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On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
Too often, the cultural phenomena labelled `Anglo-Irish' and `Anglo-Welsh' have been seen in isolation; Writing Ireland, Writing Wales - part of a wider interest at the moment in Cambro-Irish dialogues -- aims to reveal the cultural currents flowing back and forth across the Irish Sea. What kind of cultural exchanges between these two nations does literature inscribe and make possible? In what direction is the cultural `traffic'? In what ways does Ireland serve as a model for Wales, and vice versa? Examining the chosen texts against the background of (often violent) history, the module is an intervention in the project of `devolving' and recalibrating the locations of culture. The dual aperture of Ireland and Wales represents an innovative way of reconfiguring received axes of cultural power and influence.
The opening session introduces students to some of the major debates surrounding Anglophone Irish and Welsh literature and culture. Locating the discussions in relation to various constructions of history, the session establishes a vital conceptual frame for the module by drawing on literary-historical, critical and theoretical writing to engage issues of cultural, political, and religious identities; literary `revivals'; ideas of partition, division and indeterminate borderlands; movements for self-determination; the co-habitation of distinct cultural groupings; gender relations; and post-colonial and post-national debates.
Week 2: Portraits of the Peasantry
J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World (1907); Caradoc Evans, Capel Sion (1916).
Two portraits of the rural population that caused outrage. This session considers the (very different) cultural and political agendas motivating these tendentious representations of the Irish and Welsh 'folk'.
Week 3: Portraits of the Artist
James Joyce, selections from Dubliners (1914); Dylan Thomas, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940) and `Return Journey' (1947). Though Thomas's volume of short stories inflects the title of Joyce's autobiographical novel of 1914-15, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, it can more fruitfully be considered alongside the narratives of Dubliners, with their shifts from childhood to maturity. How do Joyce and Thomas portray childhood and developing adult sensibilities in the very different worlds of Dublin and Swansea/rural south Wales?
Week 4: Divided Selves
Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September (1929); Margiad Evans, Country Dance (1932).
Cultural tensions and national allegiances are at the heart of both Bowen's novel and Evans's novella. Both offer a portrait of an age on the brink of major change - Bowen taking the Anglo-Irish Great House as her centre, and Evans offering a portrait of `The struggle for supremacy' in her characters' `mixed blood'.
Week 5: National Voices? - 1
Selections from the early poetry of W. B. Yeats and from the poetry of R. S. Thomas. Yeats and Thomas both became `arch' poets - `national' voices forged by - and forging - the times in which they lived. This session considers the (problematic) idea of `national' voices, and examines the ways in which Thomas took Yeats himself as theme.
Week 6: National Voices? - 2
Selections from the later poetry of W. B. Yeats and from the poetry of R. S. Thomas. See above.
Week 7: Troubling Poetries
Seamus Heaney, North (1975) and selections from the poetry of Emyr Humphreys.
This session examines the ways in which Heaney and Humphreys explore layered and disputed territories and portray historical and contemporary violence in poetry that operates through both startling directness and subtle indirection.
Week 8: Writing Islands
Brenda Chamberlain, Tide-race (1962); Tim Robinson: Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (1986). How do these authors configure island space and identities? In what ways do Bardsey Island and the Aran Islands `connect' with, and secede from, Wales and Ireland respectively, and with/from each other?
Week 9: Through a Glass . . . Darkly
Seamus Deane, Reading in the Dark (1996); Tom Bullough, The Claude Glass (2007). Two resonant portraits of childhood, both exploring the ministry of fear and interweaving uncompromisingly bleak portraits with transformative national mythologies and visionary moments. This penultimate session considers the ways in which Deane's 1950s Northern Ireland and Bullough 1980s Welsh borderlands can be read as parables of seeing and remembering.
Week 10: Retrospect: Writing Ireland, Writing Wales
This final session will seek to gather together the connections and differences between the Irish and Welsh texts considered on the module, and consider the ways in which the `dialogic' template of the module illuminates both cultures.
This module reads the anglophone literatures of Ireland and Wales in concert with each other from the early twentieth century to the early twenty-first. Canonical and (as yet) non-canonical authors, established and youthful voices, male and female perspectives, and a range of genres (short fiction, poetry, the novel, the journal) are ranged alongside each other so that the response of two Celtic nations to such issues as language, imperialism, cultural and gender identity, landscape and history, can be interrogated and illuminatingly compared. The module ranges from two hard-hitting early-twentieth-century representations of the `peasantry' by Synge and Evans and the complex autobiographical imaginings of Joyce and Thomas, through the cultural tensions and `mixed blood' represented by Elizabeth Bowen and Margiad Evans and the (so-called) `national' voices of Yeats and Thomas, to the troubling long perspectives of Heaney and Humphreys, the island identities of Chamberlain and Robinson and the resonantly dark portraits of childhood offered by Deane and Bullough.
This module is at CQFW Level 7