English 352:  Modern Irish Literature

Ulysses and the Contemporary Irish Novel”

Autumn 2006

Professor Marc C. Conner

Payne 32B, x8924, connerm@wlu.edu

office hours:  M, Tu, W, Th 1-2:45, and by appointment


COURSE DESCRIPTION:  James Joyce’s epic achievement of 1922, Ulysses, is almost certainly the greatest and most influential literary work of the 20th century.  It stands as the definitive work of Modernism, and arguably the foundational work of post-Modernism—the various movements and authors who write, inevitably, in the wake of both Modernism and of Joyce (indeed, these two concepts can be separated only with difficulty).  Ulysses can be fruitfully studied from a variety of perspectives and contexts, including that of Modernism as a European-wide movement, and the more “parochial” (to use Kavanagh’s term) perspective of Irish literature, particularly the “Irish Revival” that corresponded almost exactly with Joyce’s own lifetime.  Indeed, Joyce himself delighted in both the “macrocosm” and the “microcosm” that such twinned perspectives imply.  In this course, we will engage Joyce’s epic on its own terms as well as on the larger cultural and historical terms of its arising; and we also will study the ways in which three major contemporary Irish novelists write their works in the era after Joyce.  These novelists—John McGahern, Edna O’Brien, and Jamie O’Neill—stand on their own as extraordinary artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries; but they also invite comparison with Joyce, a predecessor by whom they are clearly influenced, although in complex and elusive ways.  By putting these figures into conversation with one another, we seek a greater understanding of the Irish novel throughout the past century and into the present.


COURSE STRUCTURE:  We begin by reading Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (the crucial prelude to Ulysses), and then we work through all of Ulysses with great care.  We then turn to the contemporary novelists, spending two weeks on one novel by each writer.  Writing assignments include a short paper on Ulysses; a take-home exam on Ulysses; and a longer comparative essay on one of the contemporary novelists and Ulysses.  Grades will be determined as follows:  20% for the first essay; 25% for the mid-term; 35% for the longer essay; and 20% for class participation.  Class attendance is absolutely required:  each unexcused absence after 1 will lower a final grade by ½ (3 tardies = 1 absence).  Attendance at the two evening lectures is also required.  Assignments turned in late will suffer alarming penalties. 


TEXTS:  Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Penguin) and Ulysses (Vintage); Blamires, The New Bloomsday Book (Routledge, 3rd ed.); Gifford, Ulysses Annotated (California); O’Neill, At Swim, Two Boys (Scribner); McGahern, Amongst Women (Penguin) (all available at W&L bookstore). O’Brien, The Light of Evening (Houghton Mifflin) (must be pre-ordered through Amazon.com—release date October 6 2006).  Also students will read Conner, Introducing Irish History:  A Web Text at http://ireland.wlu.edu.  (This web site contains many other course resources.)




F 9.7                Introduction to James Joyce; opening pages of Portrait


M 9.11            A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 3- 108

W 9.13            A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 109-187

F 9.15              A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 188-276



M 9.18            Introducing Ulysses:  Episode 1, “Telemachus”

Have Introducing Irish History completed, including the 4 reading quizzes

W 9.20            Ulysses:  Episodes 2 & 3, “Nestor” and “Proteus”

F 9.22              Ulysses:  Episodes 4 & 5, “Calypso” and “Lotuseaters”


M 9.25            Ulysses:  Episodes 6 & 7, “Hades” and “Aeolus”

W 9.27            Ulysses:  Episodes 8 & 9, “Lestrygonians” & “Scylla and Charybdis”

F 9.29              Ulysses:  Episode 10, “Wandering Rocks” (class led by Prof. Keen)


M 10.2            no class – reading day

W 10.4            Ulysses:  Episodes 11 & 12, “Sirens” and “Cyclops”

First essay (5 pages) on the first six episodes of Ulysses, due Wednesday 10/4

F 10.6              Ulysses:  Episode 13, “Nausicaa”


M 10.9            Ulysses:  Episode 14, “Oxen of the Sun”

W 10.11          Ulysses:  Episode 15, “Circe”

F 10.13            Reading Days:  no class


M 10.16          Ulysses:  Episodes 16 and 17, “Eumaeus” and “Ithica”

W 10.18          Ulysses:  Episode 18, “Penelope”


Coilin Owens, Professor of English, George Mason University, delivers public lecture on Thursday, October 19, 7 p.m., in Huntley 327


F 10.20            Professor Coilin Owens leads class


M 10.23          Jamie O’Neill, At Swim, Two Boys, pp. 3-109

Take-home exam, on Ulysses, due Monday, October 23rd

W 10.25          At Swim, Two Boys, pp. 110-182

F 10.27            At Swim, Two Boys, pp. 183-292


M 10.30          At Swim, Two Boys, pp. 295-436

W 11.1            At Swim, Two Boys, pp. 437-523

F 11.3              At Swim, Two Boys, pp. 524-562


M 11.6            Jamie O’Neill visits class (begin McGahern, Amongst Women)  


Jamie O’Neill reads from his work, Tuesday November 7, 7:30 p.m., Commons Theater (reception and book-signing to follow)


W 11.8            McGahern, Amongst Women

F 11.10            Amongst Women


M 11.13          Amongst Women

W 11.15          Amongst Women

F 11.17            Amongst Women


November 20-24:  Thanksgiving Break, no classes


M 11.27          Edna O’Brien, The Light of Evening

W 11.29          The Light of Evening

F 12.1              The Light of Evening


M 12.4            The Light of Evening

W 12.6            The Light of Evening

F 12.8              The Light of Evening


Final paper (10-15 pages), a comparative study of either O’Neill, McGahern, or O’Brien and Joyce, due on Friday, December 8, at the start of class.