ENG32000 Contemp. Irish Women's Poetry

Academic Year 2021/2022

This seminar module explores how Irish women's poetry engages critically and creatively with life in Ireland today. In it, we will read recently-published poetry (most of it written since 2016), by contemporary Irish women poets ranging from Eavan Boland (1944-2020) to Mary O'Malley. We will concentrate on new work by poets who first emerged from the early 1990s onwards, also reading Boland's final, posthumously published collection, The Historians (published October 2020). By focusing on poetry produced in the past six years, we will trace concerns held in common by contemporary Irish women poets from different generations and backgrounds, who have varying thematic preoccupations, and who rely upon distinctive yet related formal resources.

Students will become familiar with key issues in the broader tradition of Irish women's poetry (including its critical reception), attending to this poetry's major contexts in the past four decades, with a particular focus on contemporary Ireland. By examining how women’s poetry probes the established and shifting norms of social, cultural and political reality in this country, students will advance their understanding of how a verbal art form can be mobilized to engage with alternative and under-represented realms of experience and possibility. A central concern of this course is the potentially transformative effects of such creative engagement.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of a wide range of contemporary Irish women’s poetry, as well as the field of study of Irish women's poetry more generally, becoming familiar with key relevant critical and theoretical debates;
2. Analyse how more abstract or metaphysical questions of identity, agency, and aesthetic achievement, influence and are affected by concrete issues of gendered socio-political circumstance, as exemplified in Irish women’s poetry;
3. Demonstrate mastery of key skills in the study of contemporary poetry and poetics, including the analysis of poetic form and its relationship to a poem's content and broader historical and socio-cultural context;
4. Engage actively and productively in class discussion and debate, with particular focus on close reading of texts leading to nuanced analysis;
5. Develop confidence and ability in primary and secondary research skills, by undertaking both guided and independent research, and applying and transmitting this research as they generate their own research ideas through structured writing exercises, in-class debate, and essay preparation;
6. Write a final research essay to a standard appropriate for Level 3 and 4 students of English.

Indicative Module Content:

The course will read selections of recent poems - all first published in book format since 2016 - by the following poets: Eavan Boland (1944-2020, from Dublin); Rita Ann Higgins (b.1955, from Galway); Moya Cannon (b.1956, from Donegal); Mary O'Malley (b. 1954, from Co. Galway); Sinéad Morrissey (b.1972, from Belfast); and Leontia Flynn (b.1974, from Co. Down).

Themes which are likely to arise across our discussions, include the following: gender and sexuality; history and the uses of the past; concepts of the Other; representations of social and cultural privilege / disadvantage; the relationship between the public political and the private domestic spheres; landscape, habitat and living spaces; exile and belonging; fragility and instability in the human condition; the experience of loss and recovery; individual freedom and social constraint; human agency and notions of destiny; spirituality and embodiment; creativity and the role of art.

Primary texts:

Boland, Eavan. The Historians. Carcanet, 2020.
Cannon, Moya. Donegal Tarantella. Carcanet, 2019.
Flynn, Leontia. The Radio. Cape Poetry, 2017
Higgins, Rita Ann. Tongulish. Bloodaxe, 2016.
Morrissey, Sinead. On Balance. Carcanet, 2017.
O'Malley, Mary. Gaudent Angeli. Carcanet, 2019.

(Note: in addition to the usual print versions, e-book versions of these primary texts will be available through UCD library. The number of library users who can access most of these e-books at the same time is limited, so students using these e-books will need to have downloaded the shortlisted poems in advance, so as to be able to consult them freely during class sessions).

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Working to a detailed week-by-week module plan, this module's main approaches to teaching and learning are as follows: seminar-style debate eliciting of a set of responses to course materials and key problems (through whole-group and small-group work); active / task-based learning; and critical writing (involving regular formative writing exercises and essay proposal drafts), these building towards the production of a final research essay.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

Students taking this module should have experience in literary analysis. In advance of the module, you will find it helpful to have at least a basic knowledge of twentieth-century Irish social and cultural history, especially is this relates to issues of gender. Before and during the module, it is recommended that you read as widely as possible in the field of contemporary Irish poetry. Knowledge of the Irish language is not required (though if you do speak Irish, it will enrich your reading of some of the primary materials, which are offered in English translation alongside the original Irish-language poem texts).

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Written Continuous Assessment, worth 30% of the final module grade. Consists of five Writing Exercises (worth 5% each) + Essay Proposal (worth 5%) Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: Final research essay of 3,000 words. A list of essay topics will be offered, but students are encouraged to develop their own essay topic in consultation with the module co-ordinator. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: In-class Contribution to debate Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn 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
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

During class debate, peer and teacher-led feedback to student input will be incorporated as part of seminar discussions. For continuous assessment writing exercises and essay proposal, written feedback will be given on a regular basis, and an opportunity for one-to-one discussion with the module teacher will be available throughout the trimester. For the final essay as submitted, feedback will be available through a report on each essay as well as marginal annotation on the submitted essay itself. Students are strongly encouraged to avail of feedback opportunities, and use them to improve their standard in this module and in future academic work.

Primary Texts:

Boland, Eavan. The Historians. Carcanet, 2020.*
Cannon, Moya. Donegal Tarantella. Carcanet, 2019.*
Flynn, Leontia. The Radio. Cape Poetry, 2017**
Higgins, Rita Ann. Tongulish. Bloodaxe, 2016.*
Morrissey, Sinead. On Balance. Carcanet, 2017.*
O'Malley, Mary. Gaudent Angeli, Carcanet, 2019.*

Each week, you will be given a shortlist of c 10 poems from each volume, on which we will focus our discussions in class. Ahead of class, ensure you either (a) have the print copy of the volume or (b) have downloaded and / or printed the shortlisted poems by that writer, so that you can immediately access these texts during class discussions.

Note: in addition to the usual print versions, e-book versions of these primary texts are available through UCD library.
* 3-user e-books - only three people can access the work at the same time. UCD has purchased two such licences for each of these books.
**unlimited user e-book - as many people as want to can access this book at the same time.
Usually, a whole e-book can be downloaded but the download will expire after a day.
Name Role
Dr Catríona Clutterbuck Lecturer / Co-Lecturer