Postcolonial Memory: Ireland


What happens when the cultural memory of poverty, oppression and colonialism is, ostensibly, at variance with lived experience? What forces does the past exert on the present, and how do writers navigate and express those relationships? This course explores the influence of postcolonial memory on the cultural imaginary (that shifting set of ideas and imaginings of place, people and cultural identity).


Irish literature and the Irish cultural imaginary form our case study for an exploration of globally significant issues of cultural memory, identity and postcolonial inheritance. Ireland – a country approaching its first centenary of independence – has had a contentious relationship with postcolonial representations of identity and experience. This is compounded by Ireland’s accelerated rate of social and economic change in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. 

Debates about memory and “the postcolonial” guide our navigation of twentieth and twenty-first century Irish novels, plays, poetry and short stories. Conversely, through our literary navigations, we interrogate postcolonial representations of identity across shifting contexts.  

The course is structured around the dynamics of literary and cultural inheritance. We explore texts that stimulate debate about Ireland’s relationship with postcolonial frameworks. We interrogate issues of authenticity and hybridity, ethical memory, postcolonial haunting and indigenous language, and explore the treatment of women as agents of postcolonial experience. We close with considerations of the relationship between multiculturalism and postcoloniality.


Learning outcomes:

·       Reflect critically on globally significant issues of cultural memory, identity and postcolonial inheritance 

·       Develop close reading and analytical skills in relation to poetry, novels, short stories and plays

·       Understand, engage with and apply theoretical concepts from the fields of postcolonial and Irish studies


·       Construct and articulate arguments about postcolonial memory and associated issues using evidence from Irish literature and relevant resources



Coursework + exam 

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022


Lecturer(s) Dr Jan Cronin


  • Sebastian Barry, The Steward of Christendom [play]
  • Seamus Deane, Reading in the Dark [novel]
  • Roddy Doyle, The Deportees [short stories]
  • Claire Keegan, Walk the Blue Fields [short stories]
  • Brian Friel, The Home Place [play]
  • Patrick McCabe, Winterwood [novel]
  • Martin McDonagh, The Cripple of Inishmaan [play]
  • Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, The Fifty Minute Mermaid [poetry; will be available electronically through University Library subject to CLNZ approval]
  • Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, The Dancers Dancing [novel; available electronically through the University Library]
  • Selected poetry of W.B Yeats (available electronically) 


Coursework: 60%

Exam: 40%


ENGLISH 217: 15 points


30 points at Stage I in English


ENGLISH 266, 316, 361