Modern Irish Literature
English 3426


This course is survey of Modern Irish Literature. The beginning of the modern period in Ireland coincides with both the Irish revolution and the Irish Literary Renaissance. Students will be introduced to the works of the central figures of the renaissance including W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and J.M. Synge. Following in the wake of both the revolution and the renaissance are majors writers such as Samuel Beckett, Flann O'Brien and Patrick Kavanagh. These artists, along with Sean O'Faolain, Frank O'Connor, Elizabeth Bowen and Louis MacNeice soon came to regard the new Republic as a dreary Eden and it was not until the end of President de Valera's long tenure that Ireland began to open its borders to the wider world. The writers who form the contemporary corner of modern Irish literature include the Nobel laureate Seamus Heany and award winning novelists and poets such as Roddie Doyle, Evan Boland and Paul Durcan. Finally, the critical approach in this course will be both post-colonial and deconstructionist.


Ben Forkner - Modern Irish Short Stories
James Joyce - The Portrait of the Artist
John McGahern - Amongst Women
Paul Durcan - A Snail in My Prime
Flann O'Brien - The Poor Mouth
Flann O'Brien - At Swim Two Birds
Seamus Heaney - Open Ground
William Trevor - Collected Stories
Evan Boland - Outside History

Method:  Mainly lecture, question and answer.


Two essays (50%)
Final exam (40%)
class mark (10%)


With four Nobel Prize winners this century, (and James Joyce didn't get one) it is now common knowledge that Ireland has produced one of the great literatures of the world. A poetic and narrative tradition that rivals Shakespeare's England, Tolstoy's Russia, the modern America of Faulkner, and Eliot and the Latin American Renaissance of Borges, Marquez and Vargas Llosa.

What distinguishes Irish literature from those listed above is not simply the nation state, but rather the post-colonial nature of that nation state. It has been said that Ireland is a first world country with a third world memory. Though both terms are now pejorative the point is taken: with its history of oppression, the Great Famine and the longest continual civil unrest(some say war) in western Europe, Ireland shared and shares an experience and a memory with the developing world. Because of this history much of Irish literature is best explained from a critical approach that is post colonial and where Irish nationalism becomes a central focus. Included in this approach are sub themes such as the impact of the Irish diaspora, the largest and dispersement of a people in human history ; the influence of religion; and the role of language (prior to the Great Famine of 1845, Irish was the spoken language of the majority of the island's inhabitants).


Students will be introduced to the major figures of the Irish renaissance including W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, John Millington Synge, Sean O'Casey and Samuel Beckett. The tradition of the modern Irish novel will be represented by figures such as James Stephens, Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O'Brien, Francis Stuart, Brian Moore, John McGahern, John Banville, Julia O'Faolain, and Bernard McLaverty. The Irish short story will highlight the works of Mary Lavin, Frank O'Connor, Elizabeth Bowen, Sean O'Faolain, Liam O'Flaherty, Michael Mclaverty, Edna O'Brien and William Trevor. In drama writers such as Brendan Behan, John B. Keane, Tom Murphy and Brian Friel will be studied. The tradition of poetry begun by Yeats will be traced through the works of modern masters such as Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh and Louis MacNeice, and will end with a look at the work of contemporary writers such as Paul Muldoon, Evan Boland,Paul Durcan and Ireland's latest Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. Students will learn about post-colonial and deconstructionist criticism through the works of Edward Said and more centrally, Terry Eagleton. Through these two critical approaches students will also gain an understanding of the complexity of Irish history and knowledge of the nature and extent of the Irish diaspora.



Joyce, James Dubliners, Poem Penyeach, Exiles, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,
Stephen Hero, Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake
Yeats, W.B. The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats.
Synge, J.M. The Complete Plays, The Aran Islands
Beckett, Samuel The Complete Play
Bowen, Elizabeth The Collected Stories, The Last September
O'Connor, Frank The Complete Stories, An Only Child, My Father's Son,The Lonely Voice
O'Faolain, Sean The Complete Stories, Vive Moi, The Short Story
MacNeice, Louis The Collected Poems, The Strings Are False
Sommerville and Ross The Real Charlotte, The Big House of Inver
O'Flaherty, Liam The Complete Stories, Skerrit, The Informer,
O'Brien, Flann The Poor Mouth, At-Swim Two Birds, The Hard Life,The Dalkey Archive, The Third Policeman
Stephens, James The Crock of Gold, The Char Women's Daughter
Stuart, Francis Redemption, The Pillar of Cloud, Blacklist Section H
McGahern, John The Barracks, The Dark, The Leavetaking, The Complete Stories
Banville, John Kepler, Copernicus, Birchwood
William Trevor The Stories of William Trevor, Mrs Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel, Fools of Fortune
Lavin, Mary Tales From Bective Bridge
Friel, Brian Selected Plays, Dancing At Lunasa
Heaney, Seamus New and Selected Poems 1966-87, The Government of the Tongue, Preoccupations.
Durcan, Paul The Selected Durcan, The Berlin Wall Cafe, Going Home to Russia, Daddy, Daddy
Muldoon, Paul Meeting the British, Madoc
Kavanagh, Patrick The Complete Poems, Tarry Flynn, The Green Fool
Clarke, Austen The Complete Poems, Twice Round the Black Church
Johnston, Jennifer How many Miles to Babylon, Shadows on Our Skin

Secondary Sources

Deane, Seamus Celtic Revivals, A Short History of Irish Literature
Cronin, Anthony Heritage Now, Dead as Doornails
Kenner, Hugh A Colder Eye: the Modern Irish Writers
Paulin, Tom Ireland and the English Crisis
Jeffares, A.N. Anglo-Irish Literature, W.B. Yeats
McCafferty, Nell Goodnight Sisters, The Best of Nell
Lyons, F.S.L. Culture and Anarchy in Ireland
O'Brien, Conor Cruise The Politics of Literature
Donoghue, Denis We Irish, England Their England
Brown, Malcolm The Politics of Irish Literature
Fintan O'Toole Siobhan McKenna
McGuckian, Medbh The Flower Master
Saddlemeyer, Ann The Letters of Synge
Kiely, Benedict Modern Irish Fiction
Bowen, Elizabeth Collected Impressions
Dunn, Douglas Two Decades of Irish Writing
Fallis, Richard The Irish Renaissance
Foster, R. Wilson Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction
Martin, Augustine Anglo-Irish Literature
Brown, Terrence Ireland: A Social and Cultural History
Glendinning, Victoria Elizabeth Bowen
Clissman, Anne Flann O'Brien
Macardle, Dorothy The Irish Republic

Stewart Donovans Homepage
ENGL 3563 Film and Narrative I

ENGL 3573 Film and Narrative II
ENGL 3623 The Literature of Politics
ENGL 3963 Irish Film

English / Faculty / STU Homepage