HUMS 651
Irish Plays and Politics   

Gay Smith         

Course Description

On this “Island of Saints and Traitors” (a title given to Ireland by defrocked priest Keegan in G.B. Shaw’s play, John Bull’s Other Island), the tumultuous relations between the Irish and the British, through colonialism to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic, are reflected in Irish plays and politics of the last three centuries. Most significantly theatrical and political activity heats up at the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, then a hundred years later with the Celtic Renaissance and the founding of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, and finally during the decades of the Uprising, Civil War, and formation of the Irish Republic in the twentieth century.  We will track these developments through Irish plays, histories, and films.  The seminars will include in-depth lectures, live play readings, and lively discussions.

Students participate in live readings and discussions, write a response paper (3 pages) at the end of each of the first two weeks, and at the end of the third week, turn in and present to the class a 7-page paper researching a contemporary Irish playwright’s theater work and its political implications.

Participation                                         20%
Two response papers                           40%
Final Paper and Presentation                 40%

Schedule of Classes
Week One: Irish Rebellion 1798: Origins and Players
July 17

Introduction: BBC Film Overview of Irish Theatre
Morash Chapter 1

July 18

The Stage Irish Stereotype(s):
Readings of Two One Acts (photocopies provided): Thos. Sheridan’s Brave Irishman, John O’Keeffe’s Poor Soldier;
Morash  2

July 19

United Irishmen and Seeds of Revolution:
R. B. Sheridan’s The Rivals, Pizarro

July 20

Short Presentations on Key Players and Politicians:
Wolfe Tone, Napper Tandy, McCracken,;
Morash 3

Week  Two: Celtic Renaissance
July 24

Myth and Legend
Pre Christian Legends of The Tain: Synge’s Deidre of the Sorrows

July 25

Three One-Acts: Yeats’ Cathleen Ni Hoolihan; Lady Gregory’s,The Rising of the Moon;
Synge’s Shadow in the Glen
Morash 4

July 26

“Man of Aran,” Film; Synge’s Riders to the Sea; Playboy of the Western World

July 27

The Debate: Capitalism vs. Democracy
Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island

Week Three: Strife Continues: Irish and English, Church and State
July 31

Easter Uprising to Civil War:
“Michael Collins,” Film; O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock;
Morash 5

August 1 Irish in Exile: Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape;
Morash 6
August 2 Back in Ireland: Friel’s Translations,
Morash  7
August 3 Last Class: Presentations of Student Papers
Books on Order

John Harrington, MODERN IRISH DRAMA (W.W. Norton & Company), Paperback 

Christopher Morash, A HISTORY OF IRISH THEATRE 1601-2000 (Cambridge University Press), Paperback 

Richard  Sheridan, THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL AND OTHER PLAYS (Oxford University Press), Paperback

J.M. Synge, THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD AND OTHER PLAYS (Dover Publications), Paperbaack 

Reading materials available at Broad Street Books, 45 Broad Street, Middletown, 860-685-7323