English 390b
M. McInerney
TTH 2:30 – 4


The Celtic Fringe: Contemporary Irish, Scottish and Welsh Poetry

This course will begin with readings in the work of three monumental figures: W.B. Yeats, Hugh MacDiarmid and Dylan Thomas. These three poets, all associated with Modernism, cast long shadows across Ireland, Scotland and Wales that extend even into the twenty-first century. Successive generations of poets respond and react to these giants, even as all three of the Celtic “nations” move along different paths towards self-governance (independence in the Republic of Ireland, devolution in Scotland and Wales, the continuing resistance to British colonialism in Northern Ireland). We will explore the relationships between poetry and politics, the personal and the universal, history and myth-making in the works of English language poets such as Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Edwin Morgan, Carol Ann Duffy, R.S. Thomas, Gwyn Williams, and Gwyneth Lewis. While no knowledge of any language other than English is required for the course, we will listen to recordings of poems in Irish, Gaelic and Welsh, and read translations of work by some poets who choose to publish in those languages, or in the Scots dialect.

The class will be conducted as a true seminar, with much of the responsibility for directing discussion falling on the students. The syllabus for the last section of the course, on truly contemporary writers, will be entirely determined by student research and interest.

Patrick Crotty, Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology (Blackstaff Press, 1996)
Robert Crawford and Mick Imlah, The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse (Penguin 2007)
Menna Elflyn and John Rowlands, The Bloodaxe Book of Modern Welsh Poetry (Bloodaxe Press, 2003)
The Collected Works of Dylan Thomas, ed. Paul Muldoon (New Directions, 2010)
W.B. Yeats, Collected Poems and Four Plays, ed. M.L. Rosenthal (Scribner, 1996)

Supplemental required readings including poems by MacDiarmid will be available on Blackboard.

Three short response papers (2-3 pages)
One research project/oral presentation on some aspect of Celtic culture (i.e. Irish folk music; Welsh mythology; Scottish nationalist politics)
Final Essay, 12-15 pages.
Active Participation

Pre-Requisites: 2 courses at the 200 level, or permission.

*Enrollment is limited to 15 students.