Irish 226: Modern Irish Literature
Spring 2008
Professor John Rickard


Section 01 Meets in Vaughan Lit 103, MWF 11:00 - 11:52 am
Section 02 Meets in Vaughan Lit 103, MWF 10:00 - 10:52 am

Office Hours: MW 2:00 - 3:30, and by appointment

Office: Vaughan Lit 231

Office Phone: 570-577-1424

E-mail address:


Please 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:

Modern Irish Drama. Ed. John P. Harrington. Norton Critical Edition, 1991

ISBN: 0393960633

Abbreviated as MID below


William Butler Yeats. Selected Poems and Four Plays. Fourth Edition.Ed. M. L. Rosenthal. Scribner, 1996

ISBN: 0684826461

Abbreviated as WBY below


James Joyce. Dubliners. Norton Critical Edition

ISBN: 0393978516


Martin McDonagh, The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  (Methuen Modern Plays)

ISBN: 0413765008


Eavan Boland. Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980-1990. W. W. Norton

ISBN: 0393308227


COURSE OBJECTIVES: This course will attempt provide a general introduction to "Irish Studies" and to explore more specifically the complex relationships between political nationalism and culture in modern Ireland. We will focus on some central questions about the relationship between politics and language, the varieties of "revolution" in Irish culture, the question of what it means to be an "Irish" writer in the 20th century, the relation between the Irish present and the Irish past, and what kinds of "narrative" modern Ireland needs and wishes to construct about itself.


CLASS FORMAT: Although at times I will lecture in order to present background information, I do expect class participation in discussion and in other in-class activities. 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.



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.


Wednesday, January 16

Introduction to course--Irish history and mythology

Friday, January 18

Backgrounds: History and Myth

READ: Selections from Irish history online or from history texts on Reserve in Library, including O'Brien, Concise History or O hEithir, Breandan, A Pocket History of Ireland or any other history of Ireland on Reserve for ENGL 226 in Bertrand Library

Monday, January 21

Backgrounds: History and Myth

READ: Selections from Lady Gregory's myths (Online): Read Yeats's Preface, "The Boy Deeds of Cuchulain," "The War for the Bull of Cuailgne," "The Only Son of Aoife," "The Death of Cuchulain," "Note by W. B. Yeats," "Notes by Lady Gregory," and any others you care to look at (Suggested: "Fate of the Sons of Usnach")  NOTE: These selections are also available on Reserve in the Library, in Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne or in Thomas Kinsella's translation of the Táin bó Cúailnge)

Wednesday, January 23

Finish Irish History and read Early Irish Lyrics

READ: Selected handouts on Blackboard ("Irish Lyrics," in "Extra Readings" folder in "Course Materials" section)

FILM (Suggested): The Secret of Roan Inish

Friday, January 25

Quiz on introductory material

READ: Eibhlín Dhubh Ní Chonaill, "Lament for Art O'Leary" (Click here for the Irish language version)



Monday, January 28

The Irish Literary Revival--Lady Gregory

READ: Drama manifestos on MID 377-398, and The Rising of the Moon, MID 54-63

Wednesday, January 30

The Irish Literary Revival--John Synge

READ: Riders to the Sea, MID 63-73 and 447-451 and begin Playboy of the Western World, MID 73-119

Friday, February 1

READ: Playboy of the Western World, MID 73-119 and 451-459


Monday, February 4

The Irish Literary Revival--John Synge

READ: Playboy of the Western World, MID 73-119

Wednesday, February 6

William Butler Yeats--The Celtic Twilight

READ: Read carefully WBY 1-19, esp. "The Stolen Child" and "To Ireland in the Coming Times"

Friday, February 8

William Butler Yeats--The Celtic Twilight and the Middle Years

READ: WBY 20-52, esp. "The Song of Wandering Aengus," "Adam's Curse," "No Second Troy," "The Fascination of What's Difficult," "The Mask," "September 1913," "The Dolls," "A Coat," and "The Wild Swans at Coole"


Monday, February 11

Yeats and Nationalism -- finish discussing poems from previous class

READ: Cathleen ni Houlihan, MID 3-12 and MID 406-420

FILM (Suggested): Michael Collins

Wednesday, February 13

The Easter Rising and the War

READ: Selected handouts from 1916 poets and Yeats, WBY 52-85; especially "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death," and "Easter, 1916"

Friday, February 15

Rough Draft Workshop: Work in class on Paper 1

Discuss Eavan Boland visit


Monday, February 18

Yeats, Civil War, and the Irish Free State

READ: WBY 86-115; especially "The Second Coming," "Prayer for my Daughter," "Meditations in Time of Civil War," and "Sailing to Byzantium"

***Due: Paper 1

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19 -- SPECIAL EVENT: Irish poet Eavan Boland on campus. Q&A at 4 Willard Smith Library and poetry reading at 7 p.m. in Stadler Center -- I would like you to attend at least one of these two events; extra participation credit for attending both

Wednesday, February 20

Wednesday, March 19

READ: Juno and the Paycock, MID 204-255 and 509-512

Friday, March 21

Irish Poetry--Patrick Kavanagh

READ: Handout

Monday, March 24

Paper 2 Rough Draft Workshop

Wednesday, March 26

Samuel Beckett

READ: Krapp's Last Tape, MID 311-318 and 532-550

FILM (Suggested): Krapp's Last Tape

***Due: Paper 2

Friday, March 28

Samuel Beckett -- Finish Krapp's Last Tape, view in-class videos and discuss



Monday, March 31

Brian Friel, Translations

READ: MID, 319-374 and 551-570

Wednesday, April 2

Brian Friel, Translations

READ: MID, 319-374 and 551-570

Friday, April 4

Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry--Seamus Heaney (Blackboard)


Monday, April 7

Contemporary Northern Irish Poetry--Ciaran Carson (Blackboard)

Wednesday, April 9

Contemporary Northern Irish Prose

READ: Bernard MacLaverty, "Walking the Dog," Fiona Barr, "The Wall Reader," and Brenda Murphy, "A Social Call" (Blackboard)

Friday, April 11

In-Class Film: Mother Ireland



Monday, April 14

Contemporary Irish Poetry

READ: Eavan Boland, Outside History, especially "The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me"; "We Were Neutral in the War"; "The Achill Woman"; "We Are Human History. We Are Not Natural History"; "We Are Always Too Late"; "What We Lost"; and "Outside History"

Wednesday, April 16

Contemporary Irish Poetry

READ: Eavan Boland, Outside History, especially "The Oral Tradition"; "Mise Eire"; "Fever"; "Lace"; "Suburban Woman: A Detail"; "An Irish Childhood in England: 1951"; "The Emigrant Irish"; "Listen. This is the Noise of Myth"; "Daphne With Her Thighs in Bark"; and "The Woman Turns Herself into a Fish"

Friday, April 18

Contemporary Irish Poetry

Finish Eavan Boland and discuss Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

Read: Boland (assorted class handouts) and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill: Selected Poems and "Why I Choose to Write in Irish: The Corpse that Sits Up and Talks Back" (on Blackboard)


Monday, April 21

Contemporary Irish Drama

READ: Martin McDonagh, The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Wednesday, April 23

READ: Martin McDonagh, The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Friday, April 25

Paper 3 Rough Draft Workshop


Monday, April 28

View Martin McDonagh's Six Shooter in class

Conclusions and Evaluations

Paper 3 due via e-mail by midnight, April 30, 2008

Papers: (1) two short papers (approximately 5-7 pages), either exploring historical or cultural elements related to the literature we are reading or focusing on your own interpretation of a character, critical problem, crucial passage, or a comparison of various readings; (2) a final essay, approximately 10 pages in length, incorporating researched sources to support an argument about one or more of the works we've read.

Irish 226 is a W2 course, so we will spend extra time on the essays, discussing essay writing strategies, research techniques, citation and documentation, and other relevant topics.  Your grades for essays will include participation in draft workshops and work on revising essays.


Paper 1 (Feb. 18) -- 20%

Paper 2 (March 26) -- 25%

Paper 3 (April 30) -- 35%

Attendance, Class Participation, Rough Draft Workshops, In-class Writing, and Quizzes-- 20%

**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 class to find out what you missed and what assignments might be due. If you accrue more than six unexcused absences, you will receive a grade of F for the course.