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Irish Literature

ENGL 063.001
TR 1:30-3

Irish theater critic Stephen Gwynn said of W. B. Yeats's play Cathleen ni Houlihan, "I went home asking myself if such plays should be produced unless one was prepared for people to go out to shoot and be shot." His comment proved prophetic: many of the Irish men and women who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising spoke of Yeats's play as their inspiration. As this anecdote suggests, writing and politics have been--and still are--closely and explicitly intertwined in Ireland. In this course, we will look not only at the literary and political responses to Ireland's history of British colonial rule, but also the challenges to the politics of the Irish State articulated by contemporary writers. We will explore a variety of genres, including essays, poetry, film, and pop music; and we will examine works by a range of authors and artists, including W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, Patrick Pearse, Sean O'Casey, J. M. Synge, Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, Seamus Heaney, U2, and Sinead O'Connor. No prior knowledge of Irish history is expected; short historical essays will be included in the readings. Course requirements include in-class participation, three short papers and a final exam.

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