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Ecology in Modern Irish Poetry

Class at Faculty of Arts |



NB: There is no class on 27 March.

Please note that the topics and readings listed in the syllabus are tentative. Please scroll below to find an updated reading list and questions for each week. 1. Introduction: The Impossible Irish Pastoral 2. Romantic Legacies: W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge Texts:W. B. Yeats, poems (selection) J. M. Synge, The Aran Islands (selection), poems (selection)H. D. Thoreau, Walden (excerpt) 3. Patrick Kavanagh’s Rural AlienationTexts:Patrick Kavanagh, The Great HungerOliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village (selection)Selection of poems by John Clare 4. Irish-Language Poetry and EcolinguisticsTexts: Selection of poems by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Máirtín Ó Direáin and Ailbhe Ní GhearbhuighJames McCloskey, “A Global Silencing”, The Poetry Ireland Review 52 (Spring, 1997): 41-46. 5. Seamus Heaney’s Pastoral PoliticsTexts:Selection of poems from Heaney’s The Death of a Naturalist, Field WorkSelection of poems by William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes Seamus Heaney, “The Makings of a Music: Reflections on Wordsworth and Yeats”, Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980), 61-78. 6. Sea and Beach: Derek Mahon’s Fluid AllegiancesTexts:Selection of poems by Mahon Eóin Flannery, “‘Listen to the Leaves’: Derek Mahon’s Evolving Ecologies”, Criticism 57.3 (Summer 2015): 377-401. 7. Nature, Science, Culture: Caitríona O’ReillyTexts:Selection of poems by O’Reilly (Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath)Jefferson Holdridge, “Reclaiming the Wilderness: Nature and Perception in Caitríona O'Reilly”, Études irlandaises 31.1 (2006): 11-25.Derek Woods, “Scale in Ecological Science Writing” in Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran eds., Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (Oxon: Routledge, 2019), 118-128. 8. More Mushrooms: Ailbhe Darcy Texts: Selection of poems by Darcy from Imaginary Menagerie and InsistenceAilbhe Darcy, “Or, How I Learned to Keep Worrying: Collaborative Writing, Motherhood, and the Atom Bomb”, The Critical Flame 48 (May/June 2017). Wineapple, “The Politics of Politics; or, How the Atomic Bomb Didn't Interest Gertrude Stein and Emily Dickinson”, South Central Review 23.3 (Fall, 2006): 37-45. 9. Deep Time: Eiléan Ní ChuilleanáinTexts:Selection of poems by Ní ChuilleanáinJoseph R. DesJardins, “Radical Environmental Philosophy: Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism” in Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy, fifth edition (Wadsworth, Boston, MA: Cenage Learning, 2013), 203-231. 10. Embodied Perception: Medbh McGuckianTexts:Selection of McGuckian’s poems Timothy Clark, “Ecofeminism” in The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 121-135. 11. In the Animal Skin: Sinéad Morrissey and Leontia FlynnTexts:Selection of poems by Morrissey and Flynn|Chapters on “Anthropocentrism” and “Anthropomorphism” from Timothy Clark, The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) 12. On Weather and Ghosts: Conor O’CallaghanTexts:Extracts from O’Callaghan’s novel Nothing on Earth and a selection of his poemsGreg Garrard, “The Trouble with Apocalypse” in Ecocriticism (Oxon: Rougledge, 2012), 113-117.



Ireland’s traditional image as a “green-meadowed” island situated on the edge of Europe and its current position as one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses per capita in the EU make it a questionable site of pastoral myth. As it reflects the nation’s complex cultural and linguistic identity informed by a post-colonial mix of victimhood and guilt, Irish poetry appears to be particularly well suited for eco-critical analysis. In this course, we will read works by Irish and Northern-Irish poets of the last one hundred years and explore them in the light of a changing climate and the ongoing archipelagic as well as transatlantic poetic connections.