Course Descriptions

 Beginning Irish I

No prior knowledge of the Irish language required. This course provides an enjoyable introduction to modern Irish. Energetic teachers in small classes teach basic language skills and prepare students to conduct conversations and read authentic texts. Extensive use is made of role-play and interactive teaching methods. Irish 10101 is a superb opportunity to learn a new language, explore Irish/Celtic culture, and investigate the linguistic politics of the only minority language offered at Notre Dame. In addition to satisfying the language requirement of the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science, Irish satisfies the popular Irish Studies minor's requirements, and selected students will have an opportunity to study in Dublin, Ireland.

Beginning Irish II

Second semester of instruction in the Irish language. More emphasis will be placed on reading simple texts in Irish.

Intermediate Irish I

This course follows on IRLL 10101 and 10102 with attention to more advanced grammatical structures, speaking and reading.  You will hone your linguistic skills and also delve into some short twentieth-century texts in Irish.  In addition, you will learn something about Irish culture and music.  Prerequisites: you must have passed 10101 and 10102 to enroll.

Advanced Irish I

 This course builds on the reading skills that students have acquired in their first four semesters of Irish. The course will be based on the reading of selected short stories from both Gearrscéalta an Chéid and Gearrscéalta ár Linne. The aim is for students to be proficient in reading at advanced level C1 of "Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge" (The European Certificate of Irish Language).

 Advanced Irish II             

This course builds on the work of Advanced Irish I. It builds on the reading skills that students have acquired in their first five semesters of Irish.

Warrior Queens to Punk Poets: Women's Voices in Irish Literature
This class looks at the masterworks of Irish tradition and their twentieth-century comic (and not-so-comic) revisions, paying particular attention to how they engage with questions of gender. We ask both how women are represented by others and how they choose to answer back. Of particular interest are verbal performance by “women” - that is, compositions by known women poets, storytellers and singers AND works purporting to be by women or adopting the voice or perspective of women...which turn out to be some of the most significant and compelling, culturally central and enduring texts in all of Irish literary tradition. We will consider key genres of Irish verbal art in a wide range of compositions from medieval to contemporary. We will be helped along by relevant literary, anthropological and cultural criticism. How do women speak? How do “women” speak? Are these works subversive of our expectations or conservative in their relation to the status quo? How can we acknowledge and deconstruct misogyny not as inevitable but as historically and contextually conditioned and subject to demystifying critique? What vantage can we gain on Irish literary history by asking these historical, theoretical and political questions? How do tradition and the canon look when we view them through a gendered lens? What kind of impersonations might we engage in when we read…and write? Genres considered include courtly love poetry, contemporary feminist verse, oral lament, modern love poetry, bardic verse, storytelling, early modern allegorical poetry, folk song, medieval allegory, and contemporary comic verse, all read in English. Your own work for the course will include papers of literary/cultural analysis, a presentation, and a creative option (if you like).

Modern Irish Classics

This survey course introduces students to a wide range of classic 20th- and 21st century-Irish texts; novels, short stories, plays, poetry and films. We will analyze each text from a cultural, historical and theoretical perceptive and the overall course will familiarize students with the broad strokes of Irish culture and allow them to explore Irish literature in its broader context. 

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling: The Irish Comic Tradition

Fantasy. Humor. Ribaldry. The Macabre. The Grotesque. Wit. Word play. Satire. Parody. This course will read diverse examples of the long and fertile comic tradition in Irish literature (in Irish and in English), from medieval to modern, in order to enjoy a good laugh, get an alternative take on the Irish literary tradition, and think about the politics of humor. Authors will include unknown acerbic medieval scribes, satiric bardic poets, Swift, Merriman, Sheridan, Wilde, and Flann O'Brien. No knowledge of Irish is assumed or necessary. 

Travels to Medieval Lands

One of the most popular genres of medieval literature was the travel tale, and Celtic, Norse and British authors created an exciting range of stories about far-flung, fantastical , and holy or heavenly places, and the experiences of quite normal people in these often really abnormal places. While these texts generally stage transformations, meetings, and confrontations with new peoples, landscapes and ideas at geographically remote sites, the narratives typically lead audience members to reflect on issues of identity and belief that are actually very close to home. Analyzing the role of travel and visits to different worlds across several types of texts (legendary histories and origin accounts, hagiographies, adventure and voyage tales, sagas, pilgrimage accounts, etc.) we will identify several of the universal attributes, styles, compositional goals and motifs found in travel literature. We will also explore the differences between, for instance, secular and sacred travel tales, with particular attention to the role of the audience, the reader who undertakes an imaginative, textual journey by turning a book's pages or listening to a tale's oral performance. Participants will read both primary literary texts (all available in English translation), as well as a number of critical essays. Primary texts (some excerpted) may include but are not limited to Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland), Acallam na Senórach (Colloquy of the Ancients), Navigatio Brendani (Voyage of St. Brendan), Irish immrama (voyage tales), the Prologue to Snorri Sturluson's Gylfaginning (Fooling of Gylfi), the Norse Vínland sagas, Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), the Welsh Mabinogi, the Travels of Sir John Mandeville, and a pilgrimage account (TBD). 

Ireland on Screen

This course will examine and analyze representations of Ireland in film from the Silent era through Hollywood film to the contemporary independant indigenous cinema of today. It will trace the representation of the rural and the urban through the varying utopian/dystopian lenses of film makers from the Kaleb Brothers to John Ford to Jim Sheridan to Lenny Abramson. Films discussed will range from early 20th century silent films to The Quiet Man, Ryan's Daughter, The Commitments, Poitin, The Field, Kings, My Left Foot, Once, Garage, Goldfish Memory and The Guard. 

West of Ireland

This course will interrogate and examine representations of the West of Ireland in various twentieth century texts focusing, in particular on the role of ‘the West of Ireland’ in state formation and legitimization during the early decades of independent Ireland and its role in the construction of an Irish identity. We will look at how images of the West of Ireland were constructed in various utopian or romanticized formulations as well as examining more dystopian versions. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on the visual arts and film as well as on literary texts in both Irish and English. (Irish language texts will be read in translation).

Verbal Arts and Oral Tradition

This course will examine the practice, practitioners and different genres of the verbal arts: the folktale, legends, epic, proverb, riddle, etc., and will look at the different functions of these genres. It will also look at the research traditions devoted to the study of what has been variously termed folk narrative, oral literature, orature, as well as the verbal arts.

Decoding Modernism

 The Modern movement in the arts transformed consciousness and artistic form just as the energies of modernity--scientific, technological, philosophical, political--transformed forever the nature, the speed, the sensation of human life. This course examines this proposition as it pertains to a series of well-known and less well known literary texts. Among the key question in this course are the following: What is modern? How do we think about the modern? How do we express the modern? Why are modernist texts ‘difficult’? How should we approach/read/decode modernist texts? What did it mean to think and write about ‘modern’ life a hundred years ago and how is that different from the present day? Is modernism a question of theme, style or attitude? This course introduces students to Modernism through a careful and detailed examination of literary texts, - novels and short stories - by James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtin Ó Cadhain, Seán Ó Ríordáin and others. No prior knowledge of Modernism required.

Folklore, Literature & Irish National Culture 

The ideological character of the 19th century concept of folklore allowed it to transcend the social category of peasants from whom it was largely recorded. This course will look at the role of folklore in the building of an Irish national culture from the time of the Gaelic Revival. Programmatic texts in Irish and in English by Douglas Hyde, first president of the Gaelic League, and by Séamus Delargy, director of the Irish Folklore Commission, will be discussed. It will also look at a later polemical text of the Gaelic writer Máirtín Ó Cadhain directed at what he perceived as the essentialism of Irish folklorists.

 Senior Thesis II

This course, taken in the spring semester of senior year, will focus on the writing and submission of the thesis. Final copies will be soft bound and submitted in triplicate to the department during the first week of April. The thesis should be between 35 – 40 pages in length. The thesis will be read and graded by the advisor and one other faculty member.

Flann O'Brien's Ireland

This course introduces students to the themes, motifs, approaches and various forms common to the Irish short story as well as the critical debates associated with the genre. We begin with a survey of the literary history and cultural politics of Ireland in the nineteenth and the emergence of the Irish short story and compare it to the American and French story, before considering the relationship between folklore and literature and the origins of the modern short story form. Having discussed various theories of the short story, we proceed to examine the interactive relationship between orality and print culture, tradition and modernity, native and foreign, natural/authentic and artificial/other.  Among the authors we read in detail are: George Moore, P.H. Pearse, James Joyce, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, Liam Ó Flaithearta/Liam O’Flaherty, Seamus Ó Grianna, Seosamh Mac Grianna, Angela Bourke, Samuel Beckett, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, Pádraic Breathnach, Seán Mac Mathúna, Micheál Ó Conghaile, Alan Titley, Dara Ó Conaola and Eilís Ní Dhuibhne. Stories are read primarily as literary texts that shed light on evolving cultural, political and social conditions and provide incisive insights into the Irish literary and cultural tradition. This course is an ideal introduction to literary criticism and cultural studies. No prior knowledge of Irish or Ireland is required. All texts will be available in English.

Great Irish Writers I 

Ireland can lay claim to one of the most extensive, unique, and oldest literatures in Europe. By engaging with a wide range of literary texts from the medieval and early modern periods (ca. 800-1800), participants will consider how changing social, cultural, literary and intellectual contexts, in terms of both authors and audiences, have dramatically transformed Ireland's literature over the centuries. By looking at authors ranging from heroic bards and literary monks to lamenting wives and satirizing schoolmasters, we will examine the dynamics of production and the voices that speak to us from Ireland's past. Additionally, by thinking about the identities of those who have more recently translated and edited the versions of the texts we will read, by questioning the different topics that scholars have chosen to explore, and by articulating our own responses to often arresting works from the Irish literary tradition, we will begin to understand the complexities and rich possibilities inherent in experiencing these literary masterpieces in a time and place very different from medieval or early modern Ireland. Participants will read both primary literary texts, which may include but are not limited to The Táin, stories from Early Irish Myths and Sagas, poems from An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed, Merriman's Midnight Court, as well as a number of critical essays. All materials will be read in English. 

 Folklore;  Populism & Miserabilism in Ethnography

“All ethnography is fiction” contended Edmund Leach, and it is true that ethnography may sometimes demand qualities of imagination in other contexts more typical of literature. While ethnography “at home,” in the work of folklorists especially, was often understood to be a “national science,” documenting and mapping the national culture, ethnographers were not alone in creating representations of the nation. The work of many writers was in part informed by their ethnographic engagement (Ibsen and Yeats, for example, both collected folklore), and literature (as Fredric Jameson has intimated) can itself be an “allegory for the nation.” Romanticism was particularly important here, with its esthetic attempts to rescue tradition from the homogenizing and universalizing logic of the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution. Tradition in this way was often ethnicized or nationalized (as Volksgeist), with the corollary that modernity was seen as a mortal threat to ethnic or national specificity. Populist politics typically evoked the nation that would exist only for the traducement of its elites, hence representing the plebs as the real people (as Ernesto Laclau argues). In these terms the work of many writers and folklorists was implicitly or explicitly populist. But ethnography too could be used to identify the obstacles to political unity and integration, both at the national and the imperial level. This indeed is a well-known part of the history of anthropology, but also of folklore studies. If Romantic folklorists wished to record and preserve folklore in the spirit of cultural relativism, “metropolitan” folklorists saw it through a universalistic lens, strongly influenced by the evolutionism of Tylor’s Primitive Culture (1871) for which it was a “survival” from an earlier era. This course will look at the intersection of folklore, literature and nationalist and colonial politics in 18th, 19th and early 20th century cultural history, using critical works from anthropology, folklore studies, history, literary theory and sociology.

Modern Irish Poetry                                 

This course will use translations into English to chart the development of Irish Language Poetry in the 20th and early 21st century from rather meagre beginnings as an instrument of the language revival movement to become a fully fledged and highly sophisticated art form. The main poets of this period will be richly represented , and some lesser known talents will also be discussed in terms of sociological context. Though taught in English, the course will include detailed close analysis of key texts in the original Irish. This will be useful to students studying Irish, but knowledge of Irish is not mandatory for the course.

Celtic Literature: The Stories of Medieval Ireland and Wales

In this class we will read and analyze a range of poetry and prose composed in medieval Ireland and Wales. The readings (in English translation, but with attention to the original Latin, Irish and Welsh languages – no experience with these languages necessary!) will allow participants to gain insights into the medieval cultural contexts which produced stories as diverse as those of pious saints like Patrick, Brigit and Brendan, warriors like Finn mac Cumhaill, Cú Chulainn and some fierce Welsh giants, shapeshifting poet-prophets like Taliesin and Amairgein, otherworldly women and powerful queens such as Rhiannon and Medb, political leaders such as King Arthur, and humorous and saitirizing social poetic commentators like Dafydd ap Gwilym. At the end of the semester, we will also consider the presence of Celtic literature, myth, and tradition in contemporary pop culture. Requirements will include an exam, multiple writing exercises, oral presentations, and 1-2 longer papers. Will satisfy the Literature Requirement (and the English pre-1800 reqt too, I think!). To be cross-listed with Engl, IRST, MI.


The Songs & Spoken Words of Irish-Speaking Ireland


A seminar on selected specimens from Leabhar Mór na nAmhrán, an edition of 400-plus songs, some of which were composed in Ireland as long ago as in the 17th century and many of which are still well known in Irish-speaking regions of the 20th century.

No previous knowledge of Irish is required, but students taking the course will read broadly across a spectrum encompassing ethnomusicology, history, and sociolinguistics.


Stair na Gaeilge i Meiriceá


Scrúdaíonn an cúrsa seo stair agus cultúr na Gaeilge i Meiriceá Thuaidh le dhá chéad bliain anuas.  Cíorfar taithí agus meon na gcainteoirí Gaeilge a tháinig go Meiriceá roimh, le linn agus i ndiaidh an Ghorta Mhóir agus a ndearcadh i leith na teanga agus úsáid na teanga. Scrúdófar taithí na gceannairí teanga a thug cuairt ar Mheiriceá agus ról na tíre seo in athbheochan na Gaeilge in Éirinn. Pléifear na heagraíochtaí teanga (Cumann Buan-Chosanta na Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael agus Daltaí na Gaeilge); ról na Gaeilge sa chóras oideachas; san meáin chumarsáide; saíocht na lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge sna Stáit; agus an litríocht Ghaeilge – idir fhilíocht agus phrós - a ceapadh agus a cumadh i Meiriceá. Ní foláir don mhac léinn a bheith in ann an Ghaeilge a léamh chun tabhairt faoin gcúrsa léinn seo.


Irish Language & Culture 1600-1900: Anglicization or Modernization?


From the Plantation of Ulster in the early seventeenth century to today the hegemony, and later the survival, of native Irish culture in the Irish language has been challenged by English language culture. This course seeks, by analyzing primary sources in Irish (available to students in translation) in their historical context, to chart this process over time. The course also seeks to ask questions about the extent to which the Irish Catholic population resisted or collaborated in the process of anglicization that took place. Was the 'Sacsa nua darbh ainm Éire' /(New England going by the name of Ireland) culturally alien to the Irish population that resided in it