ACIS Logo CFP: MLA Volume on Teaching Modern Irish Poetry in English

Modern Irish Poetry in English

W. B. Yeats remains the most widely taught Irish poet in English literature courses, but Irish poets of his own and subsequent generations likewise appear on syllabi in the interdisciplinary classroom, from Irish studies to environmental studies. We are interested in the variety of ways modern Irish poetry may be creatively and successfully taught in courses that may or may not originate in departments of literature but where poems that are “Irish” (however we define Irish, or for that matter poem) play a leading role. What are some innovative ways to introduce the rich range of contexts that inform modern Irish poetry, from the fruitful but often vexed relationship Irish poetry written in English has with the Irish language, to events—in Ireland but also elsewhere—in history, politics, and a changing relation to space and place that inform the poems? Contributors may ask who exactly is an “Irish poet” in 2020 and how might questions of identity open new understandings of familiar narratives and mappings offered by the Irish poems assigned in the undergraduate classroom. Does the modifier Irish overshadow other, perhaps complicating, forms of ethnic, gender, class, national, and sexual identities? What is the place of a “major authors” course that focuses on modern Irish poets in the English department curriculum, and how do we choose required texts? And what is the place of Irish poetry in a larger survey course or a course with nonnational parameters? Formal complexity and innovation have characterized Irish literary culture over the centuries, including (even before the revisionary, proto-postmodern contributions to the English canon of Sterne, Swift, and Mangan) Irish poets who wrote inventively in the Irish language and in Latin. How can teaching modern Irish poetry help undergraduates learn, from this particular national literature that has virtually made a convention of assimilation and transformation, general skills in reading and interpreting poetry?

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Troubles seemed an obvious context for the growing presence of Irish poetry in the institutions that shaped English literature canons in North America, Great Britain, Ireland, and other Anglophone cultures: what may be the legacies (for better and for worse) of that association today? Certain dates have had an almost totemic significance in Irish literature courses and scholarly publications that have helped shape what we think of as Irish poetry’s historical contexts; most recently, for example, literary scholars have engaged in significant retrospective assessments of the events, political and cultural, of 1916 and 1919. Are there other histories than those conventionally employed when teaching Irish poetry or other sources of influence that may have shaped modern Irish poetry? More particularly, what do we presume (and what might we be excluding) when we use the term modern to define what we teach when “Irish poetry” is bracketed between dates that begin more or less after the Famine and end in the present, dates that are “historical” but not necessarily “literary historical”?

These concerns are offered to stimulate, and not to limit, proposals that might become part of any of the following sections of Teaching Modern Irish Poetry in English (although these may change as proposals are considered). What should come to the fore in submissions are practical ways to develop and conduct a course where Irish poetry takes a primary role, including drafting syllabi, choosing texts (including single-author books), and designing student assignments.

Part I

Histories, Literary Histories, and Other Contexts

Part II

Modern Irish Poetry, Theory, and After

Part III

Frequently Taught Authors

Part IV

Teaching Irish Poetry in Other Settings

Part V

Course Models

In addition to proposals for essays that might address these and other questions, we invite those that might enrich our sixth section, “Resources,” particularly if they include ways to harness digital humanities methods to teach modern Irish poetry.

Please send proposals to Guinn Batten ( and Anna Teekell ( by 15 April 2020.


Published on: February 4, 2020