Joseph Murtagh

Joseph Murtagh

Lecturer, Department of Writing
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences

Phone:(607) 274-1134
Office:429 Smiddy Hall
Ithaca, NY 14850

I grew up in the Ithaca area and attended public school in nearby Trumansburg, New York. After graduating from high school, I moved to Ireland, where I earned a BA from University College Cork in Cork City in 2000. Leaving Ireland in 2001, I moved back to the states and earned a PhD in English from Cornell University, graduating in August 2009. In 2009, I received the Jeffrey E. Smith Editor's Prize from The Missouri Review for my essay "A Hive of Mysterious Danger," which recounts my experience as an instructor in the New York State prison system. In 2004, I also won a Creative Nonfiction Award from The Mid-American Review for an essay I wrote about a close friend who suffered a traumatic brain injury. My essays have appeared in The Missouri Review, The Mid-American Review, NOVEL. I also have a background in journalism as a reporter for The Ithaca Times, where I covered city government and wrote a broad range of articles for the newspaper, including features, editorials, business profiles, and health stories.

My work for The Ithaca Times gave me a taste for municipal politics (oddly I found that I didn't mind sitting through four hour city council meetings), and so in May of 2011 I threw my hat in the ring to run for the 2nd ward seat of the Ithaca Common Council. Incorporating several neighborhoods in downtown Ithaca, the 2nd ward is the most diverse area in the city and includes many Ithaca landmarks, like the Commons, GIAC, and the Southside Community Center. In addition to running for Council, I also sit on the Executive Committee of Tompkins Connect, a young professionals' organization with ties to the United Way of Tompkins County and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce. I'm a big proponent of the idea that scholars and teachers should be actively engaged members of the community, and I've been lucky to find a lot of support for that view among the faculty and students at Ithaca College.

When not writing and teaching, I enjoy reading, hiking, spending time with friends, and playing guitar.        


  • academic writing
  • literary nonfiction
  • journalism
  • British literature


  • PhD, English Literature, Cornell University, 2009
  • MA, English Literature, Cornell University, 2004
  • BA, English Literature, University College Cork, 2000

Some Publications


  • "George Eliot and the Rise of the Language of Expertise," essay, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 44.1 (2011): 88-105

Literary Essay and Creative Nonfiction

  • "A Hive of Mysterious Danger," essay, Missouri Review 33.1 (2010): 56-77 (Nominated for Pushcart Prize 2012)
  • "To Noah Daniel Kooperman," essay, Mid-American Review 25.2 (2005): 68-70  

Selected Journalism and Feature Writing

  • "Rust to Green: Cornell Students, Faculty Work on Revitalization Effort in Utica," Ithaca Times, October 2010
  • "Generating Controversy, Ithaca Moves Ahead on Commons Redesign," Ithaca Times, November 2011
  • "Ithaca Mayor's BPW Appointment Stirs Controversy," Ithaca Times, January 2011
  • "Tompkins Trust Celebrates 175 Years in Business," Ithaca Times, March 2011
  • "Mayor or Manager: What's the Right Choice for Ithaca?" Ithaca Times, March 2011


  • "A Hive of Mysterious Danger," textBOX: An Online Anthology of the Missouri Review (forthcoming 2012)

Some Awards

  • Pushcart Prize Nomination, Missouri Review, 2012
  • Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize, Missouri Review, 2009
  • Creative Nonfiction Award, Mid-American Review, 2004




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