University of Notre Dame

Irish Politics & the Politics of Language

Course Number: IRLL 13186-1
Instructor: Peter McQuillan

This course explores the cultural politics of the Irish language from the sixteenth century to the present. Irish is an official state language of the Republic of Ireland and an official language of the European Union but it is also a minority language within its own country. How does a situation like that come about and how do people react to it? Through reading a variety of fictional and non-fictional texts of different genres, we will examine these questions and the manner in which they shape aspects of literature produced both in Irish and in English. All materials will be read in English.

While Irish forms the focus of this course, the issues and debates affecting the language may be applied to similar contexts throughout Europe and the world. The United Nations judges that some 50% or so of the world’s languages are currently “endangered” to varying degrees, that is, in danger of dying out or somehow under threat. Therefore, we will also look at the position of Irish today within this global context.