Irish Literary Modernisms: Fiction from the 1940s’ with Prof. Lance Pettitt.

Joyce completed his monumental. ‘nightytime’ novel Finnegans Wake on the eve of World War 2. Written between Paris and Zurich, to many it represented the height of European literary modernism… or madness. Joyce was but one of an inter-war generation of writers that lit-up Ireland in the 1940s with a box of  creative and critical fire crackers of the literary imagination. Our selection of key figures from Joyce, to Kate O’Brien and Elizabeth Bowen, to Flann O’Brien and Martin O Cadhain, show that ‘Irish writing’ was not the staid, neutral territory so often portrayed from the years of the “Emergency”.

Over the course we will study a chapter from Finnegans Wake (1939), analyse At Swim Two-Birds (1941), taste Kate O’Brien’s Land of Spices (1942), feel the Bowen’s Heat of the Day (1949) and dwell on the ‘dirty dust’ of O Cadhain’s Cri na Cille/Graveyard Clay (1949).

You will be provided with a Course Guide, set weekly reading and given follow up notes and sources to help with your learning. Advance contextual reading is Terence Brown Ireland: A social and cultural history (2nd ed. 2004), Ch. 6, pp.159-98 and Clair Wills That Neutral Island, ‘Introduction’ and Ch. 1 ‘This emergent Ireland’, pp. 1-14; 15-44.

Fee £75 (12hrs of contact time).

Tutor: Prof. Lance Pettitt is an Associate Research Fellow and Lecturer, Birkbeck College, University of London.


October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30,
November 6