Reading/Speaking/Writing the Mother Text: Essays on Caribbean Women's Writing. Eds. Cristina Herrera and Paula Sanmartín. Toronto: Demeter P, 2015. 17-36.  

“Patricia Hill Collins as Pedagogical Mother.” Patricia Hill Collins: Reconceiving Motherhood. Ed. Kaila Adia Story. Toronto: Demeter P, 2014. 33-48. 

“Triangulating Identity: The Afro-Irish Caribbean Act of Union in Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl.” Where Motley is Worn: Transnational Irish Literatures. Ed. Amanda Tucker and Moira Casey. Cork: Cork UP, 2014. 65-82. 

“Colonial Modernism’s Thwarted Maternity: Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris and Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark.” Elizabeth Bowen and Textual Modernity. Special issue of Textual Practice. Eds. Pamela Thurschwell and Siân White. 27.1 (January 2013): 89-108. 

“Taking Back the Streets, Helping Victims Heal: ‘Mothers In Charge’ in Philadelphia.” The 21st Century Motherhood Movement: Mothers Speak Out on Why We Need to Change the World and How to Do It. Ed. Andrea O’Reilly. Toronto: Demeter P, 2011. 538-46. 

 “From The Uninvited to The Visitor:  Irish Women Respond to Independence.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 31.2 (Fall 2010): 1-34. 

“Out of Home in the Kitchen: Maeve Brennan’s Herbert’s Retreat Stories.” The New Hibernia Review 11.4 (Winter 2007): 73-91. 

Edited Journal Issue 

Co-editor and author of “Introduction” with Moynagh Sullivan and Sinéad Kennedy. Breac, Issue 6: Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality in Irish Studies.

  • Director, Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, University of Virginia, 2016-2023
  • Associate Director and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Gender Studies Program, University of Notre Dame, 2015-2016
  • Instructor, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, 2001-2004 
  • Adjunct Instructor, Camden County College, Camden, NJ, 2003-2004    
  • Teacher, Chapin School, Princeton, NJ, 2000–2004
  • Teacher, Florence Township Middle School, Florence, NJ, 1996–2000