Ireland in History and Memory

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

  • UG

Important note: This program is taught by Sean Williams and Geoffrey Cunningham (FW). A bug is displaying Geoffrey Cunning as teaching the full length of the program.

This two-quarter program explores Ireland and Irish America through the lenses of history, literature, politics, spirituality, the Irish language, film, poetry, and the arts. Fall quarter we begin with Irish ways of understanding the world, focusing on the roots of pre-Christian spirituality and traditional culture. We will examine the blend of pre-Christian and Christian cultures in the first millennium C.E., and move forward to the layered impact of the Vikings, Normans, and English. We end fall quarter with the Celtic Literary Revival (Yeats, Joyce, and others) at the turn of the 20th century. Winter quarter we shift to Irish America for four weeks, then focus our attention on Ireland from the 20th century and into the present.

Most weeks will include lectures, seminars, small-group work, songs, play-reading out loud, instrumental music practice, poetry, and a film. Short pre-seminar papers will often be required to focus your attention on each week's texts. In fall quarter three papers are required (on ancient Ireland, the English conquest, and the Celtic Revival). In winter, two larger papers are required (on Irish America and contemporary Ireland). At least one work of visual art—drawing, painting, collage, or sculpture—will be required each quarter (on the Famine and on the Troubles). The last week of fall and winter quarters will focus on collaborative, student-led productions. Students will learn to cook Irish food for a food-and-music gathering once each quarter.

Every student is expected to work intensively with the Irish-Gaelic language all year—no exceptions. Our work will include frequent lessons and short exams in grammar and pronunciation, as well as application of those lessons to Irish-language songs and poetry. Irish is a challenging language—it requires considerable skills in listening, bravery in speaking, and the ability to accept the existence of very strong regional accents while sorting out the meaning of the individual words and sentences. Similarly, you will be expected to learn to sing and play Irish music on a musical instrument if you cannot already play one. We will practice this music each week. This program is a prerequisite for the spring quarter visit to Ireland.

Spring quarter, up to 25 students will travel to Ireland for at least six weeks of study abroad.  The first two weeks will include independent research; after that, we will meet in Gleann Cholm Cille in County Donegal for four weeks of intensive hands-on learning. Students will improve their language skills, learn traditional skills (singing, dancing, poetry writing, drumming, tin whistle playing, weaving, knitting) and explore the region, which is rich in archaeological features such as standing stones and dolmens. Upon their return at the end of May 2017, students will write a significant (20-page) integrative essay, combining the theory of Irish Studies with what they have learned in the practice of living and studying in Ireland.

Program Details

Fields of Study

anthropology history language studies music

Preparatory For

Irish studies, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, and history.



Fall Open Winter Closed Spring Closed

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Study Abroad

In spring quarter the entire program will travel to Gleann Cholm Cille in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland which will cost approximately $4,000 per student, including airfare. We will live in shared housing in a small Irish-speaking village next to a beach and surrounded by archaeological wonders that predate the Egyptian pyramids. We will experience daily (and nightly) classes in the Irish language, poetry writing, visual art, weaving, knitting, dancing, singing, archaeology, herbology, politics, and spirituality. We will also make short visits by bus to Northern Ireland and to several major local archaeological sites. Students must be able to hike on uneven territory and be fully prepared for wild Atlantic coastal weather. Students may leave for Ireland anytime between March 25 and April 20 to begin their independent research prior to meeting up with the group for their four weeks of study in Donegal, and everyone must return by May 30. For details on study abroad, visit or contact Michael Clifthorne at .

Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First winter class meeting: Monday, January 9th at 9:30am (Sem II B1105)

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

Special Expenses

All students are expected to bring a musical instrument to class in fall and winter quarters; pennywhistles cost approximately $15. We are likely to attend at least one live performance in each of fall and winter. Entrance fees for the performances vary, but expect to pay up to $30 each quarter for either a theatrical or musical performance.


A study abroad deposit of $500 is required by March 15, 2017.

May be offered again in



2016-12-06This program will not accept new enrollment winter quarter.
2016-06-07Fall signature requirement removed.
2016-06-07Ireland in History and Memory, formerly fall-winter-spring, will now be two separate programs: a fall-winter program and a spring study abroad program.
2016-05-24This program is now fall-winter. The study abroad opportunity is offered as a separate spring program.