Corrigan holds a B.A. from Fordham University as well as an M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania and is Critic in Residence and a lecturer in English at Georgetown University. Her specialist subjects include 19th-century British literature, women's literature (with a special focus on autobiographies), popular culture, detective fiction, contemporary American literature, and Anglo-Irish literature. Corrigan is a member of the advisory panel of The American Heritage Dictionary and an Advisor to the National Endowment of the Arts "Big Read" project.
Corrigan has been a book critic for NPR on the Peabody Award-winning Fresh Air radio program for almost two decades. She is a reviewer and columnist for the "Book World" section of The Washington Post, and essays and reviews written by her have appeared in publications such as The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Nation, The New York Observer, Salon and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Along with Robin Winks, she was an associate editor of and contributor to Mystery & Suspense Fiction (Scribner, 1999), a work which won the Edgar Award for Criticism from Mystery Writers of America in 1999.
Corrigan investigates what makes F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby so captivating and influential, through archives, high school classrooms, and even out onto the Long Island Sound, to explore the novel's hidden depths, a journey whose revelations include Gatsby's surprising debt to hard-boiled crime fiction, its rocky path to recognition as a "classic," and its profound commentaries on the national themes of race, class, and gender. With rigor, wit, and infectious enthusiasm, Corrigan inspires us to re-experience the greatness of Gatsby.
Corrigan pinpoints restlessness as a quintessential American quality, one she perceives in Fitzgerald’s knowing depiction of New York City, the great mecca for dreamers with its promise of freedom, new identities, success, and “unsentimental sex.” She explains why she considers The Great Gatsby to be “America’s greatest novel about class” as well as the vanquishing of God and the worship of idols in the aftermath of World War I, the fantasy that one can truly reinvent one’s self, the grandeur of longing, and the spell of illusion.
Corrigan has written a literary memoir, Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, first published in 2005, which reviews the books that most influenced her personally, belonging in the main to three non-canonical genres – female extreme-adventure tales (narratives recounting "private tests of endurance" in women's lives), hard-boiled detective novels, and Catholic-martyr narratives. The main focus of the book however is on the first, extreme adventure tales, and Corrigan makes the observation that narratives themed around female suffering are today breaking with a millennia-old tradition. Where women used to suffer in silence, all the while plotting under a surface of stillness – like Penelope in Homer's Odyssey, who has to put up for years with unwanted suitors – in more recent narratives women begin to act: they talk back, and fight.
Corrigan lives in Washington, DC with her husband and daughter.Maureen Corrigan (9 September 2014). So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures. Little, Brown and Company Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-316-23007-0.
Maureen Corrigan (2 January 2007). Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-375-70903-6.
Robin W. Winks; Maureen Corrigan (12 February 2010). Mystery & Suspense Writers. Gale Virtual Reference Library. ISBN 978-0-684-31661-1.