From Famine to Troubles: Irish Literature and the Construction of Cultural Identities
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-LETK-ETC405
Credits (ECTS)5
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; English Language and Culture;
prof. dr. M.C.M. Corporaal
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. M.C.M. Corporaal
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. M.C.M. Corporaal
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. M.C.M. Corporaal
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2020
PER 3  (25/01/2021 to 04/04/2021)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksAccessible to exchange students.
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
At the end of the course, the student
• has acquired a profound awareness of the role of literature in the creation and dissemination of cultural identities.
• has gained knowledge of the manifestations of Irish literatures and developments in the Irish literary field in the modern age, in broader European and transatlantic contexts.  
• has developed insight into various critical debates within the field of Irish as well as broader literary studies and is able to apply relevant theoretical frameworks from diaspora studies, memory studies and (post)colonial studies to a wide range of Irish literary texts.  
• is able to analyze and contextualize Irish literary texts at an advanced academic level, and to express him- or herself professionally on these subjects in oral and written forms.
Novelist Emily Lawless wrote in Ireland (1885) that the history of her native country was “beset with …distracting problems, bristling with …thorny controversies”. Indeed, especially during the second half of the nineteenth and the twentieth century, Ireland went through many formative events, ranging from the Great Hunger (1845-50) and the Irish diaspora to several abortive attempts at rebellion against the English; and including the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), Ireland’s partition and the successive troubles in Northern-Ireland.
Ireland long had an anomolous position within Europe as a colony. Its transition from British ‘colony’ to Free State and the emergence of global Irish communities following several significant tides of emigration ignited a strong engagement with cultural identity that is also reflected in Anglo-Irish literature: what does it mean to be Irish? And what is Ireland’s place within Europe and the rest of the world? In what respects does Irish literature engage with European literary traditions? Are the roots of authentic ‘Irishness’ in the West, as W.B. Yeats and many other Revivalists believed; or is ‘Irishness’ far from homogeneous, marked by a cultural hybridity and displacement that are inherent to its former status as a colony and nation of emigration? What does Ireland signify for Protestant or Catholic writers? Are there different gendered perspectives on Ireland and its sense of identity?                                                                                         
In this course we will examine these questions in relation to several key works of Irish literature. These texts engage with seven interrelated themes that are central to the development of Irish cultural identities and cultural legacies: the land, famine, emigration, rebellion, the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, religious strife and the past. Covering a wide variety of literary genres (drama, poetry, the short story, the novel) and modes (regionalism, the Gothic, the pastoral), this course will explore Irish literature against the background of its turbulent history and in the context of theories on nationalism, migration, postcolonialism and cultural memory.   

Presumed foreknowledge

Test information


Assumed previous knowledge
Bachelor in Taal- en Cultuuropleiding, see entry requirements of Master in Literature; Note for exchange students: Students cannot take this course if their English proficiency level is not at least C1 on the CEFR grid.

Recommended materials
Title: The Last September (1929).
Author:Elizabeth Bowen
Publisher:Anchor Books, 2000
Title:Everything Between Us (2011)
Author:David Ireland
Publisher:Methuen Drama, 2017.
Title:Hidden Symptoms (1986).
Author:Deirdre Madden
Publisher:Faber and Faber, 2014
Title:Transatlantic (2013)
Author:Colum McCann
Publisher:Random House, 2014
Title:Material posted on Brightspace

Instructional modes

Seminar; class discussion.

Portfolio of three critical responses
Test weight30
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Presentation and bibliography
Test weight20
Test typeOral exam
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Research essay
Test weight50
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 3, Block PER 4

Minimum grade