Courses in the Irish Semester

Courses in the Irish Semester

Dr. Eamonn O' Ciardha


  •  Lecture Course: “Literature and society in Ireland: an introduction”, Mon 12-2pm, C5 3, room U13

This module offers an introduction to the history of Irish literature in English and Irish (Gaelic), involving close literary study of  selected texts by some of the most representative Irish writers. It will examine texts and contexts for Irish literature in Irish and  English from 1800 to the present time, setting them in their historical and cultural contexts, and examining the relationship between history, politics and literature between the Act of Union (1800) and the Good Friday Agreement (1995), and beyond.

  • Lecture Course: “Irish Literature in Irish: From Cúchulainn to Cathal O’ Searcaigh”, Wed 2-4pm, B3 1, room 0.13 (HSII)

This module will provide a survey of Irish poetry and prose literature in Irish from the earliest Irish Sagas to the modern period. It will show how literature has been inescapably allied to historical interpretation and political allegiance. Ireland’s rich literary tradition, the oldest in Western Europe, has undergone a series of revivals and collapses, all of them centred on the idea of Ireland. The arrival of Christianity in the fifth century, and particularly the foundation of new monastic communities in the following two hundred years, fused a vibrant Romano-Latin culture with Gaelic Ireland’s rich oral tradition. This vigorous hybrid flowered until the ninth centuries at a time when Irish Christian missionaries played a key role in converting the Germanic peoples of Europe to Christianity, earning Ireland its title of ‘The Island of Saints and Scholars’. By this time, the onset of the Viking invasions, internal dynastic strife and increased secularisation had begun to weaken Irish monasticism. While a hereditary literary caste of poets, genealogists, brehons and leeches continued to preserve traditional lore in relation to places, families, customs and laws, the monastic scribes incorporated it into established systems of Christian beliefs. They recorded Ireland’s origin myths, pre-Christian beliefs, deities and place-lore in three cycles; the Ruraíocht, tales of Cúchulainn, the Irish Achilles, and the Red Branch Knights; Fionn Mac Cumhaill, Oisín and the Fianna, as well as the King Cycle of Mad Sweeny, The Voyages and the 1st and 2nd Battles of Maigh Tuiread between the Fir Bolgs, Tuatha De Dannann and the Gaels, the ultimate victors in the Leabhar Gabála. After the end of the Viking Age and the onset of the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1169, secular bardic schools began to flourish under the patronage of Gaelic and Anglo-Norman lords. A hereditary, mandarin class of Irish poets produced a large corpus of Irish verse, much of which is recorded in family poem-books (dunairí). Up to the late sixteenth century, Gaelic civilization retained a phenomenal capacity to accommodate to the political and military disruptions which had characterized the country’s history. However, with the onset of the Protestant Reformation, the Tudor re-conquest and the arrival of large numbers of English and later Scottish Protestant settlers, Irish literature would become detached from its socio-economic and cultural anchorage in the independent Gaelic and  Gaelicised Anglo-Normal lordships. It is only in the seventeenth century that the Gaelic tradition began to organize itself against this powerful new military, political and cultural aggressor. Many Irish scholars made their way into the ranks of the counter-Reformation Catholic clergy, and they effected a Catholic revival through the medium of Irish. This initiative spawned a whole corpus of theological, historical and annalistic writings designed to reach the Catholic laity through a literate clergy, thereby preserving them from Protestantism. The collapse of the Gaelic order proceeded apace during the seventeenth century, as a consequence of successive wars, conquests, plantations. Its demise effectively democratised Irish literature and enhanced a vibrant scribal, manuscript and oral tradition to which revivalists would turn at the end of the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as the language continued to decline,  the Irish poet, novelist and short-story writer has continued to produce some of the best writings in either language on the island, as well as fulfilled their time-honoured role as commentator, reflector and moulder of public opinion in both the Gaeltacht and Galltacht.

Prof. Dr. Bert Hornback

  •  Lecture Course: “Irish Literature”, Tue 4-6pm, C5 1 Musiksaal

Lecture Schedule:

Tue.  26 Oct. 

Introduction. “Ancient Ireland Knew It All” (Dr. Eamonn O’Ciardha, University of Ulster, Guest-Professor, Universität des Saarlandes)

Tue.   2 Nov. 

William Butler Yeats (Hon. Daniel Mulhall,  Irish Ambassador to Germany)

Tue.   9 Nov.    

Jonathan Swift (Prof. Dr. Hermann-Josef Real, Universität Münster))
Tue. 16 Nov.    

English Irish Theatre: Boucicault, Wilde and Shaw
Tue. 23 Nov.   

Irish Theatre: Augusta Gregory and William Butler Yeats

Tue. 30 Nov.  

Irish Theatre:  John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey
Tue   6  Dec.    

Brian Friel 
Tue. 13 Dec.    

Field Day, and the Legacy of Field Day (Professor Thomas Kilroy, National University of Ireland)

Tue.    4 Jan.    

James Joyce
Tues. 11 Jan.   

James Joyce, Flan O’Brien, and Samuel Beckett
Tue.  18 Jan.     

Later Irish Fiction: Elizabeth Bowen, Frank O’Connor, John McGaghern, Edna O’Brien, Bernard McLaverty, Patrick McCabe, Colm Toibin, Hugo Hamilton

Tue. 25 Jan.

William Butler Yeats
Tue.   1 Feb.    

Later Irish Poetry; Seamus Heaney
Tue.   8 Feb.    

Seamus Heaney; Conclusions
Readings for this course will be posted on the web-site.

Please Note:  There will be an informal discussion session each week in the period following the lecture, from 18:00 to 19:00. 

  • Hauptseminar: “William Butler Yeats”, Mon 2-4pm, C5 3, room 4.08

William Butler Yeats wrote passionate poems about love, about Ireland, about history, about his own time.  Several dozen of them are among the most beautiful poems in English. 

This seminar will meet the six or seven weeks of the term at the university.  Then in the latter part of February or beginning of March we will fly to Dublin, rent a van, and drive to the West of Ireland. On the way, we will visit Thor Ballylee, where Yeats lived for many years, and spend three grand, wild, adventuresome days on Inishmore, a beautiful island forty kilometers out in Galway Bay. Back on the mainland, we will drive north to Cruit Island in Donegal, for a week of studying Yeats. Our lodgings will be two lovely cottages overlooking the Atlantic. Coming back, we will have three days in Dublin before we fly home, and students write their seminar papers. They will also keep Irish journals.

The cost for this two-week adventure—flights, van rental, boats; Inishmore and Dublin hotels and Donegal cottages; and all meals except for lunch and dinner in Dublin—will be no more than €300 per person. Maximum number of participants 14.  Our text for this seminar will be The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (Wordsworth edition).

  • Hauptseminar:“Irish Theatre”, Wed 12-2pm, C5 2, room 5.19

This course will study two plays by John Synge, one by Sean O’Casey, and three by Brian Friel. In addition to our work with these plays, we will perform three short staged readings for the Irish literature lecture course:  Lady Gregory’s one-act play, “The Rising of the Moon” (4 characters) and Yeats’s short play “Kathleen ni Houlihan” (6 characters), as well as the Christmas dinner scene from James Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (5 characters). 

All members of the hauptseminar will be expected to participate in one of these performances.  The other requirements for the course are class attendance, good reading, and a seminar paper on at least one of our plays.


Prof. Dr. Astrid Fellner

  •  Hauptseminar: “Irish Identities in North America”, Thurs 10am-12pm, C5 2, room 5.19

In this seminar we will explore the history of Irish American and Irish Canadian literature and culture. We will begin with an overview of the foundational works of pre-famine immigrants and then explore how Irish North American literature changed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Irishness has been largely absorbed into mainstream culture, and as a result, the Irish have become a largely invisible ethnicity. This class will show how Irishness is integral to many stories in American literature and film. Throughout the course, we will consider questions of ethnic and cultural identity as we attempt to understand the Irish backgrounds that inform the works we study.

Required Texts:

James T. Farrell’s Young Lonigan: A Boyhood in Chicago Streets (1932) ISBN-10: 0142180076 (or in Studs Lonigan: A Trilogy ISBN-10: 0141186739

Jane Urquart’s Away (1993) ISBN-10: 0747559643

Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes (1996) ISBN-10: 0684843137


Gangs of New York

Angela’s Ashes

There will be a course reader, which you can pick up at the Fotostelle.


Dr. Bruno von Lutz:


  • Cultural Studies: Ireland, Thurs 4-6pm, C5 3, room 4.08

The texts we shall discuss in this course document different views, from the 12th century to the present, on issues such as the invasion of Ireland, the “Irish question”, Irish self-perceptions, British-Irish relations, “Home Rule”, the “Agreements”, and a range of literary texts. A reader will be provided.


  • Proseminar: “Reviewing Irish Literature”, Tue 2-4pm, C5 3, room U10

This course is meant to introduce the greatest possible number of authors. Students are expected to form research groups and work on four authors/novels. The groups will do research work on interviews and essays by the authors, reviews, secondary literature, biography, background knowledge, the business of literary prizes, literary magazines, the technique of writing reviews, etc. Each student will have to write a review of one novel and present it. The aim is to compile in-depth reference files of material on a large range of authors. A list of writers and novels will be available by the end of August.  


Dr. Lena Steveker:


  •  Hauptseminar: “Representations of Ireland in Early Modern English Literature”

The relationship between England and Ireland, which has been complex and troubled for centuries, originates in the Tudor age. In this seminar, we will discuss how texts by early modern English authors such as William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser fashion collective identities of both the Irish colonial `other' and the English `self'.

Please note that the seminar schedule is organised as follows:

1st meeting (organisational meeting): Tue, 09 Nov. 2010, 14:15-15:45 hrs

1st weekend seminar: Fr, 21 Jan. 2011, 10:00-17:00 hrs and Sa, 22 Jan. 2011, 10:00-17:00 hrs

2nd weekend seminar: Fr, 28 Jan. 2011, 10:00-17:00 hrs and Sa, 29 Jan. 2011,, 10:00-17:00 hrs

Students are expected to attend all meetings if they want to get credit for this course.

Students who would like to attend the seminar must register via CLIX in advance. Please note the departmental registration deadline for all courses, which will be announced as soon as possible.

Texts: to be announced during the first meeting

Heike Mißler:


  • Proseminar: “Irishness in Contemporary Irish Literature and Film”, Tue 10-12pm, C5 3, room U13

"This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever."
(Sigmund Freud about the Irish)

Ireland and the Irish: Guinness, shamrocks and leprechauns, Paddys and Sheilas, U2.
These are probably some of the most widespread received ideas about the Emerald Isle (here’s another one). Blarney? In this course we will discuss clichés and stereotypes in order to go beyond them and try to grasp what constitutes a national identity. We will have a look at Ireland’s recent past and at its popular culture, and we will study two films and two texts in detail in order to find out how contemporary Irish authors and film directors deal with the issue of Irishness. The books which you need to purchase are:
Doyle, Roddy. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. ISBN 0-7493-9735-7 /978-0-7493-9735-7
Donoghue, Emma. Stir Fry. ISBN 9780140230833
The films we will deal with primarily, Ondine (2010) and Breakfast on Pluto (2004), will be shown in cooperation with Saarbrücken’s arthouse cinema Camera Zwo on 3 November and 24 November. So if you want to take this course, be prepared to go to the cinema at least twice (there will be a special student ticket).