Extra Muros: Urbanity from the Outside


  • Michael G. Kelly University of Limerick
  • Anna Ryan Moloney University of Limerick



The Walls of Limerick are a recurrent motif in textual treatments of Limerick city and its specificity in Irish and international contexts. The reference functions as a synecdoche for the city as a besieged place at key moments in the history of the island. The Walls function as vestigial reminders of Limerick’s position as a mid-sized ‘regional’ city within a fully European history, and of its status as a major urban site of colonial and post-colonial interactions and hybridizations. 

There is a parallel sense in which Limerick has, through modern Irish history, been cast in the role of an urban ‘other’ within the social and economic politics of the independent Irish state. Associations of urban deprivation and dysfunctionality have frequently been mobilized in a national context to make of Limerick a kind of counterexample, an urban reality paradoxically extra muros, as far as national political agency and intentions have been concerned. 

Our essay draws together examples of an urban imaginary rooted in an ancient urban history and permanently extra muros – profoundly urban(ized) and yet constantly revisiting the process of asserting a collectively shared ‘right to the city’. 

Author Biographies

Michael G. Kelly, University of Limerick

Michael G. Kelly – WG2 – is a professor in the School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics at the University of Limerick (Ireland), where he is also director of the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies. He is the author of a study on the relations of utopia and modern French poetry, Strands of Utopia: Spaces of Poetic Work in Twentieth-Century France (Legenda, 2008/Routledge, 2020) and has published widely in both English and French on a range of topics in modern and contemporary French and comparative literature. Recent work at the intersection of literary urban studies and utopian studies includes the editorial projects ‘Urban Utopics’ (Special thematic issue of the Forum for Modern Language Studies Vol. 59.1, January 2023) and Utopia, Equity and Ideology in Urban Texts: Fair and Unfair Cities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023). 

Anna Ryan Moloney, University of Limerick

Anna Ryan Moloney – WG4 – is an associate professor at the School of Architecture, University of Limerick, Ireland, where she follows interests in landscape, writing, drawing and photography through her teaching and research. She holds a BArch from University College Dublin, a PhD from the Department of Geography at University College Cork, and has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. She practised with Grafton Architects in Dublin, and was editor of the journal Building Material. In 2016, Routledge published her book Where Land Meets Sea: Coastal Explorations of Landscape, Representation and Spatial Experience. Recent essays have been published in a range of venues, including The Coastal Atlas of Ireland (Cork University Press), and have focused on architectural thinking on the coast, topography and spatial experience, writing methods, spatial literature and Tim Robinson. 


Kevin Barry, ‘A Pirate, Dreaming’, in: Tim Groenland et al. (eds.), The Ogham Stone (Limerick: The University of Limerick, 2022), 69-76: 73-74.

Kevin Barry, That Old Country Music (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2020).

Dion Boucicault, The Colleen Bawn, or The Brides of Garryowen (New York: 1860).

Peter Carroll, ‘Fundamental Base: Thinking of the City from the Ground Up’, in: Architecture Ireland 313 (2020), 13-17.

Michael Curtin, The Plastic Tomato Cutter (London: Thistle Publishing, 2015 [1991]).

Gerald Griffin, The Collegians: A Tale of Garryowen (Dublin: J. Duffy & Co, 1857).

Samuel Lewis’ A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837). See: Library Ireland, ‘Limerick City’,, accessed 13 February 2023.

John Logan, ‘Settlement, Building, Segregation: A History of Limerick City’, in: Architecture Ireland 313 (2020), 7-12.

Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes (New York: Scribner, 1996).

Kate O’Brien, My Ireland (London: Batsford, 1962).

Kate O’Brien, Without My Cloak (London: William Heinemann, 1931).

Cathal O’Connell, ‘City, Citizenship, Social Exclusion in Limerick’, in: Niamh Hourigan (ed.), Understanding Limerick: Social Exclusion and Change (Cork: Cork University Press, 2011), 230–44.



How to Cite

Kelly, M. G., & Ryan Moloney, A. (2023). Limerick : Extra Muros: Urbanity from the Outside. Writingplace, (8-9).