Spring Courses 2006
Cúrsaí An Earraigh 2006
What defines a hero? From the towering strength of Cuchulainn to the miracles of St. Patrick, from the daring exploits of Queen Maeve to the transatlantic voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator, medieval Irish literature is replete with remarkable stories of saints, scholars, and warriors. This class will examine a selection of eighth- and fourteenth-century Irish, Welsh, and Scottish heroic tales, situating them within their historical and geographical contexts. We will also study the ways in which twentieth-century authors like James Joyce and William Butler Yeats incorporate the most famous of these legendary characters into their works. Requirements for this class will include 20 pages of written work over the course of the semester (generally in the form of short responses to the readings), a class presentation, a mid-term and a final exam, as well as consistent and thoughtful participation in class discussion.
Contemporary Irish and Native American Literature
Postcolonial literature often attempts to meld the traditional with the contemporary. Whether this takes the form of an Irish fairy operating a Black and Decker or a Spokane man inheriting a blues guitar possessed by demonic forces, both Irish and Native American literatures have found success with the often comic, frequently discordant, and always interesting combinations of the traditional and the global. In this course, we will explore ways in which both literatures understand themselves through these meldings, all the while keeping an eye on the possibilities this combination suggests in other world literatures. This course addresses the work of Patrick MaCabe, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Sherman Alexie, Colum McCann, Louise Erdrich, and Joy Harjo, among other authors. In addition to texts in the form of novels, poetry and short stories, we will read visual art and films which engage, or are engaged by, these literatures.
Irish Prison Literature
Along with the church, the university and the army, the prison is one of the central institutions in Ireland, and literature has traditionally been the way prisoners protest, resist, and critique their harrowing experiences. In this course we will examine work written by men and women during and after their incarceration, including major literary figures (Brendan Behan and Oscar Wilde), key figures in Irish history (Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa and Tom Clarke), and revolutionary women (Maude Gonne and Kathleen Clarke). Course requirements include response papers, presentations and a research paper.
Irish and American Dance
This course will teach a range of fundamental steps in addition to at least two finished tap dance pieces set to CD music. Several hard show Irish tap dances will be taught and depending on the ability of the students, several other completed dances are possible. The particular range of individual tap pieces learned will permit the student to use these steps and expand on them to fit a wide diversity of music types and rhythms. Although the class is intended for students who have never learned tap previously, both elementary and middle range students have found the class suited to their needs. Tap shoes are a necessity and should be purchased before the class begins. Introductory class for beginners.
Intro to Irish Writers
This course is an introduction to selected Irish writers from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, including Swift, Edgeworth, Stoker, Joyce and Yeats. Along with Irish writing in English, we will also look at several Irish language works in translation. We will read the writers with special attention to Irish history, to Anglo-Irish relations, to the question of Irish identity and identities, to the emergence of nationalism and to the rise of the modern Irish state and the crisis in the north. Since the excitement of the course is in the readings themselves, each student is expected to read the assigned texts and to come to class prepared. Each student is also expected to come to the weekly Friday group not only prepared but prepared to say something intelligent, indeed, to do anything short of public mayhem to contribute to the discussion and to make the group a body unto itself. Each student will also take two tests along with a final, and write a short paper.
Ireland: Famine to Independence
This course explores Irish politics and society from the Great Famine (1845-1849) to the establishment of the independent Irish Free State amidst civil war (1922-23). It examines the causes of the Famine and its legacies of mass emigration, nationalism, and rapid linguistic, devotional, and demographic change; the political and social origins of the 'Land War'; the politics of Parnell and Home Rule; 'New Nationalism' and Ulster Unionism; and the WW I-era 'revolution' that undermined British authority in Ireland and led to the establishment of two new states. Particular attention is given to the 'Irish Revolution' (1913-23): its longer-term origins; how and why the British Government lost legitimacy in Ireland; the nature of revolutionary violence; who joined the IRA and other nationalist organizations; what changed and what remained the same with the achievement of independence. This course explores Irish politics and society from the Great Famine (1845-1849) to the establishment of the independent Irish Free State amidst civil war (1922-23). It examines the causes of the Famine and its legacies of mass emigration, nationalism, and rapid linguistic, devotional, and demographic change; the political and social origins of the 'Land War'; the politics of Parnell and Home Rule; 'New Nationalism' and Ulster Unionism; and the WW I-era 'revolution' that undermined British authority in Ireland and led to the establishment of two new states. Particular attention is given to the 'Irish Revolution' (1913-23): its longer-term origins; how and why the British Government lost legitimacy in Ireland; the nature of revolutionary violence; who joined the IRA and other nationalist organizations; what changed and what remained the same with the achievement of independence.
Late Medieval and Early Modern Ireland
This course is intended as a broad survey of Irish political, cultural and social history in the medieval and early modern periods. Starting with an examination of Gaelic-Irish world prior to the twelfth- century Anglo-Norman invasion, we will emphasize a vibrant and viable society, and its interaction with its neighbors throughout the British Isles. The Anglo-Norman invasion and the Gaelic response will be the next major theme. Norman perceptions of the Irish as “Other” will be studied through the work of Giraldus Cambrensis. The development of a feudal society in the Norman controlled portions and its interaction with Gaelic Ireland and the subsequent development of two interacting societies, Gaelic, and the other, English, yet significantly Gaelicized will receive special attention. The sixteenth-century Tudor conquest will be the next major topic with a focus on the development of colonizing schemes. Elizabethan representations of the Irish will follow, with an emphasis on the work of the poet and settler Edmund Spenser. Seventeenth-century developments including plantations, the rebellion of 1641 and the interaction of languages will be tracked to 1690.
Religious Persecution in Early Modern England and Ireland
This course examines the dynamics of religious persecution in the Early Modern period in England and Ireland. We will look at the experiences and perspectives of both the victims and the perpetrators in these two rapidly evolving and interacting societies. The theories of persecution and resistance will be examined in particular for the period of the reformation. Intolerance and persecution are not new phenomena and what we find when we examine their manifestation in the past that some of the same motivations are exhibited in religious sectarianism and bigotry today. This is a course that calls on us to consider the experiences of mainstream Catholics and Protestants and the authorities involved and to make connections with our present day world.
Modern Irish Drama
In this course, we will study both the drama produced by the playwrights of the Irish literary renaissance--W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Lady Gregory, and Sean O'Casey--and the political struggle for Irish independence that was taking place at the same time. We will read the texts of the plays alongside the reviews they generated and the debates that were taking place at the time in the nationalist press. We will be paying particular attention to the relationship between national and sexual politics, and how representations of gender--and audience responses to them--shaped it. Students will write three papers and produce at least one staged scene. Texts: Eleven Plays by W. B. Yeats. Modern Irish Drama. (Norton anthology.) Ed. John Harrington. The Aran Islands. J. M. Synge. The Complete Plays. J. M. Synge. Plays Two. Sean O'Casey.
Contemporary British and Irish Fiction
This course will introduce students to the contemporary fiction of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, as well as some of the best recent Black British fiction. Some of the authors whose work we will read are: Pat McCabe, Neil Jordan, John Banville, Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, Andrea Levi, Irvine Welsh, James Kelman and Pat Barker. These writers will be read in the context of ‘the Break-up of Britain’ and a concomitant sense of the changes in British and Irish identity in the past twenty years or so. Expect a lot of reading; but also some superb novels. Two twelve-page papers and a presentation.
The Politics of Civil War
This course will explore social scientific explanations for the phenomenon of modern civil wars. It will do so through detailed exploration of individual theories of civil war with a view to testing how they explain a variety of civil wars in the twentieth century. Students will be expected to acquaint themselves with these theories and also with the history of some individual cases. The course will therefore cover both political science and historical materials and students will be expected to write both a theoretical paper and an analysis of one individual case. The course will be assessed through two papers and a general exam.
Gender, Genre, and the Short Story
From detective stories, to ghost stories, from stories of The New Woman to the 'small man,' the modern short story has had an unusual and innovative history of gender representation. In this course we consider the ways in which the short story grapples with modern concerns of exile, sexuality, materialism, violence, and love in representing gender identity. We read such authors as Nikolai Gogol, Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe, Kate Chopin, Mary Lavin, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O'Connor, and Raymond Carver, in order to trace the influence of French and Russian writers on writers from Ireland, England, and the American South. In considering how these representations differ formally from other genres we incorporate theories of modernism, nationalism, feminism, race, class, and genre as we study this unique and experimental literary form. Requirements: Presentations, short response papers, a final exam, and a project paper 7-8 pages in length.
Film, Literature, and Irish Culture
This course will examine some of the dominant images of Ireland in film and literature, and will place their development in a wider cultural and historical context. Comparisons between film, literature and other cultural forms will feature throughout the course, and key stereotypes relating to gender, class and nation will be analyzed, particularly as they bear on images of romantic Ireland and modernity, landscape, the city, religion, violence, family and community. Particular attention will be paid to key figures such as Yeats, Synge, and Joyce, and contemporary writers such as John McGahern, Brian Friel, William Trevor, Patrick McCabe and Roddy Doyle will be discussed in terms of the wider implications of their work for contemporary Irish culture. The resurgence of Irish cinema and new forms of Irish writing in the past two decades will provide the main focus of the second part of the semester, tracing the emergence of new distinctive voices and images in an increasingly globalised and multi-cultural Ireland.
The Poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
This course will focus on the interstices of gender and cultural identity in the work of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Her poetry will be situated within a theoretical framework which draws, inter alia, on recent feminist scholarship. It will address theories of the feminine as well as the specificities of Irish-language literary and oral discourses and their impact on Ní Dhomhnaill’s poetic practice. The course will also address the implications of translation. While texts will be read in English, there will be an opportunity for close textual comparisons with the original Irish-language poems.
The Irish in Their Own Words: Introduction to Medieval and Early-Modern Irish Literature
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the richness and variety of literature produced in the Irish language during the medieval and early modern periods (we will cover primarily the period between approximately 800 and 1700 A.D).The emphasis in the first half of the semester will be on studying the mainly prose saga literature of the medieval period in its various literary, cultural and historical contexts. This will involve both a close reading of the texts themselves in English translation and an examination of the material in the light of recent scholarship in this area. The second half will investigate the literature of the early modern period, in this case largely the poetry. This period is one of cumulative crisis for the Irish and their linguistic and cultural well-being. Students read closely a selection of texts representative of various facets of this crisis and of Irish responses to them in their own language rather than in the English language of their colonisers. All the translations are accompanied by facing original text so that students gain some working knowledge of the Irish language which will assist them in evaluating the translations which they are reading and in appreciating the sensuous beauty of much of this poetry. The material provides interesting contrasts and comparisons for those who have already studied some Anglo-Irish literature and it should also be of interest to students of modern Irish history.
Gender, Politics and the Poetic Tradition in Irish
This course begins with the fundamental feminist assumption that gender matters and that gender is one of the central terms through which people both understand and critique their world. Our particular area of inquiry will be the role of gender in the Irish poetic tradition from the sixteenth-century onwards, something that has only recently begun to receive attention from critics like Angela Bourke, Máirín Nic Eoin, and Bríona Nic Dhiarmada. The class will focus on how gendered representations of masculinity and femininity underwrite political appeals, particularly regarding Ireland's colonial relationship to England. We'll also look at how gender is used to represent and to resist related social changes, like shifting class relations, unstable power relations between men and women, and contested notions of sexuality. We will read a variety of poetic texts, some serious and formal, some funny and popular; genres will include formal bardic poetry, the aisling (or vision poem), oral lament, song poetry, and comic verse. The methodology will be historically informed close reading, meaning that we will read texts closely, rather than generalize abstractly, so that we have a sound basis for our analysis. No knowledge of Irish language is required or necessary, though original texts will be provided alongside translations. This class is discussion-based and will ask for your engaged participation at all times. Students will be responsible for presentations and will write several shorter papers and a longer term paper.