Fall 2018


The Irish Literary Revival (1891-1932) (55+)

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ireland was the locus of a remarkable ferment of creativity in the arts. Its multifarious achievements include the rediscovery of Indigenous myth, saga and poetry; the foundation of a home-based theatre movement, culminating in the Abbey Theatre; the founding of the Gaelic League, aimed at restoring spoken Gaelic; the emergence of dramatists who would revitalize English-language theatre—George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Augusta Gregory, John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey; and the rise of a great poet, William Butler Yeats, and a great fiction writer, James Joyce.

We’ll explore how these cultural achievements galvanized social and political events, culminating in Ireland’s independence from Britain, and how the above writers can be seen as the first post-colonialists, given their global influence and reputation.

Note: Required readings for this course will be available online.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Timothy Brownlow $115.00 0 Join Waitlist

What will I learn?

Week 1: Historical Overview

Ireland in the late nineteenth century was culturally and materially exhausted after the disaster of the Great Famine (1845-1849). The emergence of Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) as a strong advocate of Home Rule provided much hope, but Parnell died in disgrace in 1891, leaving a political vacuum.

Week 2: Seeds of Renewal

Two pioneering collectors of folklore, Yeats and Lady Gregory, met in 1896, and began planning the creation of an independent Irish theatre. A brilliant Gaelic scholar and translator, Douglas Hyde (1860-1949), founded the Gaelic League in 1893. Synge visited the Aran Islands, and began writing plays.

Week 3: Coole Park and the Abbey Theatre

Gregory, widow of a colonial governor, threw open her country estate, Coole Park, and made it a workshop of genius. Poets, dramatists, artists and statesmen were among her guests. Here, the theatre movement came to fruition and the Abbey Theatre opened in 1904.

Week 4: Synge’s and O’Casey’s Plays Provoke Riots

Synge’s and O’Casey’s plays, now treasured as classics, were too raw for the Dublin of their time, and created vigorous controversy. Yeats and Gregory courageously defended their work, refusing to compromise artistic standards.

Week 5: Yeats Becomes a Master-Poet

In this session, we trace the evolution of Yeats’s career, from Celtic Twilight dreaminess to the realities of Irish daylight and violence in the 1920s. Yeats won the Nobel Prize in 1923, and served as a senator in the first Irish Free State Parliament.

Week 6: Mavericks and Exiles

Joyce wrote his four masterpieces outside Ireland. Shaw—winner of the Nobel Prize in 1925— and Wilde mainly worked for the London stage. These three writers were never whole-heartedly connected to the Revival as Yeats conceived it, but their genius is part of the broader canvas.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

There is required reading for this course.

Required readings for this course will be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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