Kilpeck Sheila-na-gig

English 590/History 510/Humanities 530:
Irish Culture

Professors Lisa Bitel (History) and Kathryn Conrad (English)
Spring 2000
11-12:20 TR, 3016 Learned

On this page:
[Texts] [Other resources] [Grading policy] [Office hours] [Lecture and discussion schedule]
LAST UPDATED 5-22-2000

course website:

This course explores enduring themes of Irish history, literature, and art from the Iron Age to the present day, including such concepts and topics as Celtic, Gaelic, and Irish identity; gender; the Famine; and  nationalism.  More specifically, the course focuses on several related questions: How are the myths and legends of Celtic heritage different from the reality of the Irish past?  What is the relationship between myth and reality?  How do versions of the Irish past affect Ireland in the present?  By examining a variety of primary source readings (such as laws, literature, poetry, chronicles, plays), art and artifacts, film, and modern historical writing, we will try together to answer these questions.

Grades for the course will be based on participation, short assignments, writing (including one research paper) and exams (see below).   No previous knowledge of Irish history or literature is expected or required.

In order to provide the widest selection of texts and topics possible, many of the required texts for the course will be online at the course website,; students are responsible for checking the online syllabus regularly for the most up-to-date information.  A selection of online resources is currently available at and will be updated regularly.  In addition, professors will maintain a discussion list on the internet where students and instructors can discuss topics related to the course: <>.  To subscribe, send a message from the e-mail account you would like to use to
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These books are available for purchase (we will be reading entire contents); please note that the books may be listed under any of the three course numbers and either Bitel or Conrad (e.g., HWC 530 Bitel, Hist 510 Conrad):

These books are also available for purchase (but we will read only selections): ALL READINGS ARE ON RESERVE AT WATSON LIBRARY.

Other resources:

Grades consist of four components:
1.  Attendance and participation in discussion.  All readings to be completed by date listed on the syllabus (10%).
 2.  Exams: two in-class exams as listed on the syllabus (15% each) and a final examination (30%).
 3.  Research paper of 8-10 pages on a topic of your choosing related to the course (30%).  You must use at least ONE primary source and ONE secondary source NOT assigned for class reading.  All papers must be typed, double-spaced, and contain proper foot- or endnotes.  A style sheet may be found online:  Topic, bibliography, and  paper outline are due as marked on syllabus.  Paper guidelines:
 4.  Occasional short assignments due in class.  Some of these will be web-based assignments.  These assignments will not be graded, but failure to complete them will result in a lower grade for participation.

Plagiarism is, according to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, "the appropriation or imitation of the language, ideas, and thoughts of another author, and representation of them as one's original work."  Plagiarism on any exam or paper will result in a failing grade on that assignment and possible disciplinary action.

Office hours:


This schedule is very likely to be modified as the semester progresses.  Students are responsible for checking online for the most up-to-date version of the syllabus.

Go directly to February  --  March -- April -- May.

I.  Introduction: Postcolonial Mother Ireland and her Celtic Roots
Jan.  18

II.  Celts
Jan.  20:    Celtic migrations and (pre-)Celtic landscapes
Jan.  25:    Celtic culture and mythologies
Jan. 27:  Continue Celtic culture and mythologies


Assignment: III.  Kings and Saints
Feb. 1:    Kings and kingdoms
Feb.  3:    Conversion and monastic establishment


Web assignment: IV.  Society and Culture
Feb.  8: Conversion and monastic establishment
Feb.  10: Society, family, and economy


Web assignment:

V.  Literature of Retrospect
Feb.  15:  Culture and learning
Feb.  17: Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle-raid of Cooley); Satire of the tradition

Web assignment:

VI.   Invasions
Feb. 22:    More Táin & satire (Scéla Muicce Meic Dathó).  Vikings to the Pale
Feb. 24:    Tudors, Stewarts, Plantations to Cromwell.  Guest lecture:  Peter Mancall.


Web assignment: [Recommended: Check out some sites you & your classmates used to find objects produced in Ireland before 1000:
Cavan County Museum:
Digital Imaging Project:
Archaeology Ireland magazine:
Celtic Art and Cultures course (University of North Carolina):
Clothing of the Ancient Celts:
The Hunt Museum, Limerick:]

Feb.  29: FIRST EXAM

VI.    Survival strategies
Th Mar.  2:    Writing Center director Michelle Eodice.  The Flight of the Earls to Cromwell.
T Mar.  7:    class dismissed early; catch up on reading!
Th Mar. 9:  Penal times to the Union, 1801.  Guest lecture:  Hodgie Bricke.   Brian Merriman, The Midnight Court.


Web/library assignment:

VII.  Rebellion and Famine
T   Mar. 14: O'Connell and Catholic Renewal


Th Mar.  16:    Famine


Web assignment: WEEK OF MARCH 20: SPRING BREAK

T Mar. 28:  Visit to Spencer Research Library to view Irish collections.  Meet in the lobby of the Spencer Library (behind Strong Hall); attendence WILL be taken.

VIII.  Recovery, Renewal and Revolt
Th Mar. 30:    Fenianism, Home Rule, and the Emerging Irish Revival


Web assignment: Recommended:

IX: Cultural Revolution, Emigration
T Apr.  4:  Cultural Revolution:  The Irish Revival, The National Theatre


Th Apr. 6:  Emigration.  Guest lecture:  Kerby Miller.  ALDERSON AUDITORIUM, Kansas Union. Th Apr. 6:  PAPER TOPIC DUE

X:  Revolution once again
T Apr.  11: Writers of the nationalist revolution


Th Apr.  13:     The Easter Rising


               TAKE-HOME EXAM  handed out.

XI: The Irish State
T Apr.  18:    Anglo-Irish War & Civil War.


                      TAKE-HOME EXAM due.

Th Apr. 20:    Divided Island:  the new Republic; Northern Ireland  from Partition to the start of the "Troubles."


Web assignment: T Apr. 25:  Shaping the new Republic: family, nation, and dissent.  Guest lecture:  Ted Wilson.

Web assignment:

XII: Northern Ireland
Th Apr. 27:   National identity and civil rights


Web assignment:

T May 2:   The Peace Process

Readings :

Web assignment:

XIII: The Backward Look:  Conclusion and Review
Th May 4


Th May 4:  PAPER DUE

M May 8:  Take home FINAL EXAM available online (here: & in hardcopy outside Prof. Conrad's office (2035 Wescoe).

Th May 11:  FINAL EXAM DUE by noon, 2120 Wescoe (Women's Studies/Prof. Bitel's office).
M May 22:  Grades are in.  If you would like your paper back, please contact us ASAP.  Thank you and have a great summer.