Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Troubles in Irish Literature

ENGL 058.920
TR 5:30-8:40

For such a small country with a rather downtrodden history, Ireland has produced some of the greatest authors in the world, boasting a literary heritage that is almost unrivalled.  And yet throughout much of the twentieth century, the notion of “troubles” has characterized Irish history.  In this class we will study a range of Irish and Anglo-Irish literary, musical, and cinematic texts that engage various notions of “troubles”—troubles in history, troubles in language, troubles in film, and troubles in love.  The two-part question that will guide our class will be: What constitutes “troubles” and what constitutes “Irish”?  To answer this question we will study various periods in Irish history: Viking Dublin, Elizabethan colonialism, 18th-century economic tensions, the Celtic Revival, the IRA years, and the country’s most recent period of economic prosperity known as the Celtic Tiger.  Accordingly, we will study in a variety of genres: poetry by Yeats, Kavanagh, and Heaney; political tracts by Swift and Spenser; plays by J.M. Synge and Brian Friel; short stories by Joyce and Elizabeth Bowen; films such as The Crying Game and Once; and popular music from artists such as The Divine Comedy, Dead Can Dance, Damien Rice, U2, Sinéad O’Connor, and The Pogues.  We’ll learn that Ireland is a nation of both great sadness and great hope.

Fulfills Distributional Course in Arts & Letters (for students admitted before Fall 2006)