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Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07

Course Overview

This course addresses Irish writing produced, in or out of the country, between the revolutionary period (1916-1922) and the establishment of the Irish Republic in 1949. Political ferment was matched by a remarkable surge in literary production, in drama, fiction and poetry. We will examine the ways in which writers responded to (and helped shape) political change, while also staging literary revolutions of their own in the bold experiments of Ulysses and other landmark texts.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr David Wheatley

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Programme Level 4

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)
  • Programme Level 4
  • English (EL)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Course Aims: To provide students with a thorough grounding in Irish literature of this period; to read Irish literature in the light of wide-ranging critical methodologies; to familiarize students with the post-colonial debate in Irish studies. Students will display familiarity with the texts studied on the course; will understand the historical and political contexts in which these texts were produced; will show familiarity with the critical debate in their course work; will show a capacity for clear, critical and independent thinking. Content: Addressing Irish writing from the revolutionary period to the end of the Second World War, Writing in a Free State covers a wide range of authors and genres, from James Joyce?s Ulysses to the poetry of W. B. Yeats and taking in the drama of Sean O'Casey, the poetry of Louis MacNeice, Patrick Kavanagh and Austin Clarke, and the fiction of Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O'Brien and Samuel Beckett. The legacy of the War of Independence and Civil War is deeply encoded in Irish writing of this period, as is widespread disillusionment with the Free State created in 1922. Some writers reacted by cultivating the 'silence, exile and cunning' advocated by James Joyce's Stephen Dedalus, others by staying at home and trying to build the cultural institutions of the new state, such as the Abbey Theatre. The clash between social conservatism and artistic radicalism strongly colours the writing of this period, giving shape to the landscapes of nightmarish claustrophobia and paranoia we find in Beckett's Watt and O'Brien's The Third Policeman. Writing in a Free State offers a chance to read great works of modernist art against a backdrop of profound social upheaval.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: One two-hour written examination (40%), continuous assessment (40%), group presentation (10%), SAM (10%). Resit: For honours students only: candidates achieving a CAS mark of 6-8 may be awarded compensatory level 1 credit. Candidates achieving a CAS mark of less than 6 will be required to submit a new essay.

Formative Assessment

All students will be required to deliver a class presentation.


Feedback will be provided on a personal basis during consultation hours, as well as in the form of written comments.

Course Learning Outcomes


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