Spring 2007

HUMS 639
A Terrible Beauty:How Irish Writers Transformed Modern Literature & Changed the Way We See the World

Burt,Daniel S.

03/19/2007 - 03/23/2007
Monday-Friday 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Downey 100

This immersion course will attempt to demonstrate how modern literature has been profoundly shaped by Irish writers. William Butler Yeats, according to T.S. Eliot and many others, is as the twentieth century's greatest poet. James Joyce transformed the modern short story, the realistic novel of education and development, and produced the consensus choice for the greatest modern novel in Ulysses. Modern drama is dominated by Irish playwrights, including Yeats, Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, Beckett, and Friel. Seamus Heaney is widely considered the world's greatest living poet. This course will explore the remarkable achievements of these and other writers and their impact on modern literature, while trying to answer why such a small country could produce so many towering literary figures who re-wrote the rules of poetry, fiction, and drama.

We will begin by establishing the historical and political context that shaped the development of modern Irish history and its literary response by examining such key texts as Yeats?s Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Douglas Hyde's seminal essay, "The Necessity for the De-Anglicising of the Irish Nation," Yeats's "Irish National Literature," and readings from Declan Kiberb's critical study Inventing Ireland. On day two we will consider the rise of the Irish National Theatre and the works of Yeats, Lady Gregory, J.M. Synge, Sean O'Casey, Samuel Beckett, and Brian Friel. On day three we will survey modern Irish poetry concentrating on the three major figures Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Eavan Boland. On day four we will consider the unique Irish contribution to the short story in James Joyce's Dubliners and more recent practitioners such as Brian Friel, William Trevor, and others. We will conclude by considering the Irish impact on modern novel using Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses as foundation texts before examining the works of more recent Irish novelists such as Roddy Doyle and Emma Donoghue.

This class will provide an extensive exploration of Irish culture and literature while establishing a fundamental understanding of how modern literature should be approach, understood, and enjoyed.

Students will be asked to investigate and report on a significant aspect of Irish cultural, historical, or social life, write a critical response to one of the texts on our reading list, and select key works for an imagined anthology of modern Irish literature and provide a critical introduction justifying selections.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Daniel Burt (B.A. Colgate University; M.A., Ph.D. New York University) is author of The Chronology of American History, The Biography Book, and a three-volume critical guide to historical fiction. He has written extensively about Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett in The Literary 100 and The Novel 100, and on Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, and Friel in the forthcoming Drama 100.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Samuel Beckett, WAITING FOR GODOT (Grove Press), Paperback

Eavan Boland, OUTSIDE HISTORY, (W.W. Norton), Paperback

Roddy Doyle, THE BARRYTOWN TRILOGY (Penguin), Paperback

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

Seamus Heaney, OPENED GROUND (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), Paperback

James Joyce, DUBLINERS (Viking Press), Paperback

James Joyce, A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN (Penguin Classics), Paperback

James Joyce, ULYSSES (Vintage), Paperback

Sean O'Casey, THREE DUBLIN PLAYS (Faber & Faber), Paperback

W.W. Yeats, YEATS'S POETRY, DRAMA, AND PROSE (W.W. Norton), Paperback


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