Denis Sampson was born in Ireland. After completing an MA at University College Dublin in 1970, he moved to Montreal and has lived there ever since. He studied at McGill University, wrote a PhD dissertation on D.H. Lawrence and E.M. Forster, and taught in the English Department at Vanier College. During his teaching career, he was also a visiting professor at université de Caen, France, and also taught at université de Montréal.
Twentieth century Irish fiction, and in particular the work of John McGahern, became the centre of his interest in the eighties. He edited a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies on McGahern in 1991 and went on to write the first critical study of McGahern’s fiction. This interest has continued up to the present and has inspired many articles and reviews over these decades, culminating in a new study of the first decade of McGahern’s career, Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist.
Denis Sampson’s interest in Irish fiction and memoir has also led to the writing of a biography of Brian Moore in 1998 and articles, conference presentations and reviews on writers such as William Trevor, Patrick Kavanagh, Edna O’Brien, Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, Liam O’Flaherty, Francis Stuart, Thomas Kilroy, Colm Toibin, and Chris Arthur. Much of this work has been published in Irish Studies journals, such as Irish University Review and Irish Review, and as chapters in books.
In addition to critical readings, Denis Sampson has published personal essays in literary reviews such as Dublin Review, Irish Pages: A Journal of Contemporary Writing, and Brick: A Literary Journal. Some of this work has been shortlisted in the annual Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Literary Competition and has won a Maclean-Hunter Fellowship for Non-fiction at the Banff Centre. He has written reviews for national newspapers in Canada, and has broadcast many personal essays on ‘Sunday Miscellany’ on RTE Radio 1.