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.

Civility & Atrocity: Early Modern Irish Encounters, c1540-1640

This course will examine the texts that emerge from the Irish colonial encounter, from its roots in the twelfth century to the complete conquest of Ireland in 1603 and its aftermath. We’ll pay attention to foundational texts that shape how Ireland and the Irish are represented, and we’ll also track the shifts in discourse over the busy sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries by looking at a variety of texts including poetry, memoir, political tract and royal proclamation, originally written in English, Irish (Gaelic) and Latin by Gerald of Wales, Queen Elizabeth I, Edmund Spenser, Henry and Philip Sidney, King James I, Eochaidh Ó hEodhusa, Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn and others, as well as examining historical analysis of the period. In place of “history written by the winners,” our goal will be to restage the sharp ideological battle between those on different sides of the conflict—and to recognize places of connection. Who was civil? Who was savage? Who was moral? What was legal? Whose authority was legitimate and why? Whose versions of history and memory would endure? What patterns of discourse can we discern? What power does rhetoric have and why? As we ask these questions, we will also consider what difference a text’s form makes to its meaning, as well as asking what a text’s “meaning” might mean in practice. As always in the University Seminar, in place of examinations, we will focus deeply on your own writing and argumentation, so that you learn the skills to succeed at Notre Dame and beyond. This class is entirely discussion-based and will ask you to contribute to our growing understanding of the period by arguing from the textual evidence that we will accumulate together. No knowledge of Irish or Latin is assumed or necessary; just bring an open mind and eagerness to dive in.

Modern Literature in Irish - Survey II

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. 

Women's Voices Impersonatiosn of Gender in the Irish Tradition

This class looks at 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. Grasping gender as itself a sort of performance (following the germinal work of Judith Butler), we’ll think about what work women’s voices do in a wide range of compositions from medieval to contemporary, 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. Your own work for the course will include papers of literary/cultural analysis, presentations, and creative writing options. NOTE: no knowledge of Irish (Gaelic) is assumed or necessary; enthusiastic participation is!

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 (Survey 1)

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.