Erin O'Connor

English 63
Irish Literature of the Nineteenth Century

Spring 2004
TR 1:30-3
316 Williams
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 novelists who packaged Ireland for an English public, mythic tales of national origin and gothic stories of nationalist discontent, famine poetry and writings from the Gaelic Revival, cultural nationalist polemic and early modernist classics. The course will conclude with an examination of several twentieth-century literary reconstructions of nineteenth-century Ireland: creative backward looks that take Ireland's literary and historical past as the stuff of aesthetic innovation in the present.

Required Texts: (available at the Penn Book Center)
Andrea Barrett, Ship Fever
Seamus Deane, Short History of Irish Literature
Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent
Brian Friel, Translations
Lady Morgan, The Wild Irish Girl
Nuala O'Faolain, My Dream of You
LeFanu, Sheridan, Uncle Silas
William Thackeray, Barry Lyndon

One short paper (5-7 pages), due March 4
One longer paper (10-12 pages), due May 3
Weekly weblog postings
An in-class presentation

Be sure to read the course policies carefully.

Schedule of Readings

Jan. 15 Castle Rackrent

Jan. 20 Castle Rackrent
Jan. 22 Wild Irish Girl

Jan. 27 Wild Irish Girl, contd., Deane, chapter on gaelic revival
Jan. 29 Wild Irish Girl, contd. Deane, chapter on nineteenth-century fiction

Feb. 3 selections from William Carleton, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry
"The Hedge School"
"The Abduction of Mat Kavanagh"
"Frank Martin and the Fairies"
"Paddy Corcoran's Wife"
"The Fate of Frank M'Kenna"
"The Pudding Bewitched"
"A Legend of Knockmany"
Presentation: Daniel O'Connell and Catholic Emancipation, by Melissa Rose
Feb. 5 Barry Lyndon

Feb. 10 Selections from Thackeray's Irish Sketch Book
"A Summer Day in Dublin"
"Roundstone Petty Sessions"
"Two Days in Wicklow"
"Templemoyle -- Derry"
"Dublin at Last"
Feb. 12 Barry Lyndon

Feb. 17 Barry Lyndon
Presentation: Ireland and alcohol, by Alison Silber
Feb. 19 Views of the Famine
"A 'Perverse and Ill-fated People'", Interpreting the Irish Famine

Feb. 24 famine writing, contd.
Presentation: Irish symbols, by Mindy Stein
Feb. 26 famine writing, contd.
Presentation: The Potato, by Jennifer Robbins

Mar. 2 Ship Fever
Presentation: Irish Immigrants in America, by Stephanie Fennell


Mar. 16 Uncle Silas
Presentation: "Land Preservation and Irish Myth," by Casey Frey
Mar. 18 Uncle Silas
Presentation: St. Patrick's Day, by Ellie Berens

Mar. 23 Le Fanu, contd. Presentation: Danny Boy, by Justin Ennis
Mar. 24 Le Fanu, contd.; Charles Kickham, Knocknagow, Introduction through chapter five
Presentation: Bloomsday, by Amanda Fenster

Mar. 30 Wilde, Yeats, Abbey Theatre
Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying," "The Importance of Being Earnest"
; recommended: "The Canterville Ghost"
Yeats, Preface to Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne, "Cathleen ni Houlihan" (available online through the Penn library's "Literature Online" database, poems from The Wind Among the Reeds
Presentation: 1798, by Vanessa Nickerson
Apr. 1 Wilde, Yeats, Abbey Theatre, contd.
Presentation: The IRA, by Corinne Dillon

Apr. 6 Translations
Presentation: James Connolly, by Brian Matthews
Apr. 8 Translations
Presentation: Parnell, by Tim O'Donoghue

Apr. 13 My Dream of You
Presentation: Ogham, by Moira Moody
Apr. 15 My Dream of You
Presentation: U2, by Shannon Madden

Apr. 20 My Dream of You
Presentation: Sinn Fein, by Susannah Grossman