EN 732:Contermporary Irish Fiction                                                 Jim Smith

Gasson 201, Fri. 2-4:25 p.m.                                                                       Connolly House 301

Office Hours: Wed. 10 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.                                           617-552-1596 (office)

and by appointment.                                                                                                            617-333-9898 (home)



Mary Robinson, in her inaugural speech in 1990, hoped that her presidency would "promote the telling of stories, stories of celebration through the arts and stories of conscience and of social justice." Concentrating of contemporary Irish fiction, this course interrogates the confluence of "stories" representing Irish society since the mid-1980s. We will examine significant cultural shifts and attempt answers to ongoing cultural questions. These include issues of national identity in an era of globalization, the relationship between tradition and innovation in ‘Celtic Tiger’ Ireland, the challenges and contradictions posed by the Northern Ireland Peace Process, issues of gender, sexuality and ethnicity in the “new Ireland”.


Texts: (BC Bookstore)

Deane, Seamus                 Reading in the Dark (1996)

Doyle, Roddy                    The Woman Who Walked into Doors (1996)

Donoghue, Emma          Hood (1995) Coursepack

Enright, Anne                    What Are You Like (2000)

Healy, Dermot                                    The Bend for Home (1996) (8 copies in bookstore*)

MacLaverty, Bernard  Grace Notes (1997)

Madden, Deirdre             One by One in the Darkness (1996)

McCabe, Parick               The Butcher Boy (1992)

Morrissy, Mary                Mother of Pearl (1997)

NiDhuibhne, Eilis          The Dancers Dancing (1999) Coursepack

O’Brien, Edna                   Down By The River (1998)

Peach, Linden                   The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings (2004)

Toibin, Colm                     The Blackwater Lightship (1999)


Seminar Requirements:

1. Beginning with the class on Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (9/17), each week a group of students will summarize and evaluate criticism on the assigned text, prepare and circulate a report/ annotated bibliography for members of the seminar, and assume a leadership role in discussion. Each presenter will examine one additional reading (indicated on Syllabus under asterisks, i.e., *****) and incorporate it into the group report.  As a result, each week we will hope to cover at least three critical responses to the text/author and thereby achieve a better understanding of the wider field/debate. To facilitate this process, each group will email a two-page report to the class (no later than the Wednesday evening prior to Friday’s class meeting) including:

Š          A summary, an evaluation, and a list of a major issues explored in the critical literature

Š          Some questions we should consider before class to prepare for discussion


In addition to the materials I have placed on reserve, each week I will provide a bibliography for each writer/novel. Everyone should continue to utilize BC Libraries and online resources with the goal of creating as comprehensive a bibliography as possible for these writers (please email any suggestions). Everyone should expect to participate in two presentations over the course of the semester (10%).


2. For the weeks when you are not presenting, in addition to reading the text, come to class ready to respond to the assigned critical readings.  In particular, everyone should engage the questions set forth by the presenters and participate in an active manner on a consistent basis (10 %).


3. A short (7-9 page) conference style paper or review of a recently published Irish novel (list to be circulated) due on October 29 (30%).


4. A seminar paper (15-18 pages approx.) on a topic related to the course readings.  Abstract due November 19, individual conferences with me on November 22 and 23, finished draft due on December10. This project can develop from your short paper or your class presentations (50%).



9/10       Introduction(s), Overview, Presentations


9/17       Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992)




9/24       Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked Into Doors (1996)

Š          Jeffers, Jennifer M.  The Irish Novel at the End of the Twentieth Century: Gender, Bodies, and Power.  New York: Palgrave, 2002. “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors,” 48-64. (R)



10/1       Mary Morrissy’s Mother of Pearl (1996)



10/8       Edna O’Brien’s Down By The River (1998)



10/15    Emma Donoghue’s Hood (1995)







10/22    Colm Tóibín’s The Blackwater Lightship (1999)    

Guest Lecturer, Éibhear Walshe, National University of Ireland, Cork.



10/29    Eilis Ní Dhuibhne’s The Dancer’s Dancing (1999)



11/5       Anne Enright’s What Are You Like? (2000)


Š          Wills, Claire. “Women, Domesticity and the Family: Recent Feminist Work in Irish Cultural Studies.” Cultural Studies 15, 1 (2001): 33-57. O’Neill Library Electronic Journals, http://www.bc.edu/libraries/resources/ejournals/



11/12    Dermot Healy’s The Bend for Home (1996)




11/19 Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark (1996)


Š          Peach, Linden.  The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2004. Ch. 3. “Secret Hauntings.” Pp.38-67, esp. 45-54.

Š          Jeffers, Jennifer M.  The Irish Novel at the End of the Twentieth Century: Gender, Bodies, and Power.  New York: Palgrave, 2002. “Reading in the Dark,” 121-28. (R)




12/3       Deirdre Madden’s One by One in the Darkness (1996)

Š          Parker, Michael.  “Shadows on a Glass: Self-Reflexivity in the Fiction of Deirdre Madden.” Irish University Review 30, 1 (Spring/Summer 2000): 82-102. (R)


Š          St. Peter, Christine.  Changing Ireland: Strategies in Contemporary Women’s Fiction.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. “One by One in The Darkness,” 102, 119-21. (R)

Š          Jeffers, Jennifer M.  The Irish Novel at the End of the Twentieth Century: Gender, Bodies, and Power.  New York: Palgrave, 2002. pp.71-7. (R)

Š          Madden, Deirdre.  “Looking for Home: Time, Place, Memory.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 26.2/27.1 (2000:Fall/2001: Spring): 25-33. (R)


12/10    Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes (1997)

Š          Smyth, Gerry. “The same sound but with a different meaning: Music, Repetition, and Identity in Bernard Mac Laverty’s Grace Notes.” Éire-Ireland 37. 3-4(Fall/Winter 2002): 5-24. O’Neill Library Electronic Journals, http://www.bc.edu/libraries/resources/ejournals/


Š          Harte, Liam & Michael Parker.  “Reconfiguring Identities: Recent Northern Irish Fiction.” Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. 232-54, esp. 232-3, 234, 242-50. (R)

Š          Watt, Stephen.  “Beckett, Late Modernism, and Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes.” New Hibernia Review 6, 2 (Summer, 2000): 53-64. O’Neill Library Electronic Journals, http://www.bc.edu/libraries/resources/ejournals/