Courses

Notre Dame students practicing Irish dances.

All of the courses listed on this page count towards Notre Dame’s Global Engagement Certificate. For more information, visit the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures website

To view complete course descriptions for the current or the upcoming semester, see the class search page on registrar.nd.edu.

Students with no prior experience can enroll directly into beginning level language courses.  Students continuing their study of Irish should contact Professor Mary O'Callaghan mocalla2@nd.edu  to schedule an oral assessment followed by a written placement exam. 

 

 

Irish Language Courses

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 expands on the reading skills that students have acquired in their first five semesters of Irish.

Sample Irish Literature and Culture (IRLL) Courses

Irish Literature and the Politics of Language

This course explores the cultural politics of the Irish language from the sixteenth century to the present. Irish is an official state language of the Republic of Ireland and an official language of the European Union but it is also a minority language within its own country. How does a situation like that come about and how do people react to it? Through reading a variety of fictional and non-fictional texts of different genres, we will examine these questions and the manner in which they shape aspects of literature produced both in Irish and in English. All materials will be read in English.

While Irish forms the focus of this course, the issues and debates affecting the language may be applied to similar contexts throughout Europe and the world. The United Nations judges that some 50% or so of the world's languages are currently “endangered” to varying degrees, that is, in danger of dying out or somehow under threat. Therefore, we will also look at the position of Irish today within this global context.

Introduction to Irish Folklore

This course will discuss the 19th century concept of folklore and its application to Ireland, where it was largely framed by the cultural nationalist Gaelic Revival. Irish folklore has conventionally been understood in terms of three main and related domains: oral narrative, ideologically the most important, folk custom and belief, and folk life, in practice most often the documentation of material folk culture. Each of these will be examined and problematized in turn.

Sex and Power in Irish Literature: From Warrior Queens to Punk Poets

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).

The Hidden Ireland

The Ulster Princes, Hugh O'Neill and Rory O'Donnell, left Ireland for the continent on 14 September 1607, unknown to the Dublin authorities, and without seeking the necessary permission from James I. O'Neill's secretary, Tadhg Ó Cianáin, took notes during their travels and wrote them up into a coherent narrative in Rome sometime during 1609. Nollaig Ó Muraíle, the latest editor of the text, divides it into eight sections:

  1. Over the Sea to France
  2. Sojourn in Flanders
  3. Southwards over the Alps
  4. Into—Italy from Como to Loreto
  5. Pilgrimage to Loreto
  6. Rome—the End of the Road
  7. Visiting the Great Roman Churches
  8. Death in Rome and other happenings

We will follow Ó Muraíle's subdivisions, concentrating on some more than others. The sojourn in Flanders deserves particular attention because it was in the Spanish Netherlands that the Ulster princes first encountered the Pietas Austriaca fostered by the Hapsburg dynasty. According to Anna Coreth, the significance of this term was based on 'the conviction that God had given the house of Austria a certain mission for the empire and the church, because of the religious merits of its ancestors, or, more particularly, of the great ancestor, Rudolf of Hapsburg. The same piety became a holy binding heritage, which had to be faithfully followed and constantly renewed as the destiny of the house depended on it.' O' Neill's encounter with this particular dimension of the Arch-Dukes' rule, particularly at the Shrine of Hal, enabled him to develop his self-image as a godly prince of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and consequently deserving of military aid from both the Hapsburgs and the papacy. It is highly unlikely that the Irish party would have gone out of their way to visit the Marian shrine of Loreto, were it not for the importance of this shrine in the Archdukes' spirituality. When the Ulster princes reached Rome, their encounter with the pietas austriaca had morphed into a pietas ulidiana or Ulster piety. Despite an initial welcome by the papacy and the Spanish ambassador, King Philip of Spain had no intention of allowing O'Neill to go to Madrid and thus put the treaty of London, signed between England and Spain in 1604, into jeopardy. Retaining him in Rome with the pope's consent, however, meant that O'Neill could prove a useful trump card should hostilities be resumed between Spain and England. This is the context against which we will read Ó Cianáin's narrative. While an observer as astute as Tomás Ó Fiaich described Ó Cianáin's reaction to the splendours of Baroque Europe as that of a country boy seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time, our investigation of the text will reveal that it is, on the contrary, a most sophisticated and nuanced work of art.

Cultural Anthropology of Ireland

This course gives a historical overview of the development of cultural anthropology in Ireland. Beginning with early travelers' accounts and official inquiries and surveys, it moves to the development of antiquarian interest in Irish archaeology, history, language and culture. In the nineteenth century, the burgeoning interest in what would be called folklore converged with the project of a national literature, and from the end of the century, the first evolutionist anthropological studies appear. With the work of the Harvard anthropologists Arensberg and Kimball in the 1930s, the cultural anthropology of Ireland properly began, and the course looks at the key topics and themes of research since then and outlines the major ethnographic collections in the country.

Travels to Medieval Holy Lands, Otherworlds and New Worlds

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 books pages or listening to a tales? 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 (De locis sanctis).

Ireland on Screen

This course will examine and analyze representations of Ireland in film from the Silent era through Hollywood film to the contemporary independent indigenous cinema of today. It will trace the representation of the rural and the urban through the varying utopian/dystopian lenses of filmmakers 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.

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 perspective 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. Wordplay. 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.

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.

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.

Storied Landscapes: From Ireland to Chicago

Storytelling allows us to make a place, and a past, come alive, and it is through narrative that certain people, locations, and experiences lodge themselves in our memories. How, and why, do we reshape our own environment to convey certain stories about our past, our accomplishments, and our collective experiences? Why is it that road-trips loom so large in American cultural memory, and what do they have in common with other placelore stories, such as those featuring Native Americans, Irish saints and TV characters like Northern Ireland’s “Derry Girls”? How can words, sounds and imagery be used to map out and draw us into new and often fantastic virtual geographies? In this class, we will think about how stories gain power by being anchored in evocative depictions of specific places, both real and imagined. We will examine verbal and visual stories, from medieval manuscripts like the Book of Kells and tales of St. Patrick’s travels around Ireland, to contemporary animation (Song of the Sea), murals from Northern Ireland, place-based television series (Derry Girls) and Chicago-based road-trip films (The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). We will contemplate how icons of ancient Ireland were used to create new spaces in Chicago, and we’ll look at the massive 1893 World’s Fair that put a newly rebuilt Chicago on the world map, as well as dramatic histories of Chicago and some of its murderous inhabitants (Devil in the White City). We will also turn to regional storytelling traditions and will study songs and stories about “home” composed by those who experienced diaspora and migration.

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.

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.

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.

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

Other Irish Studies (IRST) Courses

The Harlem and Irish Renaissances

The period 1880–1940 was time for a cultural intensity and literary flowering in Ireland and in the United States. Having endured centuries of slavery and the struggle for abolition, African-Americans began migrating to the North in great numbers where many discovered shared common experiences in their past histories and uncertain present. The recently dispossessed past ignited an explosion of cultural pride to an extent that African American culture was reborn in the "Harlem Renaissance." In Ireland, the post-famine Irish rejected cultural assimilation and Anglicization, and embarked on a project of cultural, literary and linguistic exploration and discussion. In both countries, intellectuals raised issues of identify and definition; public figures discussed heritage, nationality. Through literature, music, theatre, and the visual arts, the 'New Negroes' and the 'Irish-Irish' faced the twentieth-century's opportunities and challenges and took control of how they were presented and perceived. This course explores these key issues as played out in the Dublin and Harlem renaissances through the lens of literature, language and culture. Authors to be read and discussed, include: Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Douglas Hyde, PH Pearse, Lady Gregory, JM Synge, WB Yeats, Liam O’Flaherty and Tomás Ó Criomhthain.

The Making of Modern Ireland

This course offers a chronological survey of Ireland and the Irish from the Act of Union with Great Britain to the present day. It will consider the social, political, religious, gendered, cultural and economic aspects of that history, and will place the island of Ireland within its wider contexts, as part of the United Kingdom, as part of Europe, as part of the British Empire, and as the source of the global Irish Diaspora. The course will focus on a number of central issues, including: how enduring sectarian divisions have influenced the development of Irish history; the Famine, mass emigration, and the rise of the Diaspora; the development and course of both Ulster and Southern unionism, and of Irish nationalism; the relationship of Ireland and the Irish to the British Empire and the wider Anglo-world; the Irish revolution, counter-revolution, and partition; the development of the Irish Free State, and Republic of Ireland; the history of Northern Ireland, the Troubles, and the peace process; the collapse of the "Celtic Tiger".

Gender Troubles: Gender and Sexuality in Irish Fiction after Joyce

In this course we will look at the relationship between gender politics and national politics as it plays out in the development of Irish fiction after the era of James Joyce. Focusing on Irish novels and short stories which were groundbreaking and/or controversial in terms of their exploration of gender and sexuality, the course will also investigate the historical contexts in which they were produced and the controversies they produced. Our investigation will focus on the question of how the 'trouble' generated around these controversial explorations of gender and sexuality relates to other kinds of trouble that have shaped the history of twentieth century Ireland. We will begin with the reaction against government censorship in the Irish Free State during the 1930s and 1940s, follow the emergence of Irish women writers and Irish feminism from the 1950s to the 1980s, and conclude with the rise of openly LGBT Irish writers in the 1990s and early twenty-first century. Students will write two essays and participate in one in-class presentation.

Narrative and Sexuality

How do you tell a story that is supposed to be unspeakable? In this course, we will investigate the ways in which LGBTQ writers have transformed narrative conventions as they explore their experiences and their identities through fiction. Beginning with Oscar Wilde's 1890 The Picture of Dorian Gray and continuing through the modern and postwar eras into the twenty-first century, we will look at LGBTQ British and American writers whose work engaged with or dramatically departed from the dominant conventions that typically shaped fictions of identity formation, of love and marriage, of sexual experience, of political protest, and of death and loss. We will also investigate important moments in queer history, and the changing conceptions of gender, sexuality, and identity that have shaped both the realities and the fictions of LGBTQ writers over the past hundred and thirty years.

Early Modern Ireland

The period of the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries represents the onset and consolidation of English (later British) colonial rule in Ireland and sees the breakdown of the old Gaelic social and political orders. This course will examine how the Irish-speaking world reacts to this trauma by focusing on the evolution and development of some key ideas: those of heritage, nationhood, civility and freedom. These concepts will be examined within their historical and literary contexts, Irish, British, European and American. We will closely examine original texts written in Irish, English and Latin especially, from the perspective of both English colonizer and Irish colonized. All materials will be read in English translation.

Archaeology of Ireland

This course examines the cultural and historical trajectory of the archaeology of Ireland through a series of richly illustrated lectures, organized chronologically, that trace cultural, social, and technological developments from the Neolithic through the Viking period. Integrated with this lecture series, and running concurrently on alternate days, will be a series of seminar and discussion classes focused upon a number of anthropological and archaeological issues related to each of these periods of time. This includes the emergence of the unique systems of communities, and the development of systems of metallurgy in the Iron Age. Other classes will touch upon the topics of regionalism, identity and contact at different periods of time; mortuary practices and ritual; and discussion of village life in ring forts during the Bronze Age.

The Black and Green Atlantic

In the eighteenth century, parallels were drawn between the enslavement of African Americans and the marginalization of Irish Catholics in Ireland. Belfast newspaper the Northern Star published, William Cowper's "The Negroe's Complaint," and Thomas Day and John Bicknell's "The Dying Negro," manufactured, propagandistic anti-slavery poems in an attempt to draw sympathy for enslaved African Americans and to also suggest that the Irish were metaphorically "slaves" in their own country. The practice of depicting the Irish and African Americans as equivalent or in comparison with each other continued throughout the nineteenth century, even after the end of the American Civil War. An illustration commenting on the travesty of the African American and Irish American vote was published in Harper's Weekly December 1876. Captioned "The Ignorant Vote-Honors Are Easy," by Thomas Nast, the cover is a good visual illustration in regards to how Irish Americans and African Americans were perceived in post-bellum America. By the beginning of the twentieth century, competition for jobs and the steady Irish climb into whiteness distanced Irish Americans and African Americans, but that did not stop black American writers from frequently making a case for Irish "freedom;" highlighting how the Irish struggle for civil rights in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland had been akin to the post-slavery African American quest for civil rights in the United States. And by the mid-twentieth century, African American forms and the African diaspora were influencing on how political activists in Northern Ireland approached the civil rights struggle there. In this course we will explore African American and Irish texts. We will examine how black and Irish artists have gestured towards each other in literature, film, and music. Our goal is to concentrate on how these two cultures have intersected - their shared experiences - while also focusing on important differences between the two cultures. We will examine a broad range of texts, from the eighteenth century to the present, in order to determine the way in which the Irish and African Americans have been racialized. Our ultimate goal is to have a better grasp of the racialization processes in the transnational context.

Gender and Irish Drama

In this course, we will examine the relationship between national and sexual politics through our study of gender and twentieth-century Irish drama. Beginning with the first controversies surrounding the representation of women on the Irish stage at the beginning of the twentieth century, we will study representations of gender and sexuality in the major canonical figures of the Irish renaissance--W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Sean O'Casey--while investigating lesser-known female and queer Irish playwrights from that time such as Lady Augusta Gregory, Lennox Robinson, and Teresa Deevy. We will also look at how the treatment of gender and sexuality changes in the work of postwar and contemporary Irish playwrights, including Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Brian Friel, Anne Devlin, Frank McGuinness, and Marina Carr. Along with the plays we will study their historical and cultural context and the sometimes quite vehement responses that these plays evoked in their audiences. Students will write three papers and do one in-class presentation.

Yeats and HeaneyA study of the evolving poetic careers of the two most famous Irish poets of the early and late 20th century respectively, W. B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney. Emphasis will be on collective close reading rather than historical or political contexts. Reading load is an average of 50pgs per week, but requires intense preparation. In-class presentations also required.
Irish Hands that Built America

This class provides an educational and entertaining reconfiguration of the historical spread and cultural importance of the Irish as part of the 2st-century transnational world. Based on comparative perspectives with other emigrations, such as people from 19th century Italy and Germany into the New World, our study of the Irish helps students to understand the human narrative of resettlement, the national and global policies of settlement and resettlement, and the global impact of the spread of the Irish into many areas of the world. Based on lectures, films and presentations, we explore some fundamental historical questions, such as how are the Irish Famine, emigration, and economic developments of the 18-20th centuries interconnected, and how did the Irish diaspora shape the historical and cultural trajectory of America. We explore a range of themes relevant to other large-scale population migrations, such as the impact of the Irish spread on trans-Atlantic social memory and global economies across time and space.

British and Irish Ballads: Poetry and Popular Song in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The ballad is, alongside the lyric, one of the major poetic traditions of world literature. Precisely what a ballad is, however, remains a remarkably vexed question. This is in part because ballads fall inconveniently between disciplines – literature, music, book history, folklore, cultural studies – so that the study of ballads requires a broad interdisciplinary approach. For the literary scholar “ballad” is often used to mean a narrative poem, but this definition does not do justice to a vastly more complex history. Often there is no known author; only occasionally do we have any idea when a ballad was written; even when we know the name of the printer, we cannot be sure the print we have is the earliest printing. Moreover, the printed life of ballads—often cheap slip songs known as broadside ballads—only represents only one part of their existence: they need also to be understood as performance texts that straddle the world of orality and print, and which move dynamically through time, evolving as they travel. Rather than seeing these challenges as hurdles to our understanding, this class will explore the possibilities that the ballad opens up for reconsidering our approaches to the study of literature. In this seminar students will learn about the fascinating history of the popular ballad, and how it gave shape to English literature as a discipline; they will engage with Hesburgh Library’s Irish Ballad Collection, which provides a fascinating glimpse into popular street song from the nineteenth century in Britain and Ireland. Through these materials students will learn about the history of the ballad, the mentalities of ordinary people in living in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the vexed relationship between lyric poetry and popular song, and the economics of poetry production. Students should come prepared to discuss controversial subjects, to have their ideas about what constitutes literature challenged; and, above all, they should be willing to listen, learn, and sing together.

Tudor England: Politics and Honor

The period from 1485 to 1603, often feted as something of a 'Golden Age' for England, saw that country undergo serious changes that challenged the traditional ways in which the nation conceived of itself. These included the break from Rome, the loss of England's foothold in France, and the unprecedented experience of monarchical rule by women. Each of these challenges demanded creative political responses and apologetic strategies harnessing intellectual resources from classical, Biblical, legal, chivalric and ecclesiastical sources. This course will examine these developments. It will also look at how the English, emerging from under the shadow of the internecine dynastic warfare of the fifteenth century, sought to preserve political stability and ensure a balance between continuity and change, and, furthermore, how individuals could use these unique circumstances to their own advantage.