This course will consider how a whole series of wishes, lies, dreams, and stereotypes about Ireland and the Irish were invented and believed. Ireland, like California, is a territory on the western edge of a continent about which whole mythologies have grown up.
In Ireland's case, these mostly have to do with the supposed mystery of the place, its romantic and mythic connotations, or its violence, or its long bitter history. Who invented these versions of the place, and whose interests do they serve? Why do people continue to believe them? How many have they changed? We will consider how one small country has been imagined as "other" (as wild, strange, dangerous, fanatic) and how the Irish themselves both reinforce and oppose these self-images.
We will examine how some of the most important Irish writers in this century--W.B. Yeats in his poetry, James Joyce in Ulysses, J.M. Synge in "The Playboy of the Western World," Eavan Boland in her poems to her daughters--have questioned what it means to be Irish. In representing versions of Irishness they take up issues -- national identity, political violence, the rights of women, the role of religion, the effects of modernization -- that matter not only to the Irish, but to all people.