Irish Lit
Honors Proseminar:
Twentieth-Century Irish Literature and Culture

1017 Wescoe Hall, TR 1-2:15
Fall 2009

last updated 11-10-09

Course website:
Blackboard component:

Professor Kathryn Conrad
Office hours:  3043 Wescoe, Wednesdays 1:30-3:30 pm
Office phone: 4-2572
E-mail (best way to reach me): kconrad at

Skip directly to [Texts, Requirements, & Resources] [Plagiarism Statement] [Reading and Assignment Schedule]


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 contemporary Irish politics and culture articulated by contemporary writers. We will explore a variety of genres and artists, including some music, visual art, and film. 

Our basic goals for the course will be to think critically about the relationship among Irish and Northern Irish literature, history, politics, and culture; to examine the relationship between writing and the wider culture; to think about the significance of different forms and genres; and to practice research and writing skills in preparation for the Honors English thesis and beyond.       

Course texts:

Enrollment (from University timetable) :

The Department of English reserves the right to terminate administratively the enrollment of any student who misses two consecutive class meetings during the first two weeks of the semester. Should an emergency situation cause the student to miss two consecutive class meetings, the student should contact the instructor(s) or the English Department, 864-4520, immediately. Students are expected to submit promptly requests to drop should they decide to disenroll from English classes.


Attendance will be taken in this course.  If you are in doubt about what constitutes an excused absence, ask me. The rest of your participation grade includes in-class and blog participation.  Students are required to have a registered e-mail account and to access the course website for updated information, assignments, and discussion blogs, available on the Blackboard site.
There will be two main assignments for the course:  the annotated bibliography (25%), which will be due September 29, and the research paper (50%), which consists of the research plan (due October 29), and the paper and bibliography (due November 24).
In this course we will be using the new +/- grading scale, approved by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences t
o describe intermediate levels of performance between a maximum of A and a minimum of F.  Intermediate grades represented by plus or minus shall be calculated as .3 units above or below the corresponding letter grade.

Other resources:
Plagiarism is stealing and passing off someone else's ideas or words as one's own or using information from another's work without crediting the source. Any detected cheating offense--including but not limited to plagiarism; the unauthorized use of crib sheets, texts, or other materials during an examination or quiz; the copying of another student's work (even with the permission or aid of that student, who is thereby culpable); the use of prewritten essays (the student's own or someone else's); the uncredited adoption of another writer's interpretation of a work; or the unauthorized use of work written for another assignment or class--will be reported to the University. A record of each verified offense will be kept throughout the student's association with the University (Adopted from FSE statement).

Plagiarism is not a game, nor is it simply a "shortcut" when time presses.  It is a very serious form of academic misconduct and will be treated as such in this class. When you consult outside sources for ideas--through published or unpublished essays, interviews, the Internet, conversation, etc.--you must cite those sources in your work. I understand that academic work can be daunting: if you are struggling with an assignment, are unclear about my expectations, or are behind on your work, please consult me. There is always a better path than plagiarism; I can work with you to help you find your own voice while incorporating others' ideas appropriately. If after reading the statement above, you are still unclear about what constitutes  plagiarism, ask me BEFORE turning in an assignment.

A plagiarized  assignment will result in failure of the assignment (no credit given); it also impacts your larger course grade more than a paper that merely receives an F, and will usually result in failure of the course. The Department of English has a zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism. Formal records are currently kept by the Department of English and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I may also send a copy of the plagiarism form to the home department of any student who is found to have plagiarized.

Reading and Assignment Schedule
This schedule is subject--and likely--to change; check this site for current syllabus, where changes will eventually be reflected.  The best way to know what we're doing is to be in class and write down all changes. All assignments are required unless specified as "recommended." Bracketed items will be presented in class and require no preparation. Italicized items are presented for your information.  Online items, whenever possible, should be printed out and brought to class. Required blog postings are listed; there will also be an open blog for comments, discussions, and questions.
IW:  Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century, ed. Pierce.

Go directly to... [September] [October] [November] [December]

Lady Gregory, Gregory, Spreading the News (play, IW, 118).
More background to the Irish literary renaissance:
Arnold, On Celtic Literature excerpt,
Hyde, "The Necessity for De-Anglicizing Ireland" (essay, IW, 2)
D.P. Moran, "The Battle of Two Civilizations" (essay, IW, 32).

Yeats, "The Literary Movement in Ireland" (essay, IW, 38)
George Russell (AE), "Nationality or Cosmopolitanism"?" (essay, IW, 44).
Anon., "Lecture by Mr. W.B. Yeats" (essay, IW, 49).
John Eglinton, "The De-Davisization of Irish Literature" (essay, IW, 70).

Blog posting before 9/1: post your guess at why there were riots at the first performances of Playboy.

Visions and Revisions: Joyce's Dubliners
Joyce: "The Sisters."
Different views of Joyce:  Stanislaus (his brother), & Brian O'Nolan (Flann O'Brien), IW 609-618
Annotated bibliography due. Be prepared to share the details of the piece you found most interesting.

Visions and Revisions
Joyce:  "A Mother," "A Little Cloud," "Counterparts."  (Yes, I know we won't get through them all.)

Visions and Revisions
Joyce, "Ivy Day in the Committee Room."

Language and representation
Douglas Hyde, "The Necessity for De-Anglicizing Ireland" (essay, IW, 2-11)
Nuala ní Dhomhnaill, "Ceist na Teangan/ The Language Issue" (poem, IW, 1164); "Why I Choose to Write in Irish, The Corpse That Sits Up and Talks Back" (essay, online, Blackboard).
ní Dhomhnaill, "As for the Quince"
Ian Duhig, "From the Irish" (poem, IW, 1174)
Blog posting due.

Northern Ireland
[Northern Ireland lecture, in class]
Murals and photos, online at and
Chronology of events surrounding the Derry March (1968), online at
Chronology of events surrounding 'Bloody Sunday' (1972), online at
Browse the CAIN website,, especially "Key Issues."  If the acronyms or terminology overwhelm you, the glossary at and acronyms dictionary at will help.
Maps at and

Northern Ireland
Mary Beckett, "A Belfast Woman."

Northern Ireland
Ciaran Carson, "Belfast Confetti" (poem, IW, 1063); "Brickle Bridge" (essay, IW, 1155)
Anne Devlin, "Naming the Names"
(online, Blackboard)
Northern Ireland
Muldoon, Heaney, Anderson poems (online, Blackboard)
Discussion of possible final examination questions.

Northern Ireland: popular visions
"Unfinished Revolution," Peter Cadle/Christy Moore (online:
"Alternative Ulster," Stiff Little Fingers (, or, to print out, probably

Final examination as scheduled.