ENG20440 Reading the story of Ireland: Irish Literature in English

Academic Year 2024/2025

This course will explore the representation of the individual, the community, and the nation in Irish literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. It will attend to the following genres:

- Poetry: we will treat two key writers, W.B. Yeats (1865 – 1939) and Eavan Boland (1944 – 2020), focusing on poems written across their respective careers;
- The Novel: we will read two key bildungsroman or coming-of-age novels - one by James Joyce (1882 – 1941) and one by Kate O’Brien (1897-1974); and
- The Short Story: we will engage with the work of one major Irish short story writer: Eilis Ni Dhuibhne (b.1954)

We will explore how these authors deploy the resources of their chosen genre, examining how they challenge and / or extend the conventions of narrative and poetic form in order to communicate meaning. Students are also encouraged to consider how a range of relevant theory, for example postcolonialism, gender, cultural materialism, etc, sheds light on these writers’ works.

Themes covered in these lectures may include the following: narratives of nation; history and the passage of time; place/landscape; mobility/trans-nationalism; hybrid identities; the relationship between the public and the private spheres; cultural and political (in)stability and the idea of revolution; war and violence; the role of art and the power of language as well as other sign systems; gender and power; religion, spirituality and the uncanny; memory and imagination; the body and our understanding of human precarity; the relationship between the individual and the wider community.

Students are expected to engage in detail with the primary texts and to learn to situate them in their Irish cultural contexts, as we examine the ways in which the authors treated have shaped the critical canon of modern Irish writing. Of particular importance will be the role of these writers in the creation and interrogation of powerful narratives of national identity at key moments in modern and contemporary Irish history. To this end, students are advised to develop a basic working knowledge of key developments in Irish history from c.1880 to the present (see Time Line on Brightspace as a starting point, + on-line resources via UCD library, named in the “Further Reading” bibliography for this module).

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:

1. demonstrate a critical understanding of the individual texts on this course;
2. apply close reading skills focused on individual textual elements (including formal components) to an investigation of that text's larger meaning;
3. situate the literary writing on this course in its national, historical, social, political and scholarly critical contexts;
4. make informed comparisons between texts from the different Irish writers studied;
5. contribute effectively to peer group discussion and analysis of issues relating to modern Irish literature;
6. complete the two required assignments - the mid-term close-reading assignment and the end-of-term formal essay - on topics related to the course.

Indicative Module Content:

Students will read key selected Irish literary texts written between the late 19th century and the present day. For Autumn 2021, these texts will include the following:

- poetry: we will treat two key writers, W.B. Yeats (1865 – 1939) and Eavan Boland (1944 – 2020), focusing on poems written across their respective careers;
- the novel: we will read two key bildungsroman or coming-of-age novels - one by James Joyce (1882 – 1941) - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and one by Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) - The land of Spices (1941)
- the short story: we will engage with the recent work of one major Irish short story writer: Eilis Ni Dhuibhne (b.1954).

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Small Group




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
- Weekly Lectures (one one-hour lecture per week)
- Weekly small-group workshop engagement: in these workshops, the main course texts already treated in lectures will be discussed in detail, alongside key aspects of debate on Irish literature more generally. In addition, these workshops will devote specific attention to preparation for the module's two assignments.
- Critical writing

In this module, there will be a particular focus on close reading skills, evaluation and incorporation of secondary sources, and on linking and comparing primary texts on the basis of key issues arising in Irish social, cultural, political and literary life from the later 19th century to the present day. In so linking texts, we will explore how Irish writing addresses its various Irish and international audiences, whether at the time of writing or subsequently.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
ENG20260 - Irish Literature, ENG31270 - Irish Literature (EVENING)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

- Individual feedback prior to assessments will be offered on an ongoing basis, through Workshop-leaders' responses to students' in-class debate contribution and associated activities. Informal peer review will be incorporated as part of workshop debate, overseen by the workshop leader. - Individual feedback on the mid-trimester close-reading assignment itself will be delivered on-line through UCD Brightspace. In addition, a short one-to-one feedback meeting will be made available to all students after the results for the Mid-Trimester Assignment have been published. Furthermore, group / whole class feedback on general achievements and areas for improvement in the upcoming Final Essay, will be offered by the workshop leader and/or the module co-ordinator, after the results of this mid-trimester assignment assignments have been published to students. - Individual feedback on the final essay (due after the end of the teaching trimester) will be delivered on-line through Brightspace. The module co-ordinator will be available to discuss the result of this essay with individual students, on request.

Main Primary Texts: [available in the Campus Bookshop, UCD, and elsewhere]

Boland, Eavan. New Selected Poems [1967-2013]. Carcanet, 2013.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man [1916 novel]. W.W. Norton and Company, 2007.

Ní Dhuibhe, Eilís. Little Red and Other Stories [short stories]. Blackstaff Press, 2020.

O'Brien, Kate. The Land of Spices [1941 novel]. Virago Modern Classics, 2000.

Yeats, W. B. Selected Poems [1889 - 1939], ed. Timothy Webb. Penguin Books, 2000.
Name Role
Dr Catríona Clutterbuck Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Lucy Collins Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Luca Crispi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Margaret Kelleher Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Catherine Kilcoyne Lecturer / Co-Lecturer