- Course Number: ENGL 150
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- Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 150
- Quarter: Spring 2021
Ireland is like California: it is a land-mass on the western edge of a continent, around which whole mythologies have grown up. This course will consider how a mass of wishes, lies, dreams, and stereotypes about Ireland and the people of Ireland were invented, so that people worldwide feel they know the meaning of ‘Irishness.’
We will read poems by W. B. Yeats, parts of Ulysses by James Joyce, plays by J.M. Synge and Samuel Beckett, short stories by Edna O’Brien, poems by Seamus Heaney and Eavan Boland, and recent Irish writing: Sally Rooney’s Normal People and poems by Vona Groarke. All will be read along with Irish music, the Irish language (Gaelic), Irish films and Irish pop culture. We will look at how the history and the culture run together, or apart.
In Ireland’s case, these myths concern the supposed mystery of the place, its romantic heritage, its violence and suffering, or its long and bitter history. Who invented these versions of the place? Whose interests do they serve? Do people need them? How much have they changed? We will consider how the people of one small country have been imagined as “other”–as wild, strange, dangerous, fanatic–and how the Irish themselves have reinforced, opposed and re-invented these self-images.
We will examine how some of the most important Irish writers in this century and the last have questioned what it means to be Irish. Questioning Irishness, they take up issues — national identity, politics and violence, the rights of women, the role of religion and tradition, the effects of modernization and the place of a nation in a global culture — that matter not only to the Irish, but to all people.