Modern Ireland commands an unusual place of honor in world literature, punching far above its weight. Home to four Nobel prize-winning writers (and the greatest English-language writer never to win the Nobel, James Joyce), Ireland stands out because the literary imagination has played such a central role in its social history and because Irish artists have played such a central role in defining new forms, genres, and styles of creative expression in English for the last hundred years. Even now, Irish materials are at the center of some of the best writing of our century, including chilling reportage (Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing), the Gen Z literary romance (Sally Rooney’s Normal People and its Hulu serial adaptation), the experimental political novel (Anna Burns’s Milkman), and the book that launched the memoir boom, Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes – all of which we will read together. And that is to say nothing of film and drama, both of which have unusually strong and fascinating traditions in Irish culture.
The class will survey modern Irish writing starting with the Celtic Revivals of the early 1900s and running all the way to 2020. We will explore distinctive Irish themes such as beauty and violence, language and territory, sexuality and citizenship, famine and excess, gender and tradition, colonial domination and national revolt. Readings and lectures will provide historical background and social contexts for the following main texts: Bram Stoker's Dracula, J.M. Synge'sPlayboy of the Western World, James Joyce's Dubliners, and Anne Enright's The Gathering. In addition, we will consider poetry, short fiction, and plays by Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Nuala Ní Dhomnaill, Marina Carr, and Conor McPherson, as well as a small cluster of memorable films.
Written requirements will include weekly quizzes, an informal reading journal, two essays (1500 words each), and a take-home final exam.