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 often yields original 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. The readings of key primary texts will be supplemented by a selection of theoretical and critical essays, assigned as presentations.


1. The Irish Literary Revival (focus on the playwright J. M. Synge)

2. The Gaelic Revival (focus on Pádraic Ó Conaire’s Deoraíocht/Exile)

3. James Joyce and Tradition (reading of "Cyclops" from Ulysses; critique of the Revival and nationalism vs. the use of Irish myth)

4. The Blasket Autobiographies (focus on Tomás Ó Criomhthain's An tOileánach/The Islander

5. Myles na gCopaleen’s An Béal Bocht (a satire on the Gaelic Revival, post-modernist approach to language)

6. Tradition and Innovation in Irish Music

7. The "Grotesque Modernism" of Máirtín Ó Cadhain (the novel Cré na Cille/Churchyard Clay)

6. Modernist Approaches to History (Eoghan Ó Tuairisc’s L’Attaque and Stewart Parker’s Northern Star)


Active participation based on the required reading and the discussion of questions assigned in advance. One in-class presentation of a theoretical/critical text. Final essay (min. 2500 words) based on a text or topic covered in the seminar, submitted via e-mail. Students wishing to be awarded an exam grade (Zk) in the course are required to submit, in addition to the above, a graded research paper (min. 4500 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.

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

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

Parker, Stewart. Dramatis Personae and Other Writings. Eds. Gerald Dawe, Maria Johnston, Clare Wallace. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2008.

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

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