Irish 225: Modern Irish Poetry

Meets in Vaughn Lit. 201 John Rickard
MWF, 11:00 - 11:52 PM Office: Vaughan Lit. 111
Office Phone: 577-1424
Email: Office Hours: MW 1:30-3:00 PM and by appointment

Course homepage:


Please try to obtain the editions listed below, so that we can all work with the same texts and pagination. If you have a problem obtaining any of these texts, please let me know. Texts are referred to by parenthetical abbreviations in syllabus:

Eavan Boland. Outside History: Selected Poems

Ciaran Carson. Belfast Confetti

Seamus Heaney. Selected Poems, 1966-1987

William Butler Yeats. Selected Poems and Four Plays. Ed. M. L. Rosenthal. (WBY)

And additional short texts on electronic reserves.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Certainly, Irish poetry has been one of the most exciting and influential areas of modern writing, and Irish poets such as W. B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Ciaran Carson have transformed the modern and contemporary poetic landscape. This course will introduce students to modern Irish poetry, in tandem with the fall 1999 Irish focus semester. We will focus on the work of four important Irish poets: W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and Ciaran Carson, as well as a number of other influential writers. Our in-depth study of modern Irish verse will be supplemented by focus semester activities, including visits to campus by the distinguished poets Eavan Boland and Ciaran Carson. Students in this class will receive a thorough introduction to Irish poetry, as well as a general introduction to the study of modern poetry and poetic techniques.

CLASS FORMAT: Although at times I will lecture in order to present background information, class participation in discussion and in other in-class activities is very important and will certainly be part of your grade. I will occasionally ask you to do in-class writing, to work in small groups, or to prepare for class by responding in writing to questions I assign. I expect you to keep up with the reading and to prepare for class; it will be your responsibility to find out what we covered in any classes you missed and whether any extra out-of-class work was assigned. I will often begin class with a short in-class writing that will serve to focus discussion. My expectation for this course is that you keep up with the reading and be prepared for class and for workshops.


This is a provisional syllabus; changes will be discussed and announced in class. We may decide we need to spend more time on some things and less on others. You are responsible for learning of and responding to syllabus changes during the semester.

**This syllabus will be posted at the Irish 225 website at

Date Subject

W Aug 25  Introduction to course

Course objectives, syllabus and policies; lecture on Irish geography and history F Aug 27   Backgrounds: History and Myth

M Aug 30  Backgrounds: Prosody, Poetic Tradition, Introduction to Yeats

W Sep 1 Yeats?Introduction

READ: Skim WBY, Introduction, and read carefully 1-19, esp. "The Stolen Child," "Down by the Salley Gardens," "Fergus and the Druid," "Lake Isle of Innisfree," "When You are Old," "Who Goes with Fergus," and "To Ireland in the Coming Times" F Sep 3 Yeats?The Celtic Twilight READ: WBY, 20-52, esp. "The Hosting of the Sidhe," "The Song of Wandering Aengus," "The Folly of Being Comforted," "Adam's Curse," "No Second Troy," "The Fascination of What's Difficult," "The Mask," "The Magi," "The Dolls," "A Coat," and "The Wild Swans at Coole" M Sep 6 Yeats and Nationalism READ: "September 1913," "Paudeen," and "The People" and "Easter, 1916," "1919," and "Meditations in Time of Civil War" W Sep 8 Yeats in Purgatory READ: WBY, "Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop," "Parnell's Funeral" and "Church and State," and "The Great Day," "Parnell," "What Then?," "Beautiful Lofty Things," "The Spur," and "Why Should Not Old Men be Mad" F Sep 10 Yeats and Old Age READ: WBY, "Under Ben Bulben," "Man and the Echo," "Among School Children," "The Circus Animals' Desertion" and "Politics" M Sep 13 Austin Clarke and Patrick Kavanagh READ: Austin Clarke, "Tenebrae," "Wolfe Tone," "Forget me Not," and "Martha Blake at Fifty-One" (Electronic Reserves), and Patrick Kavanagh, "Shancoduff," "Stony Grey Soil," and "Epic" (Electronic Reserves) W Sep 15 Patrick Kavanagh READ: "The Great Hunger" (Electronic Reserves) F Sep 17 Eavan Boland READ: A Kind of Scar (essay; Electronic Reserves) M Sep 20 Eavan Boland READ: Outside History W Sep 22 Eavan Boland READ: Outside History F Sep 24 Eavan Boland READ: Outside History

**Due: Paper 1


W Sep 29 Eavan Boland in Class

FOCUS SEMESTER EVENT:  EAVAN BOLAND LECTURE, 8 PM, STADLER POETRY CENTER F Oct 1 Eavan Boland: Conclusion and Northern Ireland: Introduction READ: Outside History M Oct 4 Ciaran Carson READ: Belfast Confetti W Oct 6 Ciaran Carson READ: Belfast Confetti F Oct 8 Ciaran Carson READ: Belfast Confetti M Oct 11 FALL BREAK?NO CLASS

W Oct 13 Ciaran Carson

READ: Belfast Confetti F Oct 15 Ciaran Carson READ: Belfast Confetti M Oct 18 Ciaran Carson in Class FOCUS SEMESTER EVENT?CIARAN CARSON POETRY READING, 8 PM, STADLER POETRY CENTER W Oct 20 Ciaran Carson READ: Selected recent poems (Electronic Reserves) F Oct 22 John Hewitt READ: "Ireland," "An Irishman in Coventry," "Once Alien Here" and other selected poems (Electronic Reserves)
M Oct 25 Louis Macneice READ: "Dublin," excerpt from Autumn Journal and selected poems (Electronic Reserves)

**Due: Paper 2

W Oct 27 Seamus Heaney READ: Selected Poems F Oct 29 Seamus Heaney READ: Selected Poems
M Nov 1 Seamus Heaney READ: Selected Poems W. Nov 3 Seamus Heaney READ: Selected Poems F Nov 5 Seamus Heaney READ: Selected Poems
M Nov 8 Seamus Heaney READ: Selected recent poems (Electronic Reserves) W Nov 10 John Montague READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves)
F Nov 12 Derek Mahon and Michael Longley READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves)
M Nov 15 Rand Brandes Class Visit FOCUS SEMESTER EVENT?RAND BRANDES LECTURE, 8 PM, SMITH LIBRARY W Nov 17 Paul Muldoon READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves) F Nov 19 Paul Muldoon READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves) M Nov 22 Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Michael Hartnett READ: Selected poems and essay "Why I Choose to Write in Irish" (Electronic Reserves) W Nov 24 THANKSGIVING


M Nov 29 Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves) W Dec 1 Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Biddy Jenkinson READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves) F Dec 3 Medbh McGuckian and Paula Meehan READ: Selected poems (Electronic Reserves)

**Due: Paper 3

M Dec 6 Conclusions and Course Evaluation


Papers: (1) two shorter papers (approximately 5-7 pages), explicating and analyzing one or more poems by Irish poets (poems not on the syllabus are allowed); (2) a memorization project, in which you memorize a poem and recite it for me, then explicate the poem, both orally and in a short paper that includes a scanned version of the poem (I will pass around a signup sheet early in the term); and (3) a final essay, approximately 10 pages in length, incorporating researched sources to support an argument about one or more of the authors or works we've read.


Paper 1 (due September 24) 20%
Paper 2 (due October 25) 20%
Paper 3 (due December 3) 25%
Poetry Project (sign-up sheet; dates TBA) 20%
Class Participation (including in-class writings) 15%

**There will be no final exam for this class**

Class participation is an important part of your grade for this course. Everyone must participate for a class to work well; excessive absences will lower your grade in this course. When you miss a class, you must contact me or another student in the seminar to find out what you missed and what assignments might be due the next week. After three absences your participation grade will begin to drop. More than six absences will guarantee an "F" for the class. If you do not feel that you are willing or able to keep up with the reading, attend class daily, and participate in discussion, you should drop the course before the end of the drop-add period.

An important part of my job is making sure that you know how to use sources carefully and correctly in academic writing and that you understand the university's policies concerning plagiarism, which I define as the unacknowledged use, either intentional or unintentional, of material first expressed by another person. We'll discuss plagiarism and proper methods of documentation during the semester, but if, at any time, you have questions about plagiarism problems in this or any other class, please come and ask me about them.

AVAILABILITY: I have listed my official office hours at the top of this syllabus, but I am on campus and available for appointment most days; I am always eager to talk with students in my classes. The best way to reach me for an appointment is to e-mail me at or to leave a voice mail message for me at my office phone (577-1424). You can also reach me by calling the English Department secretary at 577-1553.