Modern Irish Literature I: Tradition and Innovation

B.A. Level
M.A. Level
compulsory SSE
elective DSS
Credit value
2-year MA - post-2013, Z+Zk8
2-year MA - pre-2013, Z+Zk10
2-year MA, Z5
Radvan Markus



The seminar focuses on the dynamics between tradition and innovation in Irish literature since the ‘revivals’ at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Due attention will be given to the phenomenon of modernism (defined very broadly) as an approach to tradition that yields innovative results. The course discusses both English-language classics and relatively less known authors in the Irish language, paying attention to the interactions between the two literary cultures. Knowledge of the Irish language is welcome, but not necessary, as the relevant texts will be made available also in English (or Czech) translations. 


Week 1  (3/10) No class

Weeks 2-3 (10/10; 17/10) Irish Literary Revival

Read: J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World (week 2,3)

          Douglas Hyde, Casadh an tSúgáin/The Twisting of the Rope (week 3)

          J.M. Synge, The Shadow of the Glen (week 3)

Week 4 (24/10) Gaelic Revival

Read: Pádraic Ó Conaire, Deoraíocht/Exile

Week 5 (31/10) James Joyce & Tradition

            Read: James Joyce, “Cyclops,” Ulysses

Week 6 (7/11) Blasket Autobiographies

            Read: Tomás Ó Criomhthain, An tOileánach/The Islandman (extracts)

Week 7 (14/11) Myles na gCopaleen’s An Béal Bocht

            Read: Myles na gCopaleen, An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth

Week 8 (21/11) Tradition and Innovation in Irish Music

            Read: Seán Ó Riada: Our Musical Heritage (selection)

Week 9 (28/11) The “Grotesque Modernism” of Máirtín Ó Cadhain

            Read: Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Cré na Cille/Graveyard Clay (at least the first three interludes)         

Week 10 (5/12) Máirtín Ó Cadhain & Samuel Beckett

            Read: Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot

Weeks 11-13 (12/12; 19/12; 9/1) Modernist Approaches to History

           Read: Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, L’Attaque (week 11)

                    Stewart Parker, Northern Star (weeks 12-13)



1. Regular attendance and active participation in debates (based on the assigned reading).  A maximum of 2 unexplained absences is allowed.

2. Submission of draft answers to the assigned questions on a week-to-week basis.

3. A final essay (minimal length 3 000 words), submitted by e-mail in MS Word format (or compatible). Deadline for essays: 31 January.

Students wishing to be awarded an exam grade in the course are required to submit, in addition to the above, a graded research paper (min. 5000 words).

Essay topics must be discussed with the instructor in advance.



Attridge, Derek. The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce (Cambridge: CUP, 2004).

Hopper, Keith. Flann O’Brien: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Post-Modernist. Cork: Cork University Press, 2009.

Kelleher, Margaret and Philip O’Leary, eds. The Cambridge History of Irish Literature, Vol. 2, 1890-2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Kiberd, Declan. Synge and the Irish Language. London: Macmillan,1993.

Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland: the literature of the modern nation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Kiberd, Declan. Irish Classics. London: Granta Books, 2001.

Mathews, P. J.. The Cambridge Companion to J. M. Synge. Cambridge: CUP, 2009.

Markus, Radvan. Echoes of the Rebellion: The Year 1798 in Twentieth-Century Irish Fiction and Drama. Bern: Peter Lang, 2015.

Markus, Radvan. “John Millington Synge and Pádraic Ó Conaire: Unexpected Fellow Travellers between Romanticism, Realism and Beyond.” Prague Studies of English 1 (2016): 55-69.

Markus, Radvan. “Jazyk a identita v románu Řeči pro pláč Briana O’Nolana.” Vektory kulturního vývoje: identity, utopie, hrdinové. Ed. Petr A. Bílek, Martin Procházka, Jan Wiendl. Praha: FFUK, 2016, 62-78.

Markus, Radvan. “The Carnivalesque against Entropy: Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Cré na Cille.Litteraria Pragensia 28.55 (2018): 56-69.

O’Leary, Philip. Gaelic Prose in the Irish Free State, 1922-1939. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 2004.

O’Leary, Philip. Irish interior: keeping faith with the past in Gaelic prose, 1940-1951. Dublin : University College Dublin Press, 2010.

O’Leary, Philip. Prose Literature of the Gaelic Revival, 1881-1921: Ideology and Innovation. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

O’Leary, Philip. Writing beyond the revival : facing the future in Gaelic prose, 1940-1951. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2011.

Pilný, Ondřej. Irony and Identity in Modern Irish Drama. Praha: Litteraria Pragensia, 2006.

Tymoczko, Maria. The Irish Ulysses. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.