ENGL 226
Irish Revivals Fall 2009
Division I Writing Skills
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Class Details

This course will focus on Irish literature of the last two centuries as a case study in the way history, culture and politics interact in the formation of a distinctive literary tradition. We will begin with an overview of the literature of the Gaelic and early colonial periods, and briefly consider texts from the Irish Revival of c.1800-1830, during which the problems of Irish cultural self-definition in a colonial context–the effort to assert “Irishness” as an identity distinct from Englishness–became sharply outlined. Our principal focus, though, will be on the Irish Renaissance of c.1890-1925, during which Irish writing in the English language became firmly established as a canon clearly separate from the English tradition, and writers such as Yeats and Joyce achieved international renown. Readings will include drama, poetry, fiction and non-fiction prose by Yeats, Synge, Joyce, George Moore, Somerville and Ross, George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, Sean O’Casey and others. We will foreground key fault-lines of the period-competing visions of “authentic” Irish identity; debate over the propriety of writing in English, drawing on English literary traditions, or seeking a non-Irish audience; the work of “self-exiles” such as Shaw and Joyce, versus that of writers who stayed in Ireland; and the long-entrenched ideological and political tensions between Catholics and Protestants, and landowners and tenants–all the while considering the functions and efficacy of literature itself in promoting cultural and/or political change. The course will conclude by considering the extraordinary current vitality of Irish literary culture, with readings of work by Brendan Behan, Seamus Heaney and discussion of Neil Jordan’s film “The Crying Game.” Key considerations here will be the ways traditional notions of Irish Nationalism and national identity have been revised or abandoned under the impact of independence, economic prosperity, contemporary sexual politics and other forms of recent cultural change.
The Class: Format: discussion/seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1639
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four papers (3-4 pages for the first, rising to 6-8 pages for the last), several short journal-style writing assignments; active participation in discussions
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students, sophomores, and English majors who have not yet taken a Gateway course
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses

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