English 240S

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Course Description

The Irish Renaissance (a period running approximately between 1880 and 1940) saw a tremendous artistic flowering in Ireland. This course will examine in detail one aspect of that artistic resurgence--Ireland's contribution to fiction in the twentieth century. The course will examine not only individual writers and works but the development of the genres of the novel and short story and movements such as realism, naturalism, modernism, and post-modernism.

Presentation: Seminar-discussion, with each student leading two class discussions on different writers.



M--9/8--Introduction (Historical Overview)

M--9/15--Critical Review

M--9/22--James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

M--9/29--Joyce (cont.)

M--10/6--Frank O'Connor, Collected Stories (1981) ("Guests of the Nation," "The Late Henry Conran," "The Bridal Night," "Song Without Words," "The Long Road to Ummera," "The Cheapjack," "The Luceys," "Uprooted," "The Mad Lomasneys," "Judas," " "the Babes in the Wood," "Don Juan's Temptation," "First Confession." "The Drunkard," "The Lady of the Sagas," "Darcy in the Land of Youth," "My Oedipus Complex," "Peasants," "The Majesty of the Law," "A Set of Variations on a Borrowed Theme," "The Cheat," "Public Opinion," "The Story Teller")

M--10/13--Liam O'Flaherty, The Informer (1925)

M--10/20--Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September (1929)

M--10/27--Flann O'Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)

M--11/3--William Trevor, Fools of Fortune (1983)

M--10/10---John Banville, The Newton Letter (1982)*

M--11/17--Julia O'Faolain, No Country for Young Men (1986) PRECIS DUE (sample precis)

M--11/24--Seamus Deane, Reading in the Dark (1996)

M--12/1--Edna O'Brien, Night (1972)


*Novels noted above with an asterisk are either out of stock or unavailable. Therefore students must purchase copies somewhere other than at the campus bookstore. I recommend searching for titles through on-line booksellers--Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells Books, and Abebooks. There are many copies are those sites and inexpensive.



The final course grade will be based on:

 2 essays

 60% final grade

 1 essay final exam (blue book required)

 25% final grade

 1 precis of a critical work

 15% final grade

 class participation, effort, improvement

 swing factors

*To miss any of the assignments above will result in an automatic failure of the course. NO EXCEPTIONS.


SEMINAR PAPERS--for each novel there will be a 2-3 essays (5-6 pages in length; absolutely no longer) submitted on the same topic. These essays will form the basis of class discussion. Writers must keep in mind that their assignment, in every case, is to present a reasoned, well-documented, analytical, argumentative response to the topic assigned. In other words, the essays are not simply plot summaries but may indeed include some limited summary in order to make their cases. Keep in mind that your audience is one that has read the novel but that needs persuading of your point of view. These assignments are not necessarily exercises in literary research, though a knowledge of extant scholarship on your subject will, of course, be helpful in articulating an individual point of view. If you do use the words or ideas of someone else, be sure to document accurately according to the recent MLA style of citation reference. As stated above, papers will be submitted a week before they will be discussed. Writers must submit the original copy to me and anonymous photo copies for each student in the class a week in advance of the discussion of that work. Print on only one side of each page for original.

SEMINAR RESPONDENTS--just as there will be two essays under consideration for each meeting, there will be 2-3 volunteers to lead discussion for that meeting. The respondents should consider the essays submitted, respond to issues and ideas presented there, raise any pertinent questions, as well as discuss or pose questions regarding other relevant issues suggested by or even ignored by the essays. The essays offer a place to begin but they are by no means all that will be discussed. Respondents must type up and distribute a copy of their questions on the night of discussion.

CRITICAL PRECIS--on a first-come-first-served basis, students will select a critical text from a distributed list. Students must read the work and then summarize its main ideas, contents, critical position, bibliographic information, etc. in two pages only. The point of this assignment is to briefly describe the work for someone who is probably unfamiliar with it. Submit the original and copies for each member of the class. Thus each student will have a brief, carefully annotated bibliography of secondary sources for further reading or research. Writers must submit the original copy to me and anonymous photo copies for each student in the class.

PLAGIARISM--Plagiarism is the false assumption of authorship, and, as the MLA Handbook notes, it constitutes the "use of another person's ideas, information, or expressions without acknowledging that person's work. . . Passing off another person's ideas, information, or expressions as your own to get a better grade or gain some other advantage constitutes fraud." Simply put, if you didn't think of it, didn't say it, or didn't write it, you must give full attribution in the form of proper citation. I will not tolerate plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional, and I will fail anyone I catch cheating and report that student to the Dean of Students. For information on the university's policy concerning plagiarism and academic honesty, see



"Double Vision in Anglo-Irish Literature"--A. Carpenter

1.) What is Carpenter's thesis?
2.) Thematically what is the result of the double vision Carpenter describes?
3.) What is the effect of such a lit on the reader?
4.) What does Carpenter mean by the term "Anglo-Ir"; who are these people?
5.) Recall Farrell's complaints about O'Faolain that he exists in a "state of divided loyalties," and compare that w/ Car's ideas.

"Place, Space and Personality and the Irish Writer"--A. Norman Jeffares

1.) What is his purpose in this essay and does he succeed?
2.) What, then, does the essay offer about the Ir response to
3.) What is implicit though never overtly emphasized in this essay?

"Myth and Motherland"–Richard Kearney

1.) What is the essay's thesis?
2.) Explain the distinction between myth and secularity?
3.) Explain the notion of sacrificial martyrdom.
4.) Explain the Yeatsian response to colonialism.
5.) Explain Joyce's response to Ireland's condition.
6.) Explain the conception of "motherland" and Irish womanhood that emerges from colonization.
7.) Ultimately what is Kearney arguing about myth?

"Irish Women in Legend, Literature and Life"--Lorna Reynolds (see end of Jeffares article)

1.) What is Reynolds's thesis?

"Introduction" & "A New England Called Ireland?"–Declan Kiberd

1.) What does Kiberd mean when saying both England and Ireland needed each other to define themselves?
2.) Explain Kiberd's notion of exile.
3.) How does Kiberd define "Imperialism" and "Colonialism," and what is his point?
4.) How does he define postcolonial writing?
5.) How did England "invent" Ireland?
6.) Explain what he means with the remark, "Ireland also began to appear to English persons in the guise of the Unconscious?"
7.) How did Daniel O'Connell invent Ireland/
8.) Explain the changing nature of England's adventure in invention after the Penal Laws and into the nineteen century?

"Postcolonial Criticism and Multiculturalism"--Stephen Bonnycastle

1.) What is the emphasis of Frantz Fanon's discussion of colonial domination in The Wretched of the Earth?
2.) Explain Fanon's notion of the Other?
3.) Explain the point of mono/multiculturalism.

"Introduction"--Seamus Deane

1.) What is Deane's thesis?
2.) What is "Field Day" and what are its aims?
3.) How does Deane view the relationship between England and Ireland?
4.) As Deane describes them, what are some of the central concerns of postcolonial research?




Submission Date: Topics:

9/12 Explain the Portrait's title; what does it mean; what are its implications?

9/14 Readers often associate Portrait with exile, and indeed this is dramatically presented with Stephen's determination to leave his homeland. However, exile, in one form or another, dominates the novel. Analyze the more subtle forms of exile and relate them to Stephen's ultimate decision.

9/26 In his study of the short story, The Lonely Voice, Frank O'Connor contends that the genre should "r[i]ng with the tone of a man's voice, speaking." What are the implications of this sense of voice in his stories, and compare this technique with those we have seen in the works of other Irish writers this semester.

10/3 Throughout The Informer there is a persistent and at times elaborate pattern of Christian imagery which has led some to describe the work as a New Testament allegory. Trace this pattern and analyze its significance, paying close attention to the three principle characters of Gypo Nolan, Mary McPhillip, and Dan Gallagher. What do all these images suggest; what may O'Flaherty be driving at?

10/10 In The Last September there are repeated references to shadows and light and the strong presence of the house at Danielstown. Explain the significance of these many references; what is the point; what do they suggest?

10/17 On p. 33 of At Swim-Two-Birds the narrator offers a description of the modern novel. What is his point and how does this remark pertain to this particular work?

10/24 In William Trevor's Fools of Fortune Father Kilgarriff, though a minor character, plays a crucial role. Analyze the importance of this character--who is he, literally what is his function in the novel, what exactly does he teach or try to teach Willie Quinton?

10/31 The Newton Letter abounds in allusions and references to art (in a variety of media). What is the point of these numerous references; analyze what these mean for the protagonist as well as for the reader (which may or may not be the same).

11/7 The plot of No Country for Young Men revolves around events that have taken place years before and the addled memories of Sister Judith. What is O'Faolain suggesting about the past and memory, especially for the Irish?

11/14 The plot of Reading in the Dark revolves around events that have taken place years before and in the disturbed memories of various family members. What is the novel suggesting about the past and memory, especially for the Irish?

11/28 One critic has argued that Edna O'Brien's fictions oscillate between extremes of sublime, transcendent romanticism and sensual, hard reality. Analyze Night in terms of this paradox and explain how this conflict is elaborated and/or resolved.



1.) Analyze the ways in which the novel can be seen as a kunstleroman.

2.) What is the point of the long and rather disjointed childhood recollections, esp. those dealing with Stephen's early schooling.

3.) One critic has argued that the novel has as its moral center the idea of the "defect of love"? Do you agree; explain the implications.

4.) What is the point of the long and rather disjointed childhood recollections, esp. those deal with Stephen's early schooling.


1.) Define the term epiphany and the importance it held for Joyce and his conception of art.

2.) Explain the importance of the long section devoted to the religious retreat? What effect does this experience have on Stephen and does it shape later events in significant ways?

3.) Explain the importance and implications of the novel's closing lines, ""Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."

4.) Consider A Portrait of the Artist from a post-colonial point of view.


1.) What kind of a writer is O'Connor; what literary school does he appear to be aligned with?

2.) The title of his study of the short story, The Lonely Voice, provides a hint about O'Connor's view of the form and of its characters. How does he conceive of loneliness and how is it depicted?

3.) Discuss O'Connor's stories as examples of post-colonial fiction.


1.) Discuss the novel as an example of literary naturalism.

2.) One critic has written that O'Flaherty's thought and art are centered around what is best described as religious quest." What evidence is there of a religious quest in The Informer?

3.) Explain the importance of Dan Gallagher. We have already considered him in terms of his possible religious significance, but does he suggest other possibilities? What does he represent?

4.) One critic also contends that The Informer "is a novel about a soul & not about Ireland or Dublin or revolutionary intrigue." Do you agree, or do you think it may be saying something distinctive about Ireland?

5.) In what ways can the novel be seen as a postcolonial novel?


1.) There are also many comparisons between the younger and older generations; what is the point of these?

2.) Who is Gerald Lesworth and what is his significance in the novel?

3.) What is the importance of the temporal setting; what is that setting?

4.) Who are the Naylors and Trents and others like them; what is their position in the social scheme and what are their affinities and/or loyalties?

5.) Make a case for seeing The Last September as a postcolonial novel.


1.) Is there any unifying structure to the novel; what is this? How do the various plots and subplots come together; what, if anything, binds them?

2.) What is the point of occasionally offering plot synopses (pp. 85, 214. 235, etc.)?

3.) What is the point of the narrator's style; does it remind you of anything or any style of writing?

4.) What is the point of joining Sweeney, an ancient literary hero, with figures such a Slug Willard, Shorty Andrews, and Jem Casey?

5.) What are we to make of the rather extended description of the meeting that takes place in the uncle's home where he and some friends attempt to organize a ceili (pp. 187 f.)?

6.) What is the reader to make of the contrast between the early and last descriptions of the narrator's uncle (pp. 40 & 312)?


1.) Who is the Michael Collins who visits the family a couple times before the estate is burned?

2.) Events in this novel take place roughly at the same time as those in The Last September. Compare the two in terms of their depictions of the big house tradition.

3.) What appears to be Trevor's view of the Troubles of 1920-21; what is the legacy of those times?

4.) Explain the use of the shifts in narrative point of view.


1.) Is there a particular tradition Banville is working within; if so, what is that?

2.) Explain the novel's title.

3.) How are the Lawlesses significant?

4.) One scholar contends that the novel offers a hopeful ending whereby the protagonist is impelled to embrace a more imaginative and sympathetic understanding of life." This would suggest considerable change; do you agree?

5.) Consider The Newton Letter as an example of postcolonial discourse.


1.) ) At one point (170) Grainne O'Malley tells James Duffy that she shares a name with a figure from Irish mythology. Who was Grainne and does this modern share something in common with her?

2.) What is the view of women presented in the novel?

3.) What is O'Faolain saying about Irish politics?

4.) Explain the novel's title.


1.) Explain the novel's title.

2.) There are repeated references to ghosts and hauntings; what is the point of these?

3.) What is the temporal setting and how is that significant, if at all?

4.) Describe the depiction of the Catholic Church and its role in the novel.

NIGHT (E. O'Brien)

1.) In an interview, when discussing the influence of Proust, O'Brien says that his importance "was his preoccupation with memory and his obsession with the past." Compare O'Brien's treatment of memory and the past with that of other writers we've read this semester.

2.) Later in the same interview she remarks, "What matters [in literature] is the imaginative truth, and the perfection and care with which it is rendered." What is the imaginative truth in this novel and assess the way in which it is rendered.

3.) In one article a scholar argues that O'Brien's novels deal consistently with a quest her heroines embark upon. What is Mary Hooligan's quest?

4.) The same scholar concludes her consideration of O'Brien's novels by complaining that "A monomaniacal lot, these women [O'Brien's heroines] reject all of life but sex." Using Night as evidence, do you agree?

5.) O'Brien has frequently insisted that her unsteady relationship with her parents, religion, and homeland are of major importance in her writing. Is there anything distinctly or significantly Irish about this novel?




9/19 Harrison, Hannah
9/22 Eric, Ambyr Joanna, Sonya, Kellyn
9/29 Chris, Irene, Anup Allisha, Jane
10/6 Hannah, Jane, Allisha Ambyr, Hannah
10/13 Joanna, Sonya
Chris, Harrison
10/20 Kellyn, Anup, Irene Andrew, Eric
10/27 Harrison, Andrew, Chris Allisha, Eric
11/3 Kellyn, Joanna
Anup, Hannah, Irene
11/10 Jane
Harrison, Chris, Ambyr
11/17 Alllisha, Ambyr, Sonya
Sonya, Anup, Andrew
11/24 Eric, Andrew
Irene, Jane

Joanna, Kellyn


Averill, Deborah. The Irish Short Story From from George Moore to Frank O'Connor

Backus, Margot Gayle. The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice, and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order

Brophy, James D., ed. Contemporary Irish Writing

Browne, R. B., William J. Roscelli, & Richard Loftus. The Celtic Cross: Studies in
Irish Culture and Literature

Cahalan, James. Great Hatred, Little Room

---. Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction

Cairns, David & Shaun Richards. Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism, & Culture

Carlson, Julia. Banned in Ireland

Carpenter, Andrew, ed. Place, Personality, and the Irish Writer

Connolly, Peter, ed. Literature and the Changing Ireland

Costello, Peter. The Heart Grown Brutal ...1891-1939

Cronin, Anthony. Heritage Now: Irish Lit in the Eng Lang

Cronin, John, The Anglo-Irish Novel, Vol II

Deane, Seamus. Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature

Drudy, P. J., ed. Irish Studies

Dunn, Douglas. Two Decades of Irish Writing

Foster, John Wilson. Fictions of the Irish Literary Revival: A Changeling Art

---. Forces andThemes in Ulster Fiction

Harmon, Maurice, ed. The Irish Writer and the City

Hart, Liam & Michael Parker, ed. Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories

Howarth, Herbert. Irish Writers, 1880-1940: Literature Under Parnell's Star

Hyland, Paul & Neil Sammells. Irish Writing: Exile and Subversion

Kenneally, Michael. Studies in Contemporary Irish Literature

Kiely, Benedict. Modern Irish Fiction--A Critique

Kilroy, James F., ed.The Irish Short Story

Krans, Horatio Sheafe. Irish Life in Irish Fiction

Krielkamp, Vera. The Anglo-Irish Novel and the Big House

Lee, JJ, ed, Ireland, 1945-70

Martin, Augustine,ed, The Genius of Irish Prose

McManus, Francis, The Years of the Great Test: 1926-39

Mercier, Vivian, Modern Irish Literature: Sources and Founders

---. Irish Comic Tradition.

O'Muirithe, Diarmaid, ed, The English Language in Ireland

Porter, Ray J, ed, Modern Irish Literature: Essays in Honor of W. York Tindall

Rafroidi, Patrick & Maurice Harmon. The Irish Novel in Our Time

— Rafroidi, Patrick & Terence Brown, The Irish Short Story (1979)

Schleifer, Ronald,ed, Genres of the Irish Literary Revival (80)

Sekine, Masaru, Irish Writers and Society at Large

Sloan, Barry, The Pioneers of Anglo-Irish Fiction, 1800-1850

St. Peter, Christine. Changing Ireland: Strategies in Contemporary Women's Fiction

Taylor, Estella Ruth, Modern Irish Writers

Watson, George, Irish Identity and the Literary Revival

Weekes, Ann Owens. Irish Women Writers: An Uncharted Tradition

Wilson, John Foster. Fictions of the Irish Literary Revival: A Changeling Art


PDF copy of syllabus available here.

Brief Chronology here

Brief History of Ireland here

PDF copy of MLA Quick Reference Guide here.

PDF copy of Taking Notes handout here.

If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF files, download here.

Portrait of Captain Thomas Lee (1594) by Marcus Gheeraerts, II

(see Decland Kiberd, p. 10)

"The English, judiciously practical and ponderous, furnish the over-stuffed stomach
of humanity with a perfect gadget--the water closet. The Irish, condemned to
express themselves in a language not their own, have stamped on it the mark of
their own genius and compete for glory with the civilized nations. The result is then
called English literature." --James Joyce



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