Minor in Irish Studies

The Minor in Irish Studies is available to students in all degree programs. It allows the student to structure and focus various electives into a unified program of study within the student's overall degree goals. Fifteen credits are required to complete the minor, of which six are core requirements.

The Minor also allows the student to see the art, literature, language, and history of modern Ireland from this perspective of the continuum of culture.  In addition, each Spring semester the Charles A. Heimbold Chair in Irish Studies hosts an Irish Writer-in-Residence. The chair holder offers two courses of his/her own design.

Many study-abroad programs are available in Ireland on a semester or year-long basis. Students may also enroll in our Summer in Ireland, a six-credit, six-week program that includes four weeks at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) or our three-week Abbey Theatre Summer Studio.  

During the Summer in Ireland Program, six Irish Studies courses are available in Literature (2), History, Sociology, Archeology and Music and Dance.  All of these may count toward the Minor in Irish Studies.

COMING SOON:  Irish Politics


Irish Thought and Literature 
William Desmond
Ireland is well known for its poets and writers but what of its thinkers? In the past Ireland has also been called “the island of saints and scholars” but again what of its thinkers? Thomas Duddy’s recent book A History of Irish Thought (2002) offers us helpful resources to address this question. This course will explore some of the main thinkers in the Irish tradition. It will consider whether there is a distinctive style (or perhaps styles) of Irish thought, whether there is a plurality of traditions that yet exhibit distinctive marks. The relation of reason (science) and religion is a major concern in Irish tradition(s). So also is the importance of poetry for the Irish mind. Thinkers to be considered will include Scotus Eriugena, John Toland, George Berkeley, Edmund Burke. We will also look at the explorations of thought in some writers of literature, figures such as Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.  The course will conclude with a consideration of some recent Irish thinkers in the 20th century, including Iris Murdoch, William Desmond, and Richard Kearney. Themes to be explored in selected texts include: (e)migrant thought; intimate/local knowing and universal reason; exile and home; the condition of “being between”; broken tradition(s); losing a language and finding a voice; the sacred and thought; Irish poetry and reflection; laughter/comedy and Irish thought

ENG1975: Narratives of Belonging in Contemporary Irish Literature
Core Literature & Writing Seminar - Jennifer Joyce            
What does it mean to belong? In what ways is it fundamental to the human experience? How might the act of belonging influence understandings of personal, familial, and national identities? In the 20th and 21st Century, Irish writers continue to explore expressions of belonging, and in contrast, separation and isolation, in narratives throughout multiple genres. This English Core Literature and Writing Seminar will analyze and respond to modern and contemporary Irish short stories, novels, drama, and poetry in an effort to uncover the inextricable link between the vital experience of belonging and what it means to be Irish. Texts will range from Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, and Colum McCann, to Stacey Gregg and Claire Keegan, among others, which will offer tremendous occasion for critical thinking about the intersections of identity, nationhood, class, gender, and power in Ireland and within the global context.

HIS2286 Irish-American Saga

Cultural Anthropology: Ireland and the Diaspora 
MWF 12:30-1:20 PM - Dori Panzer
What is cultural identity and why does it matter?  What does it mean to be “Irish,” “American,” or “other”?  Who gets to choose the label? How and why?  How do notions of nationhood & citizenship impact identity?  What legacies of the past remain significant today?  How do people of a Diaspora differ from the “home” country?  Using an anthropological perspective, we will explore questions like these to better understand how humans make sense of their world and how they organize their lives. Our focus will be Ireland and its Diaspora, but we will sample research of other cultures as well. 

ENG 2450:  Irish Epics, Visions, and Hauntings
Joseph Lennon

In this class we read great Irish epics, vision tales, gothic stories, and poems of rebellion.  A main goal is to analyze the changes in Irish literature from its early medieval origins to the modern period in the nineteenth century.  We begin with the Old Irish saga Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) and the satiric middle Irish vision text, Aislinge Meic Conglinne.  Readings follow through selections of bardic poetry that survived colonial incursions and the collapse of Gaelic social order in the seventeenth century.  Two eighteenth century Irish language works,  Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire (Lament for Art Ó Laoghaire) by Eileen O’Connell and Cúirt An Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court) by Brian Merriman, are read alongside works by Anglo-Irish authors Jonathan Swift and Oliver Goldsmith, with an eye toward understanding conflicts between Gaelic and Anglo cultures in Ireland.  The last third of the course surveys the rise of cultural nationalist and gothic writers during the nineteenth-century when the Great Famine of 1845-50 occurred; authors include Maria Edgeworth, Thomas Moore, William Carleton, James Clarence Mangan, and Sheridan Le Fanu.  We will read a sampling of plays, poems, and novels, examining how Ireland has been imagined variously over time.  We will also explore how the story of Ireland has been told, retold, parodied, and reinvented as cultural nationalist critique and ghost story.  

IS 1112 Introductory Irish Language II - Vicky Brady
This is the second part of a two-semester beginners course in the Irish language. In this module, students and tutor will work collaboratively to build on the elementary skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing that were developed in the first semester and to deepen the students' knowledge of Irish culture. Students should have completed IS1111 or similar. 
    Section 001 MWF 1:30-2:20pm, TH 4-5:15pm
    Section 002 MWF 9:30-10:20am, TH 8:30-9:45am

IS 1121-001 Intermediate Irish Language I
MW 3:00-4:15PM - Vicky Brady
During this course grammar and vocabulary in the Irish language will be reviewed, using a mixture of techniques such as recitations, readings and oral drills. This course will also include supplementary cultural study. Prerequisites: IS1112

ENG 2490-H01 Irish Literature: Others' Words
TR 10:00-11:00AM - Owen McCafferty, Heimbold Chair
In the Words of Others: the Craft of Irish Literature -- This course will be led by visiting Heimbold Chair, Northern Irish and Abbey Theatre playwright, Owen McCafferty.  The class will look at the lives and stories of ordinary people, not the great and the good, but (for want of a better phrase) regular people, better still if these characters exist on the periphery.  The class will examine novels, plays, and films from Ireland and further afield, and focus on the craft of the work and the techniques the author used.  Each literary work will be covered in three seminars—the first two will explore the content and the third will ask questions about the craft of the piece.  For example, how does a vital passage/scene influence everything around it?  And, what is left if the dialogue is removed from a play, and we read the story only by the stage directions?  What do we learn from what we consider to be bad writing?  The novels to be read include I Could Read The Sky (co-written by novelist Timothy O’Grady and photographer Steve Pyke ), Summer in Baden-Baden (Leonid Tsypkin), and The Good Son (Paul McVeigh).  The course also will examine work written by McCafferty from the inside out, that is from a craft perspective, and explore themes that interest the Belfast playwright.  

HUM 2900-003 - Religion and Nation in Modern Irish Literature
TR 2:30-3:45PM - James M. Wilson
From W.B. Yeats onward, Irish writers have explored a distinctly modern problem.  What did it mean to be Irish?  A connection to native soil and ancient folkways? Or to the enduring sacramental vision of the Catholic Church?  We shall read the works of Yeats, Joyce, Bowen, Corkery, and Denis Devlin to see how they deploy the ingenious complexity of modern art to answer and trouble these questions with force and beauty.

HISTORY 3200-001 Medieval Britain and Ireland
TR 2:30-3:45PM - Rebecca Winer
This course explores the British Isles and Celtic world from around 400 to 1200 A.D. Through tackling historical questions and close-reading primary sources we will analyze the role of the Church, the achievements of extraordinary kings, brehon lawyers, chroniclers, saints, poets, and women in these societies. We will seek to bring the everyday lives and enduring ideals of these medieval people to life. By contrasting the rise of centralized monarchy in England to enduring smaller kingships in Ireland and comparing legal systems; we will gain an appreciation of the institutional achievements of these different cultures. Focusing on the spiritual debt owed by the English to the Irish, as well as the disintegration of relations with the arrival of the Normans after their conquest of England in 1066, we will strive for a nuanced overall understanding of the differences between the peoples of this region.

SAR 3031-001 Irish Illumination of the Golden Age (6-8th C)
W 6:10-8:50PM - Susan vonMedicus and Tina Bizzaro
This course will be co-taught by Art History professor Dr. Tina Bizzarro and Studio Art Instructor Susan Kelly vonMedicus, teaching the history, materials and techniques of the great manuscripts of Ireland. With  hands on art-making alongside the study of history, students will make their own illuminated pages.  interdisciplinary between Irish Studies, Art History and Studio Art, this course was developed by these teachers under a grant from the America Ireland Fund at the Proncess Grace Irish Library in Monaco.


Every year a Fulbright language instructor comes to Villanova through the Fulbright FLTA program.

For 2016-17 Vicky Brady comes to us from Mary Immaculate College, where she is completing her Ph.D. in Irish language study.  Her email address is vbrady2@villanova.edu.

The two courses below will count toward the concentration in Irish Studies. A minor in Irish Studies will require three courses in addition to the two listed below. At least one from the English Department (ENG 2450 or 2500) and one from the History Department (HIS 2286 or 3216) will be required.

IS 1111:  Introductory Irish Language I
Groundwork in Irish (Gaelic), including oral proficiency,aural comprehension, and reading knowledge; for students with no prior knowledge of Irish. Supplementary language laboratory work and oral drills.  4.00 credits

IS 1112 Introductory Irish Language II
Groundwork in Irish (Gaelic), including oral proficiency,aural comprehension and reading knowledge; for students with one semester of Irish study completed. Supplementary language laboratory work and oral drills.  Students should have completed IS 1111 or equivalent.  4.00 credits

Required Courses:

The following two core courses, one from each field: 

  • ENG 2450 - Irish Literature to 1880 or
  • ENG 2500 - Irish Revival
  • HIS 2286 - Irish-American Saga or
  • HIS 3216 - Ireland since 1800

Elective Courses:

Any three of the following:

  • AAH 3007 - The Art of Ireland
  • ENG 1975:  Irish Literature and Memoir
  • ENG 1975:  Irish Otherworlds
  • ENG 2450 - Irish Literature to 1880
  • ENG 2460 - Irish Poetry since Yeats
  • ENG 2470 - Modern Irish Drama
  • ENG 2490 - Topics in Irish Studies: 
    • Irish Film
    • Religion and Nation
    • Irish Fiction after 1900
  • ENG 2500 - Irish Revival
  • ENG 3615 - James Joyce
  • ENG 3616 - Irish American Drama & Film
  • ENG 5000 - Memory in Irish Literature
  • HIS 2286 - Irish-American Saga
  • HIS 3214 - Eighteenth Century Ireland
  • HIS 3200 - Medieval Britain and Ireland
  • HIS 3216 - Ireland since 1800
  • HON 3600 - Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies courses
  • IS 1111 - Introductory Irish Language I
  • IS 1112 - Introductory Irish Language II
  • IS 1121 - Intermediate Irish Language
  • PHI 5000 - Irish Thought
  • SAR 3030 -  Irish Music: 1800-Present

Study Abroad

Study options are available at major Irish universities on a semester or year long basis. In addition, students may take part in a six-credit Villanova-in-Ireland summer program at University College Galway.

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