This course disentangles the historical threads which explain the continuity and unsolvability of Irish dwelling problems, through a user-friendly account about the ethno-cultural, geographic, social and political factors which have shaped the inwardly divided Irishness to date. Acknowledging the still enduring popularity of Irish entertainment forms, themes and names, we seek in the systematic study of colonial history the roots of Irish hyphenated identity, with a notion borrowed from sociology – applicable to the Protestant-Catholic fault line foregrounded in Brexit times. Hurling the ball across centuries, we encounter the Irish Anglo-Normans (the Old English), the, firstly, Catholic, then Protestant stages in the odd existence of this Old World white colony – linked so intimately with practically all the distinctive European religious, economic, and military aspects of modern expansionist then postcolonial history, especially linked with the decolonization of republican America, and then participating in British conservative versus liberal democracy. The fear of a new period of troubles breaking up after Brexit with solid factual (economic and paramilitary) underpinnings and the prospects for a reunification of the North with the South, feared by the former and desired by the latter, are discussed in the context of the Protestant and the Catholic kinds of nationhood. The access to this puzzling cultural space is helped by the existence in the English Department of an Irish library boasting over 600 periodical volumes, poetry, drama and fiction collections, history and art history books, plus essential reference titles in the literature on Irish nationhood and culture. A unique chance of interacting with Irish culture, documenting it in detail and going beyond the popular aura of films and music. 

Course Instructor: Dr Ioana Zirra


Week 1: Introduction to the module and (postcolonial) theoretical keywords: hyphenation; perspectivism; the paradox of “neighbouring”.

Readings: Emily Apter (2006) The Translation Zone. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. from Chapter 16 “A New Comparative Literature”, 243-251; Derek Mahon’s 1970 poem “Ecclesiastes”. M.W. Heslinga (1979) The Irish Border as a Cultural Divide, Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum: part 1, chapt.3 ‘Ireland’ and Other Geographical Names,30-37.

Week 2: The coming of the Anglo-Normans.

Readings: Maire and Conor Cruise O’Brien (1973). A Concise History of Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson. Ch. 3 “A Conquest Absorbed” (41-44); Ruth Dudley Edwards (1989) An Atlas of Irish History, London: Routledge, Part IV, Chapts. 26. “Fourteenth C. Ireland” (76)  and 27. “The Great Families of Ireland” (76-80)

Week 3: The Catholic Old English/Renaissance elite of the Pale, the Elizabethan Wars, theTudor extension of the Pale to an Elizabethan kingdom; the Flight of the Earls and the Jamesian plantation in Ulster.

Readings: Atlas of Irish History, IV, Chapt. 28. “The Pale: 1300-1596”; VII, Chapts. 54 ”Tudor Plantations” (152-3) and 55 “Plantations of James I” (154-5); Richard Stanihurst the Dubliner, “Description of Ireland”, in Deane, Seamus et al. (1991) TheField Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Derry: Field Day Publications, Faber and Faber,. Vol1 (240-4); Concise History of Ireland, Chapts 3. “A Conquest Absorbed” (45-51) and 4. “Protestant Conquest”(55-62). Seamus Heaney’s poem “Ocean ‘s Love to Ireland” (1974)

Week4: The savage twentieth century nationalist satire of Ireland’s Church and State Norman and Tudor history: the condemnation of the pious Catholic women of the island; the Flight of the Earls sarcasm aimed at the men of the island in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1986)

Readings: James Joyce, Ulysses, New York: Random House Vintage,  Chapt. 14., p. 326-8 (lines 573-650); Welch, Robert, The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (OCIL)(1996), Oxford, New York: OUP: Flight of the Earls; Plantations.

Week5: the Counter-Reformation revival of the Old English before and after Cromwell.  The first Protestant occupation of Ireland under Cromwell.

Readings: Concise History of Ireland, Chapt. 4. “Protestant Conquest”(63-76); Atlas of Irish History, III, Chapt. 16 “The 1640s: The Confederation and Cromwell” (43-47) IV, Chapt. 30 “The Irish Parliament 1613-1800 (84-86) and VII, Chapts.56 “Cromwellian Land Confiscations” and 57 “The Transfer of Land Ownership: 1603-1778” (157-159); OCIL: Cromwell.

Week 6: The Protestant Penal Laws passed in the Irish parliament against the Catholic elites at the outset of the 18th century and later. The Protestant Ascendancy and its local exploitation side by side with Ireland’s foreign colonial exploitation: the patriotic echoes to this in parliament and in contemporary literature. The beautiful paradox of a patriotic Protestant Irish parliament.

Readings: Concise History of Ireland, Chapt.5 “Protestant Conquest Undermined” (81-89); Edmund Burke, “Letter to His Son, Richard Burke, Esq. and Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal”  in Deane et al., Field Day Anthology, vol 1 (844-50 and 386-391).

Week 7: The social and military unrest in Ireland before the Union. The Irish mimesis of the American Republican attitude to British imperial policy. Theobald Wolfe Tone, the leader of the 1798 Volunteers.

Readings: Atlas of Irish History, III Chapts. 9 “Battle Sites” (24-26), 10 “Continental Interventions (27-29), 18 “The Irish Militia” (49-52), 19 “The 1798 Rising” (52-54); OCIL: Irish Volunteers 1782.

Week 8: Immediate causes of the Union:  Catholic Agrarianism/Defenderism/Whiteboyism –  the emergence of Catholic and Protestant paramilitary politics and their twentieth century posterity

Readings: Atlas of Irish History, III Chapts. 9 “Battle Sites”:1795 The Battle of the Diamond (26), 18 “The Irish Militia” (49-50); OCIL: Secret Societies; Orange Order; IRA.

Week 9: The 19th century Union and the Great Famine; the Hyphenated Decolonization (the constitutional Home Rule campaign in the British parliament; the paramilitary decolonization: Easter 1916, the Anglo-Irish War/the Irish Revolution ). The Protestant Partition. 

Readings: Atlas of Irish History, IV Chapts 31 “O’Connel and Young Ireland” (87), 32 “Irish Representation at Westminster 1800-1918 (90-93); III Chapts. 20 “The 1916 Rising” (54-57), “The War of Independence (57-8); OCIL: Act of Union, Ulster Volunteer Force; Irish Volunteers 1913.

Week 10: Why the Troubles exploded in the Protestant State at the end of the 20th c. The Brexit crisis.

Readings: Atlas of Irish History, XI “Northern Ireland” (236-40; 245-250). Periodical internet readings from the instructor’s archive.

Week 11: Hyphenated southern Irish identity traumatically asserted in Derek Mahon’s poem “A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford” (1975)

Weeks 12-14: Round-up and discussion of essay/test topics


  • A minimum of 50% attendance
  • Participation in class discussions & assignments counting for 30% of the final mark
  • An end-of-term written essay or written test, counting for 70% of the final mark