LT 340 - Irish Literature in the Last 100 Years: Identity, Selfhood and the State

The part that storytelling has played and continues to play in Irish life is difficult to underestimate. Perhaps more than any other English speaking nation, the Irish have an affinity with and aptitude for narrative that places story at the core of their collective consciousness. Ireland has long been a country of stories, from mythical tales of ancient warrior tribes and their epic quests and battles, to contemporary narratives of 'everyday’ people living in extraordinary circumstances. Many of Ireland’s most well-known and accomplished writers have produced their best work while in self-imposed exile. This peculiar dichotomy is one of the reasons why a close engagement with Irish literature perpetuates a fundamental characteristic of art: more questions are asked than answered.

This course examines selected works of major Irish authors writing in English from the 19th century to the present day. Students will be guided in the critical reading of primary sources and will practice how to interpret literary texts from different genres. Concurrently, primary readings will help illuminate aspects of Irish culture and society and trace patterns of change. The 20th Century saw Ireland emerge from a decade of unrest as a free state in 1922, achieve the status of Republic in 1948, and join the EEC in 1970. Partition in 1926 resulted in Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, including within its borders at the time a sizable nationalist minority. These political developments and ensuing periods of violence created different conditions for writing North and South of the border. Over the last fifty years, the rapid modernization of the Irish economy has led to tensions between Church and State over national morality. A pronounced urban/rural divide has emerged, and a conviction that the state has not always acted in women’s best interests. These changes have given rise to experimental works of literature that challenge the fundamental concepts of selfhood and identity along national, gender, religious and ethnic lines. Every session is situated in its historical context and cross-referenced to the literary trend that the text exemplifies.

Students will learn terminology and academic language in order to discuss content, structure, theme, character development and figurative language. Beyond developing academic reading skills, students will actively engage with the texts and be encouraged to think critically about themes and trends while analysing the connections to the cultural reality accompanying their respective study abroad experience.

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