This is the Omeka Site for English89: Yeats and Irish Independence.

Course Objectives:

This course has two main objectives when it comes to content: to help you gain a knowledge and appreciation of Yeats’s poetry and plays, and to have you learn something about the cultural and political world in which Yeats worked.  With those goals in mind, we will not pay much attention to Yeats’s spiritualist views, although we will hardly be able to avoid them completely. Instead, we will focus on Irish cultural nationalism (both its goals and its ways of using Celtic myths), the founding of the Abbey Theatre (with Lady Gregory and J.M. Synge as Yeats’s major collaborators in that venture), and the Easter Rebellion of 1916, the 1919-1920 War for Independence, and 1922-23 Civil War.


The course also has the pedagogical goal of introducing you to college-level research, which entails learning how to access information (both on-line and from print sources in the library), how to organize and assess the information you gather, and how to present the results of your research in different forms (oral, written, and on-line).  In addition, the course will place collaborative research work alongside individual projects and introduce some basic technological skills. Specifically, you will experience the research questions and methods characteristic of two academic disciplines: literary studies and history.


Biography Assignment:


Due Thursday August 30th.  You are to write a short (approximately 750-1000 words) biography of the person you have chosen to study.  Your biography should 1) provide the pertinent facts of the person’s life and 2) lead you to learn some preliminary facts about Irish history between 1890 and 1930 along with some familiarity with the dizzying array of organizations the Irish created to promote Irish nationalism and the desire for independence. Your biography write-up should include both kinds of information.  You should also provide a bibliography of 1) works consulted and 2) further sources. You must consult a minimum of three sources for this assignment—one of which can be Wikipedia.  I strongly recommend that a second source be the Dictionary of Irish Biography ( on-line through the UNC library website).


You will, on the day listed on the syllabus, give a 3-5 minute oral presentation to the class about your figure.  A Power point or Prezi is a good idea, but not required.


Close Reading Assignment:

During the semester, you will be assigned one Yeats poem.  You will write a short (75-1000) word analysis/explanation of that poem. Your short paper will then serve as the basis for your leading class discussion of that poem.


Reading Responses:

For every class meeting that has assigned reading, you should prepare a reading response (to be handed in at the end of class).  This response should be your reading notes as you read the assignment, comprised of 1) any questions you have, 2) your sense of the main point of the reading, and 3) things that strike you as important.  No set length here, but the point is to focus your attention while reading and prompt you to think about what the writer is trying to communicate.


Research Project


Students in the class will form small groups (from 3 to 6 students) around a selected topic of interest. See list of possible topics below.


Annotated Bibliography


The group will produce an annotated bibliography of relevant research materials on that topic.  This bibliography should list eight books, twelve scholarly essays, ten primary sources, and a list of useful web resources (providing the url of the web sites).  Half of the non-primary works (at least) on the bibliography should have been published after 1985.  This should be a selective bibliography—meaning that, as much as possible, you should have thumbed through a number of relevant books and then have listed the eight that really would be most useful to the project your group has undertaken.  A similar process should be used in getting your final list of twelve essays.  You will want to divide up the work among the group members. Bibliographies are due October 25.




After October 25, each student in the group must read at least one book and two essays and two primary source documents on the bibliography.  Divide up the work so that each of you is reading something different. You will want to organize it so that everyone is working on a slightly different aspect of the topic.  On November 8th, your group will give an in-class progress report (5 minutes) on your research project.


The final research paper will be compiled from the individual papers that each member of the group writes on the work he or she has done.  Here’s how the process should work.  Each student should write a 8 to 10 page essay that reflects what they have learned in doing their research. (DueNov. 29)  Members of the group should read all of the other group members’ essays; then the group as a whole should draft a short opening statement (2-3 pages) that comments on how the individual papers relate to one another and suggest some conclusions to be drawn from the collated findings. Research Project due Dec. 4.

In addition to the final group paper, there should also be a bibliography of “Works Cited and/or Consulted.” Inclusion of images in the final paper is also encouraged.


The Web Site:


Individual students will be responsible for uploading three things to the website:

  1.  The biography they have done at the beginning of the semester.  Upload on September 25thin class.
  2. The annotated bibliography.  Upload October 25thin class.
  3. A short synopsis/review (approximately 3000--400 words) of a book from the annotated bibliography.  Uploaded Nov. 20 in class.


Groups will load onto the website material, both written and images, along with relevant links to the section on the website dedicated to that group’s research topic.


Possible Research Topics:

  1. The Celtic Revival 2. Lady Gregory   3. John Synge
  2. The Abbey Theatre 5. Home Rule and the events of 1909-1915
  3. The Easter Rebellion
  4. The War for Independence8. The Civil War   9. Yeats’s Literary Work


In pursuing these topics, you can 1) work on general historical and/or biographical information; 2) pursue the specific incidents or persons that inspire particular works by Yeats, Lady Gregory, or Synge; or 3) explore the specific ways in which particular works of Yeats, Synge, or Gregory were received by audiences who also had political, cultural, and aesthetic agendas of their own.  The overall point is that poems and plays are written in order to persuade audiences of certain things—and that these Irish works were especially entangled in very heated polemics about Irishness and the future of the Irish nation.  The goal of your research project is to present some of that historical and political context that would help us better understand the works of the authors we have read.  So you want to present the historical material, but also to spend some time showing how it relates to and helps to explain specific poems or plays.


Short Biographies


Here’s the list of Irish men and women the class will write about:

Charles Stewart Parnell; Douglas Hyde; James O’Leary; Lady Augusta Gregory; John Synge; James Connolly; Michael Collins; Padriac Pearse; Maud Gonne MacBride; Eamonn de Valera; Countess Markievicz (Constance Gore-Booth); Sean MacBride; Thomas MacDonagh; Erskine Childers; John MacBride; Sean O’Casey; Katherine Clark; Arthur Griffith; Mary Margaret McSwiney; Kevin O’Higgins; Roger Casement; Ernie O’Malley; Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington; Harry Boland; Edward Carson