The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature

Course No. 8740
Professor Marc C. Conner, Ph.D.
Washington and Lee University
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Course No. 8740
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Follow Irish history through the age of rebellions sweeping across Europe and America.
  • numbers Examine how George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde navigated their Irish identity on the London stage.
  • numbers Take a detailed look at Joyce's short stories, which reveal the dreariness and what Joyce perceived as the paralysis of Dublin.
  • numbers Explore the complex events leading up to the Easter Rising, including the week of battles and skirmishes, and reflect on the aftermath-both political and artistic.
  • numbers Meet some of Ireland's finest artists of the Irish Renaissance, including Jack Yeats (brother to the poet) and stained glass maker Harry Clarke.

Course Overview

1902: Yeats’s play Cathleen ni-Houlihan debuts in Dublin, spreading a mythic story that inspires Irish nationalists.

1916: A group of rebels takes over key landmarks throughout Dublin in a failed attempt to spark a revolution across the country.

1916: James Joyce publishes A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a deeply personal reflection of his own exploration of identity, mirroring Ireland’s struggle to define its national identity.

1921: Michael Collins returns from England with a treaty by which the transition to an independent Ireland can finally begin, but back home, nationalists are extremely displeased.

These are just a few of the monumental occurrences and artistic events that rocked the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Ireland gradually shook off the shackles of British rule. Alongside a long and painful political process arose one of the greatest flourishings of literature in modern times—a spirited discourse among those who sought to shape their nation’s future, finding the significance of their bloody present intimately entwined with their legendary past. As nationalists including Charles Stewart Parnell, Patrick Pearse, and Michael Collins studied their political situation and sought a road to independence, writers such as W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, J. M. Synge, Lady Gregory, and many others took a close look at the emerging Irish identity and captured the spirit of the nation’s ongoing history in their works.

The Irish Renaissance—or Irish Revival—that occurred around the turn of the 20th century fused and elevated aesthetic and civic ambitions, fueling a cultural climate of masterful artistic creation and resolute political self-determination reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. Delve into this remarkable period with The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature. Over the course of 36 enthralling lectures, Professor Marc Conner of Washington and Lee University reveals the multifaceted story of the Irish Renaissance through an exploration of its complex history and remarkable literature.

After laying the groundwork of ancient Irish history and centuries of British rule—from the Norman invasion in the 12th century through the brutal Penal Laws and the Great Famine—Professor Conner brings you inside the Irish Revival, when a group of writers began taking a keen interest in the uniquely Irish culture, from its language to its art to its mythology. This fascination fed into the growing demand for Irish nationhood, for the arts, culture, and politics of the time are inextricable.

Uncovering Ireland’s mythic cultural history worked in tandem with promoting the power of a nationalist political movement. As a consequence of British rule, the Protestant Ascendancy had become the dominant land-owning and political class, leaving Catholics and Irish country folk to nurture their identity, history, and myths under strong—often brutal—oppression. As you’ll discover in these lectures, the formation of the Irish identity in the early 20th century was a fierce struggle—a story clearly captured in the literature of the era.

See How Art Meets Politics in the Irish Revival

The Irish Revival was a literary and cultural movement in which the Irish celebrated their history and heritage through sports, language, and literature. The movement emerged in parallel with the Home Rule efforts to free Ireland from British dominion. You’ll see how politicians such as O’Connell and Parnell pushed for reforms and championed Irish nationalism. Meanwhile, writers including Yeats and Lady Gregory were rediscovering myths and heroes such as Cuchulain and Finn MacCumhaill and bringing them to the center of national consciousness through poetry and plays. The result is some of the world’s most dazzling literature—with Irish political history never far below the surface.

Professor Conner unpacks a wealth of deep insights from this great literature:

  • Go inside George Bernard Shaw’s determination to dominate the London stage, and see how he used his platform to satirize British social classes.
  • Trace the development of W. B. Yeats, who is certainly the greatest Irish poet of the era, from his early explorations of Irish mythology to his later complex Modernism.
  • Find out why Lady Gregory is one of the period’s truly great masters—and consider how she reconciled her background in the Protestant Ascendancy with her love for Irish folk life.
  • Visit the Aran Islands with J. M. Synge and encounter the beauty and wonder of Ireland’s rural life that so captivated him—and then find out why Dublin theatergoers were not enamored of his portrayals of Irish country folk.
  • Survey the life and career of James Joyce, from his early mastery of the short story to his enigmatic Finnegans Wake. Discover a way into even his most complex works.
  • Witness the founding of the Abbey Theatre and see how a national theater empowered playwrights such as Synge, Sean O’Casey, and many others.
  • Meet Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney, and other post-Revival poets who understood the intricacies of Irish history but who had different views of national identity that in some cases ran completely against the project of Yeats.

Great art is historical, and while this survey of great writers goes deep into both ancient myths and the modern aesthetic, this course presents historical context you wouldn’t find in an ordinary literature class. Likewise, this literary vantage presents a unique view of history that facts and figures alone wouldn’t cover.

Survey the Political and Aesthetic Quest for an Irish Identity

One central tension Irish writers faced was what language to write in. Did they express national solidarity by writing in Irish, and risk a career of provincial obscurity? Or did they choose to reach a wider audience in English, the language of the conqueror? This choice is fraught with complex political questions about freedom and identity—a long and complicated battle over many decades.

Here, Professor Conner unpacks the quest for an independent identity and introduces you to many of its key figures.

  • Meet Wolfe Tone and the other early revolutionaries who saw independence as a worthy goal.
  • Encounter Daniel O’Connell as he succeeded in achieving Catholic emancipation but failed to secure a repeal of the Act of Union.
  • Follow the rise and fall of Charles Stewart Parnell and his Home Rule Bill.
  • Witness James Connolly, Patrick Pearse, and other revolutionaries stage the Easter Rising of 1916.
  • Watch as Michael Collins led a guerilla campaign culminating in a treaty that laid the groundwork for a free Ireland.
  • Find out how Eamon de Valera re-entered politics after the Irish Civil War and eventually led the country to a complete break with Britain.

The literature of the period presents a unique window into this captivating story, because while the political leaders and revolutionaries were acting to carve out an Irish identity on the world’s stage, poets, playwrights, and novelists were creating the Irish identity in their works and capturing the essence of this epic struggle. For instance, Yeats’s great poem “Easter 1916” contains the famous lines, “All changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born.” Find out what Yeats meant and how he viewed the political turmoil of his day.

Another masterful Irish author, James Joyce, spent his career largely in exile and is often viewed as a primarily European-Modernist writer. But as you’ll discover in this course, it is impossible to separate his Irish identity from his fiction. The struggle for independence underlies all of his great works, from the citizens’ paralysis in the stories of Dubliners to the domestic concerns of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to his new notion of heroism in Ulysses. Stepping into the events contemporary with their writing deepens our understanding of these books, and engaging with these books deepens our understanding of history.

Gain New Appreciation for the Irish Identity

The course of Irish history is often a story of conflict, but it is also the story of endurance. The people of Ireland persevered through a centuries-long pursuit of independence, and the culmination of their political fight for self-determination also coincided with the flowering of their quest to define cultural identity.

Whether you’re studying the Dublin lockouts and Bloody Sunday or re-thinking the definition of heroism in Ulysses (written against the backdrop of World War I), the Irish Renaissance is a powerful, complex period—and Professor Conner’s unique approach in The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature brings this riveting history to life.

“Many monumental occurrences and artistic events rocked the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Ireland gradually shook off the shackles of British rule. Alongside a long and painful political process arose one of the greatest flourishings of literature in modern times—a spirited discourse among those who sought to shape their nation’s future, finding the significance of their bloody present intimately entwined with their legendary past.

  • 1902: Yeats’s play Cathleen ni-Houlihan debuts in Dublin, spreading a mythic story that inspires Irish nationalists.
  • 1916: A group of rebels takes over key landmarks throughout Dublin in a failed attempt to spark a revolution across the country.
  • 1916: James Joyce publishes A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a deeply personal reflection of his own exploration of identity, mirroring Ireland’s struggle to define its national identity.
  • 1921: Michael Collins returns from England with a treaty by which the transition to an independent Ireland can finally begin, but back home, nationalists are extremely displeased.

As nationalists including Charles Stewart Parnell, Patrick Pearse, and Michael Collins studied their political situation and sought a road to independence, writers such as W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, J. M. Synge, Lady Gregory, and many others took a close look at the emerging Irish identity and captured the spirit of the nation’s ongoing history in their works.”

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Roots of Irish Identity: Celts to Monks
    The Irish Renaissance in the early 20th century was a remarkable period for arts, literature, and culture-and it sprang out of the legendary history of the nation. To help us understand this pivotal period, Professor Conner traces the course of Irish history starting with the ancient Celts and running through the Middle Ages. x
  • 2
    Gaelic Ireland's Fall: Vikings to Cromwell
    It is impossible to understand Irish history without reflecting on its relationship with the English. Here, go back to the 1100s, when Ireland lacked a central king, and witness the Norman invasions that were the start of England's dominion over Ireland. Trace several subsequent centuries of oppressive English rule. x
  • 3
    The Penal Laws and Protestant Ascendancy
    Continue your study of the Irish political context with an examination of the rise of William of Orange, who restored Protestantism to England and enacted severe penal codes that oppressed Irish Catholics and created the Protestant Ascendancy. See how writers such as Jonathan Swift championed the Irish poor by promoting political values through art. x
  • 4
    Ireland at the Turn of the 19th Century
    Follow Irish history through the age of rebellions sweeping across Europe and America, and find out how figures such as Wolfe Tone founded the quest for Irish republicanism. Delve into the cultural expressions of the 18th and 19th centuries, when poets and musicians kept ancient traditions alive. x
  • 5
    Daniel O'Connell and the Great Famine
    One of the most famous people in Ireland's struggle for independence is Daniel O'Connell, a 19th-century politician who led the charge for Catholic emancipation as well as the effort to repeal Britain's Act of Union. Learn about his activism, and then see how the Great Famine completely devastated the nation. x
  • 6
    The Celtic Revival
    The political tensions of the 19th century-from the Great Famine to Charles Stewart Parnell's attempts to pass a Home Rule Bill-set the stage for the Celtic Revival. As you will discover, the interest in ancient Irish language, sports, and literature was far more than mere appreciation of past achievements. x
  • 7
    Shaw and Wilde: Irish Wit, London Stage
    Irish playwrights faced a conundrum in the 19th century: they could write in Irish and remain relatively obscure, or they could find success by adopting English, the language of the conqueror. Examine how George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde navigated their Irish identity on the London stage. Professor Conner provides political and artistic context to their major works. x
  • 8
    W. B. Yeats and the Irish Renaissance
    If one person is at the heart of the Irish Revival, it is the great poet W. B. Yeats. In this first lecture about the bard, Professor Conner introduces you to the man and his quest for meaning in the two worlds of the Irish countryside and the English city. You'll then consider Yeats's connection to revolutionary leaders of the time. x
  • 9
    Yeats in the 1890s
    Continue your study of Yeats, who became fascinated with the occult and sought the society of fellow searchers. After reviewing the mystical aspect of his poetry and his view of transcendence through art, you'll consider the influence of his enduring and unrequited love for Maud Gonne. x
  • 10
    Lady Gregory: The Woman behind the Revival
    Lady Gregory was one of the most important figures of the Irish Revival, and she had an astonishing impact on the movement. Born into the Protestant landowner class and widowed at age 39, she took an anthropological interest in Irish folk life and stories. Here, review her major works and her influence on Yeats. x
  • 11
    J. M. Synge and the Aran Islands
    The Aran Islands lie on the western edge of Ireland and remain an isolated folk community. There, the playwright J. M. Synge found a fleeting sense of beauty and wonder, of life lived to the fullest. Explore this unique place, and then survey Synge's biography and his book about the islands. x
  • 12
    James Joyce: Emerging Genius of Dublin
    James Joyce is perhaps the towering figure of both Modernism and 20th-century Irish literature. This first lecture on Joyce places him in the context of turn-of-the-century Dublin and his role as an artist in exile. Learn about the city as you examine his short story technique in Dubliners. x
  • 13
    Joyce's Dubliners: Anatomy of a City
    Take a detailed look at Joyce's short stories Araby, "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," and "The Dead," each of which reveals the dreariness and what Joyce perceived as the paralysis of Dublin. Then reflect on the possibilities of love, joy, and redemption that Joyce presents at the end of the book." x
  • 14
    The Abbey Theatre
    Lady Gregory, Yeats, and others recognized the need for a national Irish theater. Witness the founding of this great project in 1897, and meet some of the Abbey Theatre's early playwrights. Professor Conner connects this beacon of Irish cultural heritage to the changing political landscape of the early 20th century. x
  • 15
    Lady Gregory as the People's Playwright
    Although perhaps not as famous as Yeats and Synge, Lady Gregory was one of the era's finest playwrights. By analyzing her plays The Rising of the Moon, The Gaol Gate, and others, you'll encounter her wit and intelligence-and gain a sense of her unique role in Irish history. x
  • 16
    Early Plays of J. M. Synge
    Revisit Synge and examine his role as a dramatist, which developed quickly after his experiences with the Aran Islands. Through studies of In the Shadow of the Glen and Riders to the Sea, you'll appreciate the impressive range of this playwright. Find out why his portrayals of Irish country life were not always well received. x
  • 17
    Synge's Playboy of the Western World
    The Playboy of the Western World is now regarded as a classic of Modernism and one of Ireland's defining plays, but when it premiered in 1907, it shocked Dublin and inspired riots. See what made this play so controversial to its original audience-and why the play is a truly great work of art. x
  • 18
    The Dublin Lockout and World War I
    Shift your attention back to the political sphere where, after the defeat of Parnell's Home Rule Bill, rebellious organizers began pushing for reforms of their own. Dig into the events surrounding the Dublin lockout, including the Bloody Sunday massacre, and then consider Ireland's role in World War I. x
  • 19
    The 1916 Easter Rising
    The Easter Rising is perhaps the definitive moment that led to Ireland as it exists today-but the event itself was something of a debacle. Professor Conner walks you through the complex events leading up to the Rising, sketches the details of the week of battles and skirmishes, and reflects on the aftermath-both political and artistic. x
  • 20
    Joyce's Portrait of the Artist
    In this first of two lectures about Joyce's first novel, encounter the ways that Parnell, the Home Rule movement, the Catholic Church, and other themes from the era's history are key to understanding his Bildungsroman. Review some of the most important scenes in the first half of the book. x
  • 21
    Joyce's Portrait as Modernist Narrative
    In this second lecture on Portrait, consider how the English language presents a great tension for Irish writers, and see how Joyce's solution was to conquer the language of the conquerors. Then watch as the book's hero, Stephen Dedalus, takes his first steps as an artist to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."" x
  • 22
    Yeats as the Great 20th-Century Poet
    While Joyce was sending his fictional hero off to become a great artist, Ireland's great real-life poetic hero Yeats was making his own transition from a mystic and romantic dreamer to a modernist poet, with a little guidance from Ezra Pound. As you watch this transition, reflect on the Protestant Ascendancy world from which Yeats emerged. x
  • 23
    Michael Collins and the War of Independence
    The years after the Easter Rising saw a dramatic fight for a free nation. Michael Collins led a guerilla war against the forces of British rule, which finally created a window for negotiations. The eventual treaty between Ireland and the British, however, would be far from ideal to the hardcore nationalists. x
  • 24
    The Irish Civil War
    After the controversial free-state treaty at the end of 1921, the country split into civil war, with republicans viewing the treaty as selling out their ideals. Trace the events of the yearlong civil war, including the tragic death of Michael Collins, and see how it finally resolved. x
  • 25
    Ulysses: A Greek Epic in an Irish World
    From 1914 to 1921, while Ireland faced revolution at home, James Joyce was abroad, slowly laboring on his great masterpiece, Ulysses. In this first of three lectures about this famous epic and its relation to Irish history, Professor Conner provides a lucid overview of the story, its characters, its style, and its structure. x
  • 26
    Three Episodes from Ulysses
    Unpack the complexity of Ulysses by looking at three of its episodes: Hades" (episode 6), "Nausicaa" (episode 13), and "Circe" (episode 15)-three of the most moving and compelling chapters in the novel. By studying these three episodes, you'll gain a sense of how the book as a whole forms a crucial portrait of Irish identity." x
  • 27
    Molly Bloom: Joyce's Voice of Love
    Round out your study of Ulysses with a look at Molly Bloom, who gets the last word in the novel and recasts the day presented in the preceding 17 chapters. Her perspective tells us much about how Joyce viewed character and our relationship to the world-and ends with his great theme of regeneration. x
  • 28
    Sean O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy
    As one of the true geniuses of Irish drama, Sean O'Casey is a master of the tragicomedy, bringing Ireland's working class to life. Here, you'll study three of his plays from the 1920s and find out not only what makes him a great writer, but also how history shaped the drama he produced. x
  • 29
    Life and Legacy of Lady Gregory
    Very few great artists were also great characters, but Lady Gregory was certainly outstanding on both counts. Reflect on her life and the tension she faced between her status among the Protestant Ascendancy and her love for the Irish peasantry. Follow her through World War I and the Irish civil war to the end of her life. x
  • 30
    Yeats: The Tower Poems and Beyond
    In his later years, Yeats created an enigmatic spiritual system, and his poetry continued to evolve. Take a tour of his later writing, including two books that became some of the most significant works of poetry in the 20th century-both for their artistic power and their lens on Irish history. x
  • 31
    Blasket Island Storytellers
    Journey to the rural southwest corner of Ireland, where the Blasket Islands lie on the edge of the wide Atlantic. There, a series of writers flourished in parallel with the high Modernism of Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Joyce. Meet several of these writers and learn about the region's vanishing mode of life. x
  • 32
    Finnegans Wake: Joyce's Final Epic
    Dive headfirst into the complex, confusing, circular dream world of Finnegans Wake, Joyce's final book. Professor Conner gives you a way into the work-which ostensibly tells the dream of a Dublin pub owner and family man-and you'll come away with an understanding of how Joyce tapped into the mythic patterns of life within Ireland. x
  • 33
    Patrick Kavanagh: After the Renaissance
    The Irish Renaissance had largely succeeded in bringing folk life to the center of cultural consciousness by the 1930s. At that time, the poet Patrick Kavanagh-hailing from the rural farmland-emerged with a critique of the sentimentality and nostalgia of Yeats's generation. Explore how the next wave of poets carved out their own views of Ireland. x
  • 34
    Modern Ireland in Paint and Glass
    By the time of the Irish Revival, Dublin had become a city of growing artistic merit, with a national gallery, famed Georgian architecture, and a burgeoning crop of visual artists. Meet some of Ireland's finest artists of the time, including Jack Yeats (brother to the poet) and stained glass maker Harry Clarke. x
  • 35
    De Valera's Ireland: The 1930s
    The 1930s were in many ways an era of disappointment, when the heady triumph of freedom met the mundane realities of self-governance. Trace the key events of this decade, including the gradual political break with England, the drafting of a new constitution, cultural isolation from the rest of the world, and economic malaise. x
  • 36
    Seamus Heaney's Poetry of Remembrance
    The work of Seamus Heaney, undoubtedly Ireland's best poet from the second half of the 20th century, provides a fitting end to this course. Born on a farm in 1939, he understood the world of the Irish Renaissance, as well as the movement's deep historical roots. Reconsider Irish identity while examining some of Heaney's finest poetry. x

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Your professor

Marc C. Conner

About Your Professor

Marc C. Conner, Ph.D.
Washington and Lee University
Dr. Marc C. Conner is the Jo M. and James M. Ballengee Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Professor Conner earned his bachelor's degrees in English and philosophy at the University of Washington and his master's and doctoral degrees in English literature at Princeton University. At Washington and Lee, Professor Conner received the Anece F. McCloud Excellence in Diversity Award in...
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The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 136.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating course This course covers a very wide range of Irish history and the various arts and artists that influenced/created Irish culture. I enjoyed the instructor very much.
Date published: 2019-12-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The title is what attracted me to buy the program. I had several problems. First the DVD wouldn't load. I started reading the book that was difficult, the print is too small, and light and too many words per page (dense). I had to use a magnifyiing lens to read it. I thhink I would like the story but it is too arduous to low through with a magnifying lens in my hand.
Date published: 2019-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Trip to the Emerald Isle This course examines more of Irish literature, novels, plays, and powers, than it does its history. So in that respect I feel that this course should be considered a literature course more than a history course. Marc Conner is a gifted lecturer and he made me understand Shakespeare in a whole new light in “How to Read and Understand Shakespeare”. Professor Conner did something that I did not think possible: made me want to read Joyce’s Ulysses. He made it come alive like some great myth from the past and how it relates to all religions and mythologies. Now I see that I am missing out on something. I feel that there could have been more on Irish history, especially from 1960 onward because that part just seems so important to Modern Ireland. Overall if you want to know more about Irish literature, this is for you.
Date published: 2019-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Irish Identity Fantastic. I did the genetic testing and found out I was mostly Irish. This peaked my curiosity into Irish history. The course is fascinating. I am reading James Joyce now.
Date published: 2019-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I ordered this book in preparation for a trip to Ireland and I am so glad I did. The lectures provided so much information and insight into Ireland's past that after returning from Ireland , I am listening to it again.I highly recommend this book. Not only does in describe the history, it also tells the stories of and the impact of great Irish artists in many fields.
Date published: 2019-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Irish Identity I have taken over 50 courses with Great Courses and this was one of the most beautifully presented and fully researched offering. The professor speaks with all the charm of the subject. The learning was broad and deep. I was particularly thrilled to hear about the Blasket Islands for which I have a great affinity. Thank you for such scholarship and passion.
Date published: 2019-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Profound and meaningful I’ve been to Ireland several times, visited the abbey theatre, and read widely about the history and literature of this lovely western Island. But Dr. Conner took me to places I’d never seen, and discussed people I’d never before read about. It was fantastic! I learned so much.
Date published: 2019-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Organized and Detailed I am planning a trip to Ireland and have been researching my Irish ancestors, and this course gave me a much better understanding. I loved the detail and organization of the course, and was sorry when it finished!
Date published: 2019-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of information I have not completed the whole course yet but it pairs well with the Celtic World course I just finished. It gives plenty of information to use as I tour Ireland in August. Thank you!
Date published: 2019-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Should be titled History of Irish Literature Disappointed that the emphasis was on literature when the course was classified as a history course.
Date published: 2019-06-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terrible cpurse The lecturer rants and raves regarding boring details of Irish literature. When I bought the course I thought it would be more directed to Irish history. This is the worse course I ever listened to.
Date published: 2019-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and well-presented series In preparing for my second trip to Ireland, I took this course thinking that I would reacquaint myself with information; however, this course was way more than I expected and it tied the pieces of culture and politics together in a most informative manner. I love the Irish authors and have been challenged by their works in the past. Professor O'Conner clearly shared insights into each of them from the ancient times to the modern era and how they gave a dignity and self-worth to the Irish people longing for their own voice separate from Great Britain. Now I have gone back and am re-reading them with a clearer understanding of the true Irish identity and how it came to be. I will look at Ireland differently on this trip and appreciate all that its people have to offer.
Date published: 2019-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent blend of history and literature One of the best lecturers I’ve heard among the many, many Great Courses I’ve taken. His ability to integrate historical events, the people involved, and the great literature of Irish writers to convey the “Irish Identity” is superb.
Date published: 2019-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Irish Identity I am thoroughly impressed by the content, its organization and the lecturer. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to understand their Irish heritage.
Date published: 2018-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring The nearly equal attention given to literature and history differentiates this course from many other Great Course history sets. I note that a few other reviewers were put off by this, but frankly this approach is mandatory if the topic is the "identity" (which is another way of saying "culture") of a nation that has been so influential on the English language. This is a well-balanced course with an engaging presenter. But my main reason for writing this review is to implore the Great Courses to rein in their producers' fascination with distracting or irrelevant graphics. This has unfortunately become an irritating hallmark of newer courses, and in this one, there's a misplaced fascination with the technology that allows on-screen quotes of prose or poetry to needlessly rotate around an invisible central axis, to the detriment of legibility and proper attention. Perhaps if the lecturers reviewed the editors' work this and similar insanities would stop.
Date published: 2018-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We are definitely enjoying the subject matter and the professor!
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too much literature Got this in advance of my trip to Ireland. I had expected a lot of history and social information. I got some of that, but it was mostly about bout Irish literature. I was disappointed.
Date published: 2018-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Conner carries you along with his enthusiasm This course is a deep dive into Ireland's cultural history. Dr. Conner relies heavily on literature and its relationship to the historical narrative. The personalities are fascinating, irritating, heroic, and flawed. I've actually listened to a couple of the lectures twice, because there's so much material.
Date published: 2018-09-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, but disappointing I love learning about Ireland and have learned a lot from the lectures...but that's just what they are. Lectures with a person standing and talking to you. Many more graphics and pictures are needed to make this a compelling presentation.
Date published: 2018-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine survey of Irish history and literature This course was on a university undergraduate level. It was very informative with respect to Irish history and intellectual development
Date published: 2018-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stimulating! I’m two thirds done with this course. This is the second one I have listened to by Professor Marc Conner. The other was his set of lectures on Shakespeare. Because I loved that course, I looked for more by Conner and found this one. This is another fantastic course. It’s a stimulating introduction to Irish literature in the context of Irish history. Conner presents how Irish identity has been shaped by its history and how that identity is reflected in Irish literature. Before listening to this course, I only had an acquaintance with Irish literature and history. I now feel that I know a broad outline of Ireland’s history (clarifying and filling in the gaps of my previous scanty familiarity), a better understanding of its people, and a greater appreciation for its literature. It has made me want to revisit books and poems I have read before—now with a better understanding—and read books and works new to me about which Professor Conner inspired within me a curiosity. I highly recommend this course for people who want to know more about Ireland, its history, and its people. I don’t recommend it for people who are only interested in the history and not the literature, unless you do not mind skipping the lectures that cover only the literature. In that case they would miss out on the richness of this course.
Date published: 2018-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Whew... Made it! Well, I finally bludgeoned my way through this internimable beast of a course. It is fitting that the heart of this course occurs around the period of the First World War, for this is truly the Verdun of courses. I see that another reviewer referred to this course as 'comprehensive'... yes, well that is a nice way of putting it. It sure is that. Prof Conner seems to have smashed together about 4 different courses- we learn ‘all things ‘Irish ‘ from the Ancient legends through the monks and Vikings and Anglo-Normans and famine and Shaw and Wilde and Parnell… until in lecture 8 we start to get to the heart of the matter- the early 20th C. Irish Renaissance with its key figures of W.B. Yeats, Joyce, J.M Synge, and Lady Gregory. What’s that you say- you never heard of those last two? Uh-oh. Well you will- between them they get 6-7 lectures. We continue through the Easter Rising, War of Independence and The Troubles, all dealt with in great detail, through the transition to the modern world. Many of the lectures are excellent. Particularly enlightening were the explanations of Joyce- his life and works. You will gain an appreciation for the greatness of The Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist, and Ulysses in some of the finest literary lectures I have heard. Yeats? Ok, not so much. The central theme, if there is one, seems to be the creation of The Abbey Theatre where Irish plays could be chosen by Irish intellectuals and reach the stage But there is admittedly a great deal of endless detail of works by lesser known authors and playwrights, including several lengthy synopses. The point I am trying to make is that this course is NOT a survey course. It is a a slog, and not for everyone. That doesn’t make it bad - my two favorite courses, Prof Barnhart on the Maya and Prof Gregory’s magisterial work on the Reformation - are long, and deep, and I understand the reviews that find them somewhat impenetrable. But I have special interest and some knowledge on these topics and so found them extraordinarily enlightening. Similarly, if you have particular interest and a rough understanding of the material going in you will probably love this course. But if you think ‘The Irish Renaissance? Yes, I’ve heard of that somewhere. Let me learn more.’ Or worse, ‘I wonder what that was,’ then it will probably be cheaper just to pay someone to beat you about the head with a nerf bat for about 20 hours. Because around lecture 34, when you are learning about Ireland’s greatest artist - Jack Yeats, W.B.’s brother, (who knew?) , or Clark’s brilliant work in stained glass, (yes, really), you will probably feel like someone in an Escape Room desperately trying to remember the safety word. Professor Conner is an excellent speaker with a remarkable passion for every aspect of the many disciplines involved in this course. At its best, this is a remarkably good course. But…. you have been warned.
Date published: 2018-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Masterpiece by Professor Connor I can't say enough god things about this course. I have been known to be a notoriously tough reviewer but I honestly struggled mightily to identify any kinds of flaws in this masterfully produced course. Perhaps the only minus is the lack of Irish history narrative from 1940's to the present (especially the resolution of the struggles between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland) even if in summation for completeness sake (the political narrative seemed to end in the 1930’s). But this was not the focus of the Irish Identity/Renaissance of the late 1800's and early 1900's. I've taken one other course with Professor Connor: "How to Read and Understand Shakespeare". And while I thought that was an excellently produced work, this course was just as brilliant and has elevated the professor in my pantheon of favorite instructors which includes Professors Elizabeth Vandiver, Gary Gallagher, and Jennifer Paxton. I will admit I am much more interested in history than literature and I had some reservations purchasing this course because I knew it would be difficult for anyone to hold my attention through lectures on literature. But I bought it thinking at least I will retain 10 or so lectures on history and just "get through" the literature lectures as a necessary evil. While he knocked the ball out of the park on providing excellent narration of historical events surrounding Ireland from its first inhabitants in the Stone Age to independence in the 1930’s, I was amazed that his lectures on literature also kept me enraptured. He really knows how to capture the human condition. This course focuses on the Irish Renaissance (the formation of the Irish identity in the late 19th and early 20th century). Its main theme is how Irish literature is inexorably tied up with politics and the search for independence from their English overloads. The historical narrative included (but was not limited to): o The first inhabitants o The Celtic people o Christian missionaries/monasteries o The Vikings o England's dominion of the island/union o The great famine o The home rule debate o The Dublin Lockout o World War I o The Easter Rising of 1916 o The War of Independence o The Civil War Another theme the professor does a good job of positing is the connection between the poets and the land of Ireland itself as if the history and culture is embedded in the soil itself. For those of you interested in the breakdown: lectures 1-6, 18-19, 23-24, and 35 have a good mix of historical narrative and literature/poetry. The remaining lectures were strictly literature discussions. Professor Connor has a great voice for lecturing. He has great command when presenting and communicates in a clear and easy to understand style but provides enough detail and color to draw you in to the narrative. He describes the atmosphere of certain events in such a way that makes you feel like you were there yourself. He superbly painted a picture of the land of Ireland and what the Irish identity truly entails. Even the music that accompanied the intro and endings of the lectures was pleasant and soothing and seemed to fit the general theme of the course: optimism around the preservation of the Irish identity with a hint of sorrow reflecting the struggles and often heartbreaking history of the Irish under British rule. Does anyone know if there is a longer version for purchase anywhere?? It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this course to anyone with even a flicker of interest in history or literature. In fact even if you don't I would suggest it just so you could listen to how a great professor presents and teaches. Textbook stuff. Please, please, please sign up Professor Connor for another course (hopefully on Shakespeare). And then a second. And third. And...
Date published: 2018-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Our Favorite Course! My husband and I have purchased many wonderful "Great Courses" but this was the one we were impatient to return to each evening (We watched one chapter per evening as preparation for a trip to Ireland). We purchased this course as a sort of primer on the history of Ireland, and it delivered. It was no long slog of a history lesson with endless dates and names, it was a highlight reel with explanations that brought the history to life. My husband was concerned that he would not like the "Literature Bit" but he loved it because it meshed so well with what was going on in Ireland at the times and the writers were so talented, interesting, and inspiring. Dr. Conner is an excellent lecturer, the prof you always wish you had. We wish The Great Courses would not make its speakers do that "Face camera forward now turn and face camera left" over and over again, but that is a minor irritation. Finally, this course has made us so proud of our Irish heritage and inspired us to study further. I think that must qualify as the definition of success.
Date published: 2018-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title tells it all. Professor Connor has done a remarkable job with a huge amount of material. His ability to speak the language and sing songs adds immeasurably to the experience. Well done Professor!
Date published: 2018-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well organized and well presented I have many Great Courses and am rarely disappointed. The Irish Identity DVDs has closed caption, which to me is a plus. Wish they all did. Politics, religion, and literature—mix them together and you have highly engaging and informative lectures.
Date published: 2018-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really comprehensive and interesting! This is a splendid and varied course with a fairly unusual combination of history, literature and culture. Professor Conner is a brilliant and knowledgeable presenter with an obviously huge enthusiasm for his subject. He has a very pleasant and resonant voice when reading or quoting from literature (especially poetry). I thoroughly enjoyed this course and my knowledge and interest in Ireland has soared into the stratosphere! My sole criticism is that I wish there was a lecture in the course devoted entirely to the Irish language -- this is such a vital Irish cultural artefact that it surely warrants a lecture on its own. (Professor Conner obviously has a knowledge of the language, and it would have been a real treat to hear him read a few short poems in Irish!)
Date published: 2018-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captures Spirit of the Irish Professor Conner did a marvelous job of weaving a comprehensive tapestry of the Irish identity. Beginning with the Celtic spirit of the people, he shows how this spirit plays out through the struggle for independence and the literature of the times. The lectures led me to explore many of the sources discussed. I have been enjoying Synge's book on the Aran Islands, Yeats' poetry and I have reacquainted myself with Joyce and O'Casey from volumes stored on my bookshelves. Perhaps I will even attempt "Ulysses" again, at least a chapter or two, now that I better understand the structure. Perhaps not with "Finnegans Wake." Thank you for the warning, Professor Conner. As an American who just received Irish citizenship through my Irish grandparents, this course educated me and helped me appreciate my Irish ancestry. It was a great treat. Wish I could accompany Professor Conner's students to Ireland sometime. The lectures were second best.
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My wife and I just finished lecture 36 and thoroughly enjoyed this amazing course, the materials and presentation by Professor Conner are first class, he is an amazing scholar and teacher, we are on our way at the end of May to our daughter's graduation from Limerick University with a much better understanding of Ireland and its people, Karl
Date published: 2018-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great stuff and well presented I'm embarrassed to say how ignorant I was about Irish history, especially since I'm Irish-American. Shaw, Yeats, Swift, Wilde... I was only vaguely aware they were Irish (I know, that's pretty bad, but blame it on a Catholic School and Ivy League education.) I didn't appreciate the enormous achievement that 19th and 20th century Irish literature represents. Now I do and I'm eternally grateful for this knowledge. Well presented, entertaining, and comprehensive. I'd highly recommend this to anyone interested in the subject and I'm going to encourage the young people in my family to familiarize themselves with this important history.
Date published: 2018-04-13
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