Irish Literature/Literatura Irlandesa - LEM2055

Dr. Bruce Stewart DLLEM / CCHLA
Reader Emeritus in English Literature
University of Ulster

Bem-vindo / Welcome

UFRN Courses

Lecture Series


The chief topic of this course is Irish literature in English. This remarkable body of writing arose from the turbulent history of an island nation on the Western edge of Europe which suffered the impact of a more powerful neighbour - England - and developed a method of cultural co-habitation and, in no small part, retaliation which resulted in some of the masterpieces of modern literature in the language of the colonial master.

That extraordinary transaction - which coincided with an independence movement that foreshadowed the break-up of the British Empire - was instilled with a constant spirit of resistance that found expression in an attempt to revive the native language (Irish) and the creation of a modern literature designed to reflect the distinct and separate consciousness of the Irish people from their colonial oppressors. (In practice, Ireland was largely, if unevenly, integrated in the United Kingdom and, for conservative observers, its separation seems as unnecessary as it was dangerous. Nevertheless, an Irish Republic did emerge from the guerrilla war conducted during 1919-1922 resulted in the creation of a modern national state with United Nations membership and, latterly, membership of the European Union. The history of that struggle and the nature of the new state are unavoidable strands in the narrative associated with the literary history of the island and are therefore part of the wider context dealt with in this course.

As far as possible all our classroom meetings will be divided between Lectures and Practicals, allowing for the nature of the material in hand at any time. In the first half (3 & 4 in the UFRN horário), classes will be conducted in the form of a talk (if not lecture) on the part of the teacher. In the second half (4 & 5 in SIGAA), attention will be given to textual reading, student summaries and responses and the discussion of the questions raised by all of these. Evaluation elements will be incorporated in any formal student presentations - meaning work invited or required in advance of the meeting - to be combined with Unit Tests mandated by the University system. The assignment of dates and topics on the Course Plan may vary according to interest, progress, or different amounts of time required for the proper treatment of each topic. I also reserve the right to vary the list of writers treated at any point. Contact me anytime at

Topic Index Course Plan

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[ Note: The links given below will take you directly to the various texts and galleries used during classroom lectures and student reading on the various subjects listed there - together with some others under each individual listing which are available there for further consultation. ]
Lecture Topics
Irish Mythology: An Introduction Irish Gothic - Bram Stoker’s Dracula Flann O’Brien, Third Policeman
Saint Patrick and Gaelic Culture W. B. Yeats and the Literary Revival Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems
Jonathan Swift - Modest Proposal J. M. Synge & Sean O’Casey Brian Friel, Translations
Maria Edgeworth - Castle Rackrent James Joyce (Ulysses, 1921) Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy
William Carleton - Traits and Stories Samuel Becket (Plays and Some Prose Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture

Note: Texts for each subject listed here will be uploaded for reading at the beginning of each teaching week - allowing fives days (at minimum) for reading. It seems the best plan to ask individual students to read named texts when there are many at issue. That way you can share the information in class - and thus complement the three-hour schedule of our Friday meetings. (I will hog the rest for my own “palaver”. [BS]

Additional Information: Appendices
Anglo-Ireland & Protestant Ascendancy The Hedge Schools of Ireland

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Course Plan
Week Authors / Works Index Historical Events Cultural Forms
1. Introductory Meeting: Course Planning      
2. Irish Mythology (1) - Book of Invasions (M.Heaney) index Gaelic Invasion, c.400 b.c.  
3. Irish Mythology (2) - Irish Romance (Lady Gregory)
  Gaelic Myth & Sovereignty
4. St. Patrick (Confessio) index Coming of Christianity, 432 AD Celtic Christianity
5. Jonathane Swift (A Modest Proposal) index Battle of the Boyne, 1691 Anglo-Irish Ascendency
6. Marie Edgeworth (Castle Rackrent) index The Act of Union, 1800  
7. William Carleton (Traits & Stories) index Catholic Emancipation, 1828 Rise of Irish Nationalism
8. The Irish Literary Revival
Death of Parnell, 1891 Home Rule Bills, 1886, 1893
9. W. B. Yeats, Early Poems
10. W. B. Yeats, Later Poems
11. J. M. Synge & Sean O’Casey   Easter Rising, 1916 Irish Ireland
12. James Joyce & Literary Modernism      
13. James Joyce, Ulysses (sel. passages)
Irish Independence, 1922  
14. Samuel Beckett - Drama (Godot, &c.)
  Catholic Triumphalism
15. Samuel Beckett - Prose (Murphy, Unnamable)      
16. Flann O’Brien, Third Policeman
World War II (The “Emergency”) “The Emergency”
17. Ulster Poetry: Mahon & Longley
The Troubles (NI), 1969-98  
18. Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems   Irish Revisionism
19. Brian Friel, Translations European Union, 1972  
20. Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy      
21. Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture   Celtic Tiger, 1990s The Blame Game


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