Special Topics: Modern Irish Literature
Beckett, Samuel: Waiting For Godot; Beckett, Samuel: Watt; Bowen, Elizabeth: The Last September; Joyce, James: Ulysses; O'Brien, Edna: The Country Girls; O'Brien, Flann: At Swim-Two-Birds; Yeats, W.B.: The Collected Poems
In this course we will focus on one of the major canons in modern literature, one that includes, some would argue, the most significant English-language poet, the most important novelist, and the most remarkable playwright of the 20th century. Indeed, we’ll spend a good portion of the class on the work of W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. We’ll also read novels by Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, and Máirtín Ó Cadhain; and plays by Lady Gregory, John Millington Synge, and Sean O’Casey.
The history of Ireland in the period that this course covers (roughly the 1880s through the 1960s) was of immense consequence and the cultural and social matters that these writers frame and transform are knotty. We’ll examine the various formal and generic experiments that these writers undertake, and we’ll consider a range of issues—colonialism, religion, politics, gender and sexuality—as we dive into some of the most fascinating texts of the twentieth century.
One note: while we will focus our Joycean efforts on Ulysses, I will assume some knowledge of his previous works, Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It isn’t essential that you read these texts before the semester begins, but it could help.
In addition to a final exam, there will be two written assignments, each in the 5-7 page range.
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