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Modern Irish Literature: an Introduction

This course is a survey of modern Irish literature from the 1890s to the 1990s.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Trainer name : Dr Andrew Blades

Starts on : 17th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

In the 20th century alone Ireland produced much of the world’s great literature. Nothing, of course, is created in a vacuum, and these writings can be usefully read in the context of Ireland’s struggle for cultural and national identity. All nations are ‘imagined communities’, but this is especially true of Ireland. This relationship between nation and narration poses an interesting question: while Ireland has clearly shaped its writers, to what degree have Irish writers shaped the idea of ‘Ireland’?

This course is a survey of modern Irish literature from the late nineteenth century to the present day. We will study a variety of important figures - including W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Flann O’Brien - across a range of narrative forms: poetry, short stories and novels. We will also look at more recent developments in the Irish storytelling tradition, to discover how the story of Ireland has evolved over time.

Course aims

To provide a broad survey of modern Irish literature from the 1890s to the 1990s.

Course Objectives:

This course will enable participants to:

  • Study a variety of important writers across a range of narrative forms (poetry, short stories and novels).
  • Explore a number of exemplary texts in the context of Irish history and culture. 
  • Examine more recent developments within the Irish storytelling tradition.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of texts
  • Guided use of existing websites
  • Use of tutor notes and handouts
  • Discussions of particular issues and responses to reading in the unit forums
  • Close critical analyses of selected extracts from the texts studied

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following paperback books:

  • Yeats, W.B., The Major Works: Including Poems, Plays, and Critical Prose Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Edward Larrissy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) ISBN: 0192842838
  • Joyce, James, Dubliners With an Introduction and Notes by Terence Brown. 1914 (London: Penguin, 2000) ISBN: 0141182458
  • O’Brien, Flann, At Swim-Two-Birds 1939 (London: Penguin, 2000) ISBN: 0141182687
  • McGahern, John,Amongst Women 1990 (London: Faber & Faber, 2000) ISBN: 057116160X
  • McCabe, Patrick,The Butcher Boy 1992 (London: Picador, 1998) ISBN: 0330369563
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Course Content

  • Unit 1: The Poetry of W.B. Yeats (1885-1910): The Irish Literary Revival
  • Unit 2: The Poetry of W.B. Yeats (1910-1939): Politics, Myth and Modernism
  • Unit 3: James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914): The Structure of Feeling
  • Unit 4: Joyce’s Dubliners: Remembering the Dead
  • Unit 5: Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds (1939): The Poetics of Metafiction
  • Unit 6: O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds: The Politics of Censorship
  • Unit 7: John McGahern’s Amongst Women (1990): Ritual and Romance
  • Unit 8: McGahern’s Amongst Women: Oedipus Wrecks
  • Unit 9: Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992): Intertextuality and Interpretation
  • Unit 10: McCabe’s The Butcher Boy: Totem and Taboo

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