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Modern Irish Literature: Rebels and Radicals (EAS3253)

StaffDr Ellen McWilliams - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will examine a range of Irish fiction, drama, and poetry. Through lectures and seminar discussion, and drawing on a range of historical and theoretical sources, the module will explore how Irish writers have responded to the complex history and politics of Ireland in the course of the last century. The programme will focus in detail on the following:

  • The Irish Literary Revival
  • Irish Modernism
  • The representation of the War of Independence and the Civil War of the 1920s
  • The postcolonial dimensions of Irish literature
  • Exile and the Irish writer
  • Emigration and the Irish diaspora
  • Contemporary Irish writing and postmodernism
  • Readings of the past in contemporary Irish literature
  • The ‘Troubles’ in contemporary Irish writing
  • Irish writing and the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years
  • Social change in contemporary Ireland

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a knowledge of the most important developments in the modern Irish literary tradition
  • 2. Articulate the significance of key historical events to reading and interpreting Irish writing in this period
  • 3. Articulate the value of different theoretical perspectives (Postcolonialism, Gender Studies, Postmodernism) to reading Irish literature
  • 4. Provide evidence of how more recent Irish writing has been influenced by, and responds to, the writing of canonical figures such as Joyce and Yeats
  • 5. Identify how contemporary Irish writers relate to, and interrogate, the historical and literary past, particularly in the response of recent writers to post-independence ideologies

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced awareness of the various possibilities for reading literature in relation to relevant historical contexts and a range of theoretical ideas
  • 7. Demonstrate an enhanced comprehension of the analytical and critical skills acquired in previous modules (specifically in relation to close reading and the articulation of complex ideas)
  • 8. Demonstrate an advanced capacity to work with familiar and unfamiliar conceptual frameworks; integrate and synthesise different kinds of material; and establish a cogent line of argument

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Demonstrate an ability to work individually in researching, synthesizing, and preparing for seminars and written course work
  • 10. Through preparing for seminar discussion and course work, demonstrate advanced research skills, including: IT and internet skills; identifying appropriate primary and secondary sources; working to a deadline; and advanced communication skills

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The early part of the syllabus has a special focus on the Irish Literary Revival and the germinal work of W.B. Yeats and James Joyce. It goes on to examine the representation of conflict in Irish writing in writing about the Irish War of Independence and poetry about the Northern Irish Troubles. The later stages of the module make a special study of exile and emigration in twentieth-century Irish literature and the work of Irish women writers, as well as exploring more recent developments in Irish literature, particularly in relation to the Celtic Tiger (1990-2008) and its aftershocks. In addition to W.B, Yeats and James Joyce, key writers to be studied include Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, John McGahern, Edna O’Brien, Eavan Boland, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paula Meehan,  Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Emma Donoghue, and a selection of new Irish writers.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1111 x 1 hour lectures/workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study33Study Group Preparation and Meetings
Guided Independent Study70Seminar Preparation (Individual)
Guided Independent Study164Reading, Research, and Essay Preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay402500 words1-3, 6-10Electronic feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay603500 words 1-10Electronic feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2500 words)1-3, 6-10Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay (3500 words)1-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary Reading:

  • Timothy Webb (ed,), W. B. Yeats: Selected Poetry (London: Penguin, 2000)  (Recommended edition)
  • James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
  • Sean O’Casey, The Shadow of a Gunman (1923)
  • Selected Northern Irish Poetry – Paul Muldoon, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, and Seamus Heaney and others –Available via the ELE
  • Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls (1960)
  • John McGahern, Amongst Women (1990)
  • Anne Enright, The Gathering (2007)
  • Emma Donoghue, Landing (2007)
  • Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn (2009)
  • Selected Irish Women’s Poetry – including work by poets such as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Paula Meehan, and Eavan Boland – available via the ELE
  • Selected Short Stories and Essays – including work by writers such as Frank O’Connor, Maeve Brennan, Roddy Doyle, Kevin Barry, Claire Keegan, Sally Rooney, Melatu Uche Okorie, and Emma Dabiri –available via the ELE

Secondary Reading:

  • Brown, Terence, Ireland: A Social and Cultural History 1922-2002 (London: Harper Perennial, 2004).
  • Campbell, Matthew, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  • Corcoran, Neil, After Yeats and Joyce: Reading Modern Irish Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
  • Foster, R.F., The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making it up in Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  • Kiberd, Declan, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (London: Vintage, 1996).
  • Negra, Diane, The Irish in Us: Irishness, Performativity and Popular Culture (London: Duke University Press, 2006). 

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE site will include the lecture schedule, selected readings in PDF, recommended further reading, and internet resources. Lecture slides and handouts will be uploaded weekly.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Twentieth-Century Literature; Irish Literature; Realism; Modernism; Postmodernism; Postcolonialism; Feminism; Nationalism; W.B. Yeats; James Joyce; Intertextuality