English 203

Graduate Readings: Gender, Poetry and Psychoanalysis in Irish Poetry

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2009 Sullivan, Moynagh
MW 10:30-12 305 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Eavan Boland, New Collected Poems; Seamus Heaney, Opened Ground: Selected Poems; Rita Ann Higgins, Throw in the Vowels; Michael Longley, Collected Poems; Medbh McGuckian, Selected Poems; Jessica Benjamin, Like Subjects Love Objects Essays on Recognition, Identification and Difference; Christopher Bollas, The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known; Toril Moi, Ed, The Kristeva Reader;  Rosalind Minsky, Psychoanalysis and Culture: Contemporary States of Mind;  Margaret Whitford, ed., The Irigaray Reader

Recommended Reading:  Christopher Bollas, The Mystery of Things; Jessica  Benjamin, The Shadow of the Other Intersubjectivity and Gender in Psychoanalysis;  Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism; Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller; Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez; Price, Janet and Margaret Shildrick, Eds. Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader; Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World.

Additional readings to be announced.


Using feminist theory, object relations theory and psychoanalysis, this course will examine the work of a number of leading contemporary Irish poets with a view to reflecting on gender, representation and representatives in contemporary Irish culture. It also asks why, in a post-structuralist cultural world, the practice of poetry remains a semi-sacred, quietest cultural activity, with semi religious undertones, and seeks to answer questions about how male and female poets are positioned within such an economy. To this end, the student is invited to explore Irish poetry and the cultures that sustain it as well as those that are derived from it, from a number of related angles. Sample questions to enable such analysis will include:

•    How is the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland treated in the work of these poets?

•    How can representations of the political border be read in psychoanalytical terms?

•    Can poetry criticism be related to psychoanalytical practice?

•    What insights can psychoanalytical theory provide for poetic and broader cultural analysis?

•    What roles does a poet perform in contemporary Irish culture?

•    What functions does poetry have in contemporary Irish culture?

•    Does the role of the contemporary poet differ from that of the traditional bard?

•    Does a belief in cogent national identity enable the notion of a poetic public representative?

•    Does playing with fixed and inherited gender roles trouble traditional or popular beliefs in a cogent national identity?

•    Are representations of land and landscape gendered and how do you think this is significant?

•    What is the significance of houses and dwelling places in the work of these poets?

•    How do these poets negotiate the legacy of the Irish Cultural Renaissance?

•    How can these poets be placed/read in terms of international poetry schools and movements?

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