Contemporary Irish Writing - ENGL6590

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Spring Term 6 30 (15) Declan Kavanagh checkmark-circle


Much Irish writing in the 20th and 21st centuries has been torn between tradition and innovation, between the need to define a national identity in opposition to Britain and the desire to transcend national boundaries and embrace a cosmopolitan modernity. With four nobel laureates in the 20th century (Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, Heaney), modern Irish literature has gained international recognition. In recent years, Irish Literature has undergone surprising changes in theme and content, moving from the insularity of parochialism to the emergence of the 'Global Irish novel". The charting of this development will provide an important framework for the discussion in this module of recurrent issues in Irish writing, such as history, cultural memory, violence and society, queer sexualities and gender relations, national and cultural identities, and the negotiation of what the historian Roy Foster has called the 'varieties of Irishness'. The module will consider a broad variety of Irish writing from 1975 to 2014: sampling significant developments in poetry, drama and prose.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 32
Private study hours: 268
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main Assessment Methods:

Two 3,000-word essays (45% each)
Seminar Performance (10%)

Reassessment methods:
Like for Like.

Indicative reading

This is a module focused on contemporary literature, so the primary reading list is likely to change from year to year as the module responds to new developments in 21st-century Irish writing. Text selection will be partly driven by student interest. Authors likely to feature on the module each year will be selected from this list:

for poetry, Seamus Heaney, Tom Paulin, Derek Mahon, Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eavan Boland, Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley and others; for drama, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness, Anne Devlin, Marina Carr, Stewart Parker, Sebastian Barry, Martin McDonagh, Tom Murphy and others;

for fiction, Oona Frawley, Colm Toíbín, John Banville, Louise O'Neill, Sally Rooney, Anna Burns, Roddy Doyle, Joseph O'Connor, Glenn Patterson, Robert McLiam Wilson, Anne Enright, Keith Ridgway, Jennifer Johnston, Ciaran Carson, Seamus Deane, Nuala O'Faolain and others.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 read and respond critically to a range of Irish poetry, drama and fiction
2 learn to situate and discuss literary texts in their historical, cultural, and theoretical contexts
3 explore the specific connection between literature and history in Irish writing
4 explore a range of theoretical approaches to literary texts, including postcolonial perspectives
5 develop an ability to interrogate and understand contemporary Irish culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 develop their ability to analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of reading
2 develop their command of written and spoken English and their abilities to articulate coherent critical arguments
3 understand and interrogate various critical approaches and the theoretical assumptions that underpin these approaches
4 develop their abilities to carry out independent research
5 develop their presentational skills


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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