During his time as a graduate student in Oregon, Foster became active in the conferences of the American Committee (later Conference) for Irish Studies, giving talks on Irish literature. When he became a professor in Vancouver, he gave numerous papers at meetings of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies.  

He has to the present given over a hundred presentations to various academic and non-academic gatherings (in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Monaco, Italy), including local history societies, Probus, charitable societies, museums, further education courses, theatres, universities, and creative writing groups.

In 1993, he gave the “Academy Discourse” to the Royal Irish Academy, “Obstacles to an Irish Intellectual Life”. This was published as “Strains in Irish Intellectual Life” in On Intellectuals and Intellectual Life in Ireland (1996), ed. Liam O’Dowd.

In 2001, Foster was the inaugural National University of Ireland Visiting Professor and gave three public lectures in NUI Maynooth, on the applied science culture in Victorian Belfast that was responsible for such achievements as RMS Titanic and her sister liners; the theological and scientific culture of Victorian Belfast that generated the heated controversy over John Tyndall’s notorious Belfast Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1874; and the accomplishments and contexts of zoological fieldwork in Victorian Belfast.

These were expanded and published as Recoveries: Neglected Episodes in Irish Culture, 1860-1914 (2002).

Foster was a Leverhulme Visiting Professor to the United Kingdom in 2004-2005 and delivered four public lectures at the University of Ulster (the host institution).

In April 2011, Foster gave the 2nd biennial Wilde Lecture, “Oscar Wilde: Green Carnations, Culture and Crime”, Clark Memorial Library (University of California at Los Angeles). 

recent talks

A panel appearance on the Public Symposium on the Value of the Humanities, held at Queen's University, Belfast on November 4, 2016.

A public lecture on “Lady Constance Malleson and the Heirs of Lost Connections,” to the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium, October 27, 2015

A public lecture on “Birds and Words: Memories of an Amateur Birdwatcher,” in the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club lecture series, Ulster Museum, Belfast, December 8, 2015. (see flyer)

A panel appearance in the public forum on "The Uses of Criticism", alongside Patricia Craig (memoirist, reviewer, anthologist) and Martin Doyle (Books editor of the Irish Times) organised by Irish Pages and held at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy, July 29, 2017.

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