Whiskey, fairies, and potatoes – when it comes to the Irish culture, the stereotypes come easily. But what does it really mean when Irish literature talks about such common Irish themes as eating, drinking, music, and all sorts of supernatural things? All too often, we are tempted to overlook how tremendously authors from the tiny country of Ireland have contributed to English-language literature with international acclaim. Their unique themes engage and go beyond the common stereotypes to reveal radically different perspectives on what life on the Emerald Isle is truly like. For example, one of the most pervasive subjects in Irish literature is the realm of the supernatural, which always seems to be just around the corner in Ireland. We will read texts that feature ghosts, fairies (including leprechauns), and even vampires to find out why exactly these otherworldly creatures are so important to Irish culture. In order to get a better understanding of the visual aspects of plays, we will also watch videos of theater productions of some of the plays we’re reading.
In focusing on contemporary Irish poetry and drama, we will explore how modern playwrights and poets represent Irish places and culture. By studying how these authors, who include Broadway successes and Nobel Prize winners, use a uniquely Irish variety of poetic and theatrical forms and language, we will examine the significant impact Irish culture and history have on literature today.