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Irish Women Writers

Beginning with Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent (1800), this course will explore the work of Irish women writers over two centuries and counting, considering how their outspoken, innovative fictions reflect and engage with a culture and a society built on notions of stasis and silencing. We will consider Sommerville and Ross’s Anglo-Irish epic The Real Charlotte and its early 20th century descendant, Elizabeth Bowen’s haunting portrait of girlhood and change, The Last September, moving to the short stories of Mary Lavin, Edna O’Brien’s audacious novel The Country Girls and Maeve Brennan’s émigré perspective in her stories from The Springs of Affection. The novels and stories of contemporary writers including Jennifer Johnston (How Many Miles to Babylon?), Mary Dorcey (Biography of Desire), Deirdre Madden (One by One in the Darkness), Anne Enright (The Forgotten Waltz), Eilis Ni Dhuibne (‘Midwife to the Fairies’), Claire Keegan (Foster) and Claire Kilroy (The Devil I Know) will also be considered. We will think about the worlds and ways of thinking – and of writing – created and interrogated by these writers; we will discuss their experiments against a backdrop of Irish culture (brief supplemental readings will be provided) but also, more importantly, in terms of the artistry and the craft of those experiments. During the course of the semester, I may arrange for the class to be visited by at least one contemporary writer on the syllabus. Students will be expected to make a presentation in addition to their final paper.

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Statue of "Willie the Silent"