University of Notre Dame

Civility & Atrocity: Early Modern Irish Encounters, c1540-1640

Course Number: IRLL 13186 – 1
Instructor: Sarah McKibben

This course will examine the texts that emerge from the Irish colonial encounter, from its roots in the twelfth century to the complete conquest of Ireland in 1603 and its aftermath. We’ll pay attention to foundational texts that shape how Ireland and the Irish are represented, and we’ll also track the shifts in discourse over the busy sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries by looking at a variety of texts including poetry, memoir, political tract and royal proclamation, originally written in English, Irish (Gaelic) and Latin by Gerald of Wales, Queen Elizabeth I, Edmund Spenser, Henry and Philip Sidney, King James I, Eochaidh Ó hEodhusa, Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn and others, as well as examining historical analysis of the period. In place of “history written by the winners,” our goal will be to restage the sharp ideological battle between those on different sides of the conflict—and to recognize places of connection. Who was civil? Who was savage? Who was moral? What was legal? Whose authority was legitimate and why? Whose versions of history and memory would endure? What patterns of discourse can we discern? What power does rhetoric have and why? As we ask these questions, we will also consider what difference a text’s form makes to its meaning, as well as asking what a text’s “meaning” might mean in practice. As always in the University Seminar, in place of examinations, we will focus deeply on your own writing and argumentation, so that you learn the skills to succeed at Notre Dame and beyond. This class is entirely discussion-based and will ask you to contribute to our growing understanding of the period by arguing from the textual evidence that we will accumulate together. No knowledge of Irish or Latin is assumed or necessary; just bring an open mind and eagerness to dive in.