Irish Literature of the Nineteenth Century
‚Office Hours: I am available continuously by email and by scheduled appointment.
In literature courses and even in literary anthologies, the great Irish writers tend to get lumped in with English ones: Most of us gain our scant familiarity with Irish authors (think: Swift, Burke, Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Beckett, Joyce) in courses on English literary history, where they are presented as exemplary participants in a cultural and aesthetic tradition that, in many crucial respects, was not their own.
This course takes the casual absorption of Irish writing into English literary history as both inspiration and object of study. Our starting point will be the year 1800, when the Act of Union dissolved the Irish parliament and formally subsumed Ireland into Great Britain to form the United Kingdom. In that year, too, the Anglo-Irish writer Maria Edgeworth published Castle Rackrent, a short novel that helped inaugurate a long tradition of writing against the English occupation of Ireland from within the confines of fiction. As the coincidence of such large literary and political events suggests, 1800 was a pivotal year in the formation of a distinctly modern Irish literary consciousness. The evolving nature of that consciousness--its aesthetic contours, its political sensibility, its impact, and its innovations--will be our principal preoccupation throughout the term.
Over the course of the semester, we will examine major political and social developments--the Catholic Emancipation movement of the 1820s, the potato famine of the 1840s, the land wars of the 1870s, the Home Rule movement that began in the 1880s--alongside the literature that defined the Irish to themselves and to the English. Our reading will reflect the vexed relationship between Irish and English literary and social history. We will read terrifically popular Irish writers alongside English writers who packaged Ireland for an English public. Our readings will range from William Carleton's early experiments in folklore and J.C. Mangan's famine poetry to the ghost stories of Sheridan Le Fanu and the Celtic revival writing of William Butler Yeats . Our study will include literary work written in Irish (we'll read it in translation) as well as the work of expatriated writers such as Oscar Wilde, the Dublin-born aesthete who found fame--and, finally, shame--writing for the London stage, and James Joyce, whose career depended on his decision to abandon Ireland for the Continent in 1904.
Required Texts: (available at the Penn Book Center)
Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent
Foster, Roy, The Oxford History of Ireland
Friel, Brian, Translations
‚Joyce, James, Dubliners
LeFanu, Sheridan, Uncle Silas
Regan, Stephen, Irish Writing: An Anthology of Irish Literature in English 1789-1939
Woodham-Smith, Cecil, The Great Hunger
One short paper (5-7 pages), due October 12
One longer paper (10-12 pages), due December 12
Weekly weblog postings
Two in-class presentations
Be sure to read the course policies carefully.
Schedule of Readings
9/7 First day of class
9/12 Foster, Oxford History of Ireland, chapters 1-4; 3 minute
lectures: Bailey - Mason
9/14 Foster, Oxford History of Ireland, chapters 4-6; 3 minute lectures: McIntosh - Weingarth
9/19 Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (all)
9/21 Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent, contd.
9/26 Wolfe Tone, from The Life of Theobald Wolfe Tone (IW 13-16);
Robert Emmett, "Speech from the Dock" (IW 17-22)
9/28 William Carleton and the rise of Irish folklore
10/3 Daniel O'Connell, "Speech at Tara" (IW 23-35); reading Great
In class: The Nation, Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Davis
‚10/5 Mangan (IW 140-151); Joyce, "James Clarence Mangan"; reading Great Hunger
10/10 Famine poetry: Thomas Davis, Samuel Ferguson, William Allingham
PRESENTATION: Jill Budd
10/12 FIRST ESSAY DUE
10/17 FALL BREAK
10/19 Trollope, Castle Richmond (available online via Project Gutenberg)
10/24 Trollope, Castle Richmond
10/26 Trollope, Castle Richmond
10/31 Le Fanu, Uncle Silas
11/2 Le Fanu, Uncle Silas
PRESENTATION: Catie Repetto
11/7 Le Fanu, Uncle Silas
11/9 Le Fanu, Uncle Silas
PRESENTATION: Lorena O'Neil
11/14 Wilde, "Canterville Ghost"
PRESENTATION: Brendan Dutch
11/16 Celtic Revival: Gonne, "Famine Queen" (IW 183-85); Johnson, "Parnell" (IW 377); Gregory, "Grief of a Girl's Heart" (IW 336-38)
PRESENTATION: Beckley Mason
11/21 Yeats, Cathleen Ni Houlihan (available online through the
Penn library's "Literature Online" database); poems (IW 343-350); "The
PRESENTATION: Erica Minutella
11/23 Yeats, contd.
11/28 Joyce, Dubliners
PRESENTATION: Mike Weingarth
PRESENTATION: Kyle Newman
11/30 Joyce, Dubliners
PRESENTATION: Jack Kitchen
PRESENTATION: Nova Ewers
12/5 Friel, Translations
PRESENTATION: Perrin Bailey
PRESENTATION: Derek Menaldino
12/7 Last day of class
PRESENTATION: Erin McIntosh
12/12 FINAL ESSAY DUE