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BA English Literature and Spanish

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Irish Fiction Since 1990

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL30941
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No



This course explores the defining themes, styles and narrative strategies of some of the best contemporary Irish novelists and short story writers. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have witnessed an extraordinarily rich flowering of Irish fiction, during which the role of the writer has assumed fresh significance at a time of seismic social, cultural and political change in the Republic and in Northern Ireland. This course will examine the concerns that have inspired novelists from different social and regional backgrounds, including those who live and work in England. It will analyse how novelists engage with a host of insistent and often divisive issues, including political violence in Northern Ireland and the slow evolution of a more peaceful society there; the erosion of traditional social and political value systems, especially in the Republic; changing attitudes to gender, religion and sexuality on both sides of the Irish border; the relationship between Irish history, trauma and identity; and the treatment of often stigmatized groups such as migrants, the unemployed and the mentally ill. Writers whose work will be studied include Anne Enright, Eimear McBride, Patrick McCabe, John McGahern and Sally Rooney. The course will be taught by means of a weekly lecture (90 minutes) and seminar (90 minutes).



  • To introduce students to the formal, thematic and stylistic diversity of contemporary Irish fiction in its literary and historical contexts;

  • To explore the ways in which contemporary Irish novelists and short story writers have interrogated personal, communal and national identities in different contexts;

  • To develop students' understanding of the varieties of fictional response to issues such as history, gender, nationalism, migration and sexuality;

  • To examine the role of the Irish writer in re-imagining societies undergoing profound social, cultural and economic change;

  • To prepare students for advanced research in the subject area through the development of research, analytical, expressive and rhetorical skills.


Learning outcomes

On completion of the course, successful students should be able to demonstrate:

  • An effective understanding of the contexts, range and diversity of Irish fiction since 1990;

  • Evidence of the above in written work appropriate to this level;

  • A critical appreciation of the characteristic modes, styles and thematic preoccupations of contemporary Irish fiction writers;

  • An informed awareness of the diversity of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of contemporary Irish fiction writers;

  • Oral and written analytical skills that might prepare them for further study and research in the area.



Please see recommended reading

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written exam 70%

Online Test 30%

Recommended reading

In 2022-23 we will be studying the following six primary texts, so if you wish to begin your reading over the summer, it is recommended that you concentrate on these.

Enright, Anne. The Gathering (Vintage, 2008)
McBride, Eimear. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Faber, 2014)
McCabe, Patrick. The Butcher Boy (Picador, 2007)
McGahern, John. Amongst Women (Faber, 2008)
Rooney, Sally, Normal People (Faber, 2018)
Trevor, William. Felicia’s Journey (Penguin, 2010)

The above set texts will be augmented by a selection of short stories, which will be made available to students on Blackboard when the course begins.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Liam Harte Unit coordinator

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