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20th Century Irish Novel

ENGL 058.001
instructor(s):
MW 3:30-5

The twentieth century brought enormous change in Ireland. Departing from a situation of paralysis at the start of the century, tumultuous events were to follow. The 1916 Rising led to the foundation of the Irish State. For several decades this overwhelmingly Catholic society struggled to find economic stability and was dogged by continuing emigration. Since the sixties Ireland has come to terms with the nightmare of its history, shaken off much of its traditional conservatism and gradually emerged as a modern, pluralist European country.

 

The twentieth century Irish novel both stimulates, embodies and comments on these changes. This introductory course will survey a wide range of Irish novelists moving from the early prose of Samuel Beckett through the subversive fiction of Flann O'Brien and the hilarious and biting fantasies of James Stephens and Mervyn Wall. It will examine two modern examples of the so-called "Big-House" novel written by two of this genre's leading exponents, Kate O'Brien and Jennifer Johnston. The issue of post-colonial Irish identity and the problems of Northern Ireland are explored in Briege Duffaud's panoramic and multi-vocal A Wreath upon the Dead and Dermot Healy's plangent A Goat's Song. Questions of gender and the changing role of women in Irish society will be explored in a quartet of novels written over fifty years, from Brian Moore's groundbreaking The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne to Bernard MacLaverty's acclaimed Grace Notes. Questions of family and personal identity will be explored in the works of three of the latest generation of Irish novelists, Keith Ridgway, Mary Morrissey, and Anne Enright.

Students will be expected to read one novel per week for the duration of the course as well as a limited selection of historical, critical and theoretical texts that will be suggested from week to week. They will be expected to write a short essay on at least two novels of their choice and to take a final two-hour examination.