Draft Syllabus Based on 2014 Version

Draft Syllabus Based on 2014 Version



English 18a Irish Literature:

the Peasantry to the Pogues

MWTh, 12-12:50

Professor: John Plotz ()

Rabb 264: MW 1-2

This class explores Irish poetry, fiction, and drama in English. The story runs from that literature’s roots among subjugated peasants and Anglo-Irish aristocracy to the subversive role that variations on folktales and folk music still play today. The Pogues and the singer-songwriters of Once are as important to this class as the Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Following texts on famine and rebellion by Jonathan Swift and Maria Edgeworth, we will read the poetry of W. B. Yeats and the works of Lady Gregory and J. M. Synge as representatives of Ireland's literary renaissance; in the writing of Oscar Wilde and Flann O’Brien we’ll find a dark, parodic underside that lurks within that renaissance. The interplay between political nationalism and international modernism will frame our encounters with the fiction of James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, and Flann O’Brien, and with the drama of Samuel Beckett. The prominence of these major figures in an Irish literary landscape will, in turn, frame our encounter with more recent voices in Irish literature, including the poets Heaney and Paul Dorcan, dramatists Brian Friel and Martin McDonagh, and the punk-inspired folk-music revival. Also includes contemporary films, among them responses/adaptations to earlier Irish works.

Unless otherwise noted, anything that is not a book sold at the bookstore (see list below) is available on Latte: [recommended works] are marked [with brackets].Books sold at the bookstore (which may be purchased elsewhere as long as you use the same edition) may not be read online. You must bring a physical copy of the book itself to class, and be prepared to show the markings, underlinings and notes that you have made as you read.

No laptop use permitted in class. I recommend that you print out every article and read it in physical form.

Readings and assignments are subject to change, based on direction of class discussions and research topics.

Intro/Week 1

January 10th Introduction: What is Anglo-Irish literature? Why Study it?

Online/handout: Yeats, Kavanagh, Heaney

1/11(all to be found on LATTE)

Homi Bhabha “Of Mimicry and Man”

Robert Emmet, his final Speech from the Dock

Thomas Moore, two poems on Robert Emmet

Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal”; [[recc: “Description of a City Shower”]]

Chapter 1 of Modern Ireland

[recc: Moore and Sussman on Swift]

Week 2:

1/17 Getting to Know Eire: look at the collection of Field Day translations on Latte, and the pre-1850 poets in The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse. Prepare one poem from between pages 178 and 263 of the New Oxford to present in class (sometime between 9/4 and 9/15. Start by telling us one thing about the poet, the context, the form or the language of the poem we can’t tell just from listening].

1/18 Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent Introduction (vii-xxxvi); and pp. 1-37

(be sure to read all footnotes and glossary entries, pp.98-108)

Seamus Deane, “Silence and Eloquence”

Week 3:

1/22 Castle Rackrent, 38-97

Declan Kiberd, on Castle Rackrent from Irish Classics

[Michael Gamer, “Romance of Real Life”; optional on Latte, focus on pp 242-249 which are actually about Castle Rackrent]

[please read as much of Modern Ireland as you can by the end of week 3]

1/24 Edgeworth, continued; plus poetry (see 9/4 assignment)

[From Roland Barthes, “Pleasure of the Text”]

1/25 The Famine documents, p 131-181 in The Irish Famine, edited Peter Gray ;

Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt, “The potato in the materialist imagination”

James Murphy, “Canonicity”;

Week 4:

1/29 folktales and collecting:

Cairns and Richards, “Writing Ireland” ch 3:” An essentially feminine race”

Lady Gregory, from Gods and Fighting Men (on latte, 47 pp; Intro, ch 1, final chapter, notes)

Douglas Hyde, “The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland” plus poems

Macaulay, “Minute on Indian Education”

[Matthew Arnold, “On the Study of Celtic Literature”; pp. 1-23 only]

First paper topics distributed

1/31 Yeats, Red Hanrahan stories (latte, 1-30; 47-57) and Hawk’s Well (MCID 3-11)

Your passage for the final paper due: posted on latte by 10 pm 1/31

2/1 Yeats, Cathleen Ni Houlihan (MCID, 20-28)

Seamus Deane, from “Short History of Irish Literature” [latte only]

Week 5

2/5 J M Synge, Playboy of the Western World (MCID, 68-96): Acts I, II.

Shaun Richards, “The playboy of the western world “

2/7 Synge Playboy of the Western World, Act III.

[MCID 96-112; plus additional material on pp.453-464]]

Dobbins, “Synge and Irish modernism”

Yeats (early poetry)”Down by the Salley Gardens”, “Who Goes with Fergus?” “The Song of Wandering Aengus” “He wishes his beloved were dead”, “He wishes for the cloths of heaven” “Adam’s Curse”

2/8 Begin Yeats, mid to late poetry“No Second Troy””The Young Man’s Song”, “September, 1913”, “Paudeen”, “The Cold Heaven” (for an extended interpretation listen to this podcast); “An Irish Airman foresees his death”, “On being asked for a war poem”, “Easter 1916”, first paper due 2/8 at 4 pm.

Week 6

2/12 Yeats continued: “Sailing to Byzantium” “Among School Children”, “The Choice” ,”Lapis Lazuli”, “Parnell”, “Under Ben Bulben”, “High Talk”, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”

2/14 Oscar Wilde, “Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1898)

from The Happy Prince : “The Happy Prince” [[and “The Nightingale and the Rose”]]

visit to Special Collections meet there, in the library.

2/15 Wilde, Yeats, concluded:

Wilde, from “The Decay of Lying” and “The Critic as Artist”

[bibliography assignment distributed]

2/19-2/23 Have a great break (Mother Eire is calling you….)

Week 7:

2/26 James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manpp. 5-123 [chs. i-III]

Georg Simmel, “Metropolis and Mental Life” and “The Stranger”

2/28 Joyce, Portrait pp 124 [chIV} to end.; plus Introduction, pp. vii-lv.

3/1Joyce Portrait finished up; “The Dead”; and discuss free indirect discourse, as well as Georg Simmel, “Metropolis and Mental Life” and “The Stranger”

Week 8:

3/5 from Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake (both available online)

[bibliography topic due on latte by 10 pm 3/7]

3/7 Elizabeth Bowen, Last September 1-150

3/8Last September 150-303 [By Thursday ,please watch the film on Latte]

Jed Esty, “The Last September and the Antidevelopmental Plot”

Week 9

3/12Katherine Mansfield, “The garden Party” (1922) and “The Fly”

Virginia Woolf “Modern Novels” (1919); and

“Movies and Reality

3/14Samuel Beckett, Murphychapters 1-8 (pp 1-155 old edition; 1-94 new ed)

3.15 Beckett, Murphy (chapters 9-13 (pp156-282 old edition; 95-170 new ed. )

Elaine Scarry, from Resisting Representation [on Beckett]

[annotated bibliography due 3/15]

Week 10

3/19 Samuel Beckett, “Enough”; “Stories and Texts for Nothing” #4

Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?”

3/21 Flann O’Brien Third Policeman (7-49; chs. 1-3); read Denis Donoghue introduction as well, pp. v—xiii)

3/22 O’Brien (50-143);

John Attridge, “Nonsense, ordinary language philosophy and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman”

[[Anthony Adams, “Butter-spades, footnotes, and omnium: The Third Policeman as 'pataphysical fiction”]]

Week 11

3/26 O’Brien (144-200);

Emer Nolan, “James Joyce and the Mutations of the Modernist Novel”

[final paper proposaldue Tuesday 3/27]

3/28 Seamus Heaney [latte] “Midterm Break” Requeim for the Croppies” “bogland”: “Broagh” “Tollund Man”; North”; “Punishment”“Whatever you say, say nothing”

Neil Corcoran article on Heaney;poetry recitals

3/29Seamus Heaney, “Singing School” “Casualty” and from “Station Island”

Richard Rusell on Heaneypoetry recitals

Have a great Spring Break (what’s that Mother Eire, still calling are you?)

Week 13:

4/9 /Robert Flaherty, Man of Aran (on Lattte); 1934 “ethnofiction” fim by the director of Nanook of the North , 1922, arguably the first documentary film.

4/11 McDonagh, Cripple [read the whole play]

4/12McDongah, Cripple of Inishman (workshopping final paper)

Week 14: Irish-American

4/16James T Farrell, “Comedy Cop” “Two Sisters” “Studs”;

poetry: Lola Bridge “Chicago” and “The Fiddler”

4/18 Maeve Brennan, “The Servant’s Dance” “The Bride” [and from the New Yorker}

4/19 John Montague, “Stele for a Northern Republican”; “A Muddy Cup”, “A Christmas Card”, “A Graveyard in Queens”

Maura Stanton “Elegy for Snow” “Going Back” and “The Stutterer” from Snow on Snow (1973) workshopping final paper

4/23 Contemporary music/poetry scene:

(please watch linked videos and read lyrics on the ppt that is up on latte)

Stiff little fingers,




Dick Hebdige, from Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979)

Simon Frith, from “Formalism Realism and Leisure: The Case of punk” (1980)

4/25 Music/punk/Troubles literature continued (details TBD);

4/26 final day; poetry reprised.

Final Paper due 4 pm

Course Expectations:

Learning Goals:

By the end of the course you should:

Have experienced a range of literary work across different genres by Irish writers;

Be familiar with the major themes of those writers and of Irish writing in general;

Be able to relate these writers to each other in a specifically Irish context;

Understand and write about the contribution these writers made to the formation of

modern Irish identity and world literature.

Latte PostsEach student, every week, will be posting a comment about your reading experiences. So this is a sort of a reading journal, but one that develops in interaction with your classmates’ contributions. A brief response to each week’s reading, either following another student’s thread or striking out on your own, is due each Wednesday night at 10 pm (preferably earlier). Those responses will be ungraded, but you are expected to read all the postings for any given week. One response each week (with one skipped week allowed): they form a significant part of your grade. Each student must also memorize a short poem(Latte plus participation: 25% of grade).

Papers: There are only three graded papers (aside from the blog assignment); paper assignments will be distributed well in advance. I am happy to look at drafts on any assignment so long as they are received by FIVE days before the assignment is due. (I will read and respond e-mailed drafts in Word, and respond electronically.)

  1. a short close-reading paper (4-6pp) 2/8. Rewrites encouraged after feedback.(20% of grade)
  2. Annotated critical bibliography 3/15 (details to follow)(20%)
  3. A longer paper: Proposal 3/27 (5%)

Final paper due 4/26. (30%)

All papers due in hard copy at 4 pm on the given day, in my box in the English department Rabb Hall 144.

Rewrites are welcome on the first paper, and I urge you to visit the Brandeis Writing Center in the Goldfarb Library (x64885) for help at any time during the semester. Papers should be original explorations of the material presented in class. What I mainly hope to see is well structured arguments about issues raised in class, supported by careful close reading of the texts we have read together. A successful paper will involve clear exposition of your own ideas and a reliable account of the textual evidence that leads you to your inferences. (Please see me for an explanation of grading criteria, if you are interested.) When appropriate, your papers should make use of secondary sources or other primary sources from outside the classroom: I will be happy to suggest suitable additional reading or other material, depending on the direction that your interests take you. I will return typed comments to you with every paper, and will happily respond to drafts handed in up to five days before a paper is due.

Academic Integrity: You are responsible for familiarizing yourself with the rules concerning the use of others’ words and ideas. There are now very convenient online guides that explain how to cite and valuable tools like Zotero and Endnote available to make citation simple. Plagiarism is crippling to your own intellectual development; for that reason, we will be adamant about enforcing Brandeis policies on academic integrity.

Academic Accommodations:

If you are a student who needs academic accommodations because of a documented disability, you should contact me, and present your letter of accommodation, as soon as possible. If you have questions about documenting a disability or requesting academic accommodations, you should contact Beth Rodgers-Kay in Academic Services. Letters of accommodation should be presented at the start of the semester to ensure provision of accommodations. Accommodations cannot be granted retroactively.

Books: are available at the Brandeis bookstore: please obtain the particular edition listed below: this is partly so we can be on the same page in class discussion (a very important consideration), but there also crucial editorial decisions (and sometimes vital supplementary material) in these editions that will be important for our understanding of the books.You must bring the book/sourcebook for a given day’s reading to class.

Unexcused absences and days without books will be factored in to grading and may result in a substantially lowered grade.

Book List

Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (Oxford, 0199537550)

Semia Paseta Modern Ireland, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 19-280167-8)

WB Yeats, Poetry Drama and Prose (Norton, 0393974979)

Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September (Anchor, 0385720149)

James Joyce Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Oxford, 0199536449)

Flann O’Brien The Third Policeman (Dalkey 156478214X)

Samuel Beckett, Murphy (Grove, 9780802144454)

Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama (Norton Critical Editions 0393932435)

New Oxford Book of Irish Verse ed Thomas Kinsella (Oxford, 0192801929)

[Recommended: Anthology of Irish Plays, Edited P. Lonergan Methuen, 1408106787]

The Rose Tree ( W.B. Yeats, 1921)

'O WORDS are lightly spoken,'

Said Pearse to Connolly,

'Maybe a breath of politic words

Has withered our Rose Tree;

Or maybe but a wind that blows

Across the bitter sea.'

"It needs to be but watered,'

James Connolly replied,

"To make the green come out again

And spread on every side,

And shake the blossom from the bud

To be the garden's pride.'

"But where can we draw water,'

Said Pearse to Connolly,

"When all the wells are parched away?

O plain as plain can be

There's nothing but our own red blood

Can make a right Rose Tree.'

All Things Can Tempt Me (Yeats, 1910)

All things can tempt me from this craft of verse:

One time it was a woman’s face or worse

The seeming needs of my fool-driven land;

Now nothing but comes readier to the hand

Than this accustomed toil. When I was young,

I had not given a penny for a song

Did not the poet sing it with such airs

That one believed he had a sword upstairs;

Yet would be now, could I but have my wish,

Colder and dumber and deafer than a fish.


I have lived in important places, times

When great events were decided : who owned

That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land

Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting "Damn your soul"

And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen

Step the plot defying blue cast-steel -

"Here is the march along these iron stones."

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which

Was most important ? I inclined

To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin

Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.

He said : I made the Iliad from such

A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Patrick Kavanagh (about 1938, but published The Bell, November 1951)

Digging (Seamus Heaney, 1966)

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.