ENGL 340 A: Anglo-Irish Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
SIG 224
Nikolai Popov

Syllabus Description:

Engl 340 wi 2019                                          MW 11:30-1:20

Modern Irish Literature                                 Office Hours: T 9:30-11:30  (or by appt.)

Nikolai Popov                                                Padelford A415


                                                Out of Ireland have we come,

                                                Great hatred, little room,

                                                Maimed us at the start.

                                                I carry from my mother’s womb

                                                A fanatic heart.

  1. B. Yeats


We Irishmen cannot attain to these truths. George Berkeley

Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow. Stephen Dedalus  (in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist)

This course is a general introduction to modern Irish literature. After a brief survey of ancient and early modern works and authors, we'll focus on the Irish Literary Revival and its aftermath (1880-1940). The reading list includes works of visionary intensity and stark realism, passion and irreverence, humor and high drama. We'll be paying special attention to the role of literature in forging a distinct national and personal identity, and to the unique contributions of Irish writers to modern British literary culture. The course will be especially useful to students who wish to study further the Irish masters of British modernism (Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett) or contemporaries such as recent Nobel-prize winner Seamus Heaney.

Requirements and grading:

1/ memorize (and recite) 50 lines (or more) of poetry by W. B. Yeats: this task is the midterm and must be completed by 2/13; you can memorize one poem of 50 lines or more, or 2-3 poems which add up to 50 lines (one grade unit);

2/ attendance, quizzes, short written assignments (one grade unit);

3/ final (two grade units).

Texts: The Tain, Thomas Kinsella tr. (Oxford ppb). Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (Oxford, World's Classics). W. B. Yeats, The Yeats Reader (Scribner).* J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World (Dover Thrift); James Joyce, Dubliners (Dover Thrift); Flann O'Brien, The Poor Mouth (Dalkey Archive Press). There will be an electronic Course Reader. Look for inexpensive used/online purchases!

* As the schedule below indicates we’ll spend quite a bit of time with Yeats. Every English major should own a copy of Yeats’s poems. I’ll order the Yeats Reader because it contains, in addition to the poems, excerpts from Yeats’s prose and a couple of plays we’ll work with. You can find the poems we’ll read also in his Collected Poems (Finneran’s or other editions), or Rosenthal’s W. B. Yeats: Selected Poems and Four Plays. I’ll put several of those on library reserve. You can use any edition of Joyce’s Dubliners and Synge’s Playboy.

Contents of Electronic 340 READER (access via Canvas “Files”):  

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (also available at  http://www.Gutenberg.org); John Wilson Foster, “Who Are the Irish?”; Terence Brown, “Saxon and Celt: The Stereotypes”; O’Driscoll, “Return to the Hearthstone”; Hirsch, “The Imaginary Irish Peasant”; W. B. Yeats, The Countess Cathleen and Purgatory (there is a decent performance of Purgatory at youtube.com (Parts 1, 2, and 3).) Also accessible online: The Celtic Twilight by W. B. Yeats http://www.celtic-twilight.com (click Yeats); Cuchulain of Muirthemne http://www.celtic-twilight.com (click Lady Gregory). Wiki on Cú Chulainn (decent article!): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%BA_Chulainn

Please study the schedule below: there will be some changes as we progress but the order of books/authors will remain the same. If you want an Irish lit head-start, start reading Yeats’s poems. Reading them chronologically, as they are ordered in The Yeats Reader or the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, has two advantages: you’ll begin to develop a sense of his development as a poet and thinker; the earlier poems are easier than the later. But there is a lot to be said for leafing through the book at random, at this preliminary stage—read whatever poem catches the eye. (Once the class starts properly you’ll do a structured reading.) My first recommendation to all of you is to read poems out loud: poetry in general and Yeats in particular gain a lot from vocalized reading. (Reading out loud will also make the memorization requirement easier!) When you read, don’t try to be “artistic”: just try to capture and replicate the flow of the speaker’s voice (or voices: some poems have more than one speaker), and pay attention to the shape of the poem’s units—lines, stanzas. There is no better poet than Yeats, to start learning HOW to read poems: he’ll teach you everything you need to know about the craft of poetry.

 TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (watch for changes and time revisions)

1/7     General Introduction: Why Study Irish Literature? Modern Irish Literature as a Problem. Geography. Two poems by S. Heaney: “Ocean's Love to Ireland” and “Bogland,” and “The Curse of Cromwell” by W. B. Yeats.

1/9       Swift, A Modest Proposal.

1/14     Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent.

1/16     The Tain. The Book of Kells. (We’ll look at several excerpts from the Kinsella translation; you are also invited to look at Carson’s translation and Lady Gregory’s versions of the following: Birth of Cuchulain, Boy Deeds, The Two Bulls, The Only Jealousy of Emer, The Only Son of Aoife, Death of Cuchulain).

1/21 Holiday

1/23     John Wilson Foster, “Who Are the Irish?”; Terence Brown, “Saxon and Celt: The Stereotypes”; O’Driscoll, “Return to the Hearthstone”; Hirsch, “The Imaginary Irish Peasant”; W. B. Yeats, The Countess Cathleen; Autobiographical Writings, YR, pp.  281-353.

1/28     Early Yeats (selected poems through The Wind among the Reeds (Yeats Reader, pp. 3-      29);  stories, YR  445-473; critical writings, YR, pp. 363-386)

1/30     Yeats, cont. The Green Helmet  through Responsibilities: YR, pp.  30-55.

2/4       Synge, The Playboy of the Western World (screen)

2/6       The Playboy, cont. Yeats Reader, pp. 387-403.

2/8       Flann O’Brien, The Poor Mouth

2/11     Yeats, poems from The Wild Swans at Coole: YR pp. 56-73

            2/13 is Recitations Deadline. 

2/13     Yeats, poems from Michael Robartes and the Dancer: YR pp. 74-83

2/20, 2/25 and 2/27 Joyce, Dubliners (3 meetings)

3/4     Yeats, poems from The Tower: pp. YR 84-108

3/6       The Tower, cont.

3/11       Yeats. Crazy Jane poems; Purgatory; The Death of Cuchulain: YR pp. 109-151 and        259-277

3/13       Conclusions. In-class portion of final.


Catalog Description: 
Principal writers in English of the modern Irish literary movement - Yeats, Joyce, Synge, Gregory, and O' Casey among them - with attention to traditions of Irish culture and history.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
February 2, 2020 - 10:40pm