Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

William Butler Yeats occupies a dominant position in the lives and work of the Irish poets who followed him. We will explore some of that poetry, and consider how later poets, especially female poets, tried to come to grips with, or escape from, that dominance.

As a seminar, the subject will place special emphasis on student involvement and control. I will ask you to submit one ten-twelve page essay, two shorter (five page) essays, and to accept the role of “leadoff person,” perhaps more than once, That role will demand that you choose from among the assigned readings for that session the poem we should focus upon, and to offer either a provocative articulation of what the poem is about, or a provocative question which the poem confronts, and which we should grapple with, as well. I have asked the Registrar to set up a class e-mail list. You will not be placed on the list unless and until you are fully and officially registered for the subject.

It is my presumption that all work you present or submit is your own. Which raises the troublesome issue of plagiarism, the use of another’s intellectual work without proper acknowledgement. This is a very serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and also that the instructor will turn the matter over to the Committee on Discipline. Please note that these responses are not within my power to vary or bypass.

Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. Ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be labeled and properly footnoted. Further guidance on the proper forms of attribution may be found in the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center, and at the MIT Web site on plagiarism.

Required Texts

Finneran, Richard J., ed. The Yeats Reader. New York, NY: Scribner, 1997. ISBN: 9780684831886.

Crotty, Patrick, ed. Modern Irish Poetry. Belfast, IR: Blackstaff Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780856405617.

Higgins, Rita Ann. Throw in the Vowels. Tarset, UK: Bloodaxe Books, 2005. ISBN: 9781852247003.

Boland, Eavan. An Origin Like Water . New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1996. ISBN: 9780393038521.

Ni Dhomhnaill, Nuala. Selected Poems. Dublin, New Island Books, 1989. ISBN: 9781851860272.

Writing Assignments

On my Web site are what I hope will be useful links on such subjects as “paraphrase,” which is to be firmly resisted. As for deadlines, I grant you that they are inconvenient, but I have tried to structure the term so that essays from my two classes do not fall due simultaneously. If you look at the syllabus and see you will be needing an extension, come see me well in advance. I try to be sympathetic, but the excuse that you are “busy” is a non-starter. After all, we are all busy, all the time, here at MIT. If you simply fail to submit the essay at the deadline moment, without prior arrangement, I will record an irremediable F in my grade book. Essays should be placed in the plastic receptacle on my office door. The “due date” extends until I arrive on campus the following morning, usually around noon.

Paraphrasing (PDF)

Essay 1: 10-12 pages (one-inch margins, double-spaced, 12 or 14 point font). Due one day after Ses #3.

Essays 2 and 3: Use one of the “leadoffs” provided in the class, and write a cogent, detailed analytic essay on one of our assigned poems. The essays should run 5 pages. Due on Ses #8 and two days after Ses #14.


1 Hearty welcomes (the Irish are renowned for hospitality, after all)  
2 “The Wild Swans at Coole”  
3 “Lapis Lazuli” First essay due after one day
4 Yeats, “When You Are Old” and “Leda and the Swan”  
5 “Easter 1916”  
6 Patrick Kavanagh  
7 Louis MacNeice  
8 John Hewitt Second essay due
9 Richard Murphy  
10 John Montague  
11 Seamus Heaney  
12 Michael Hartnett  
13 Derek Mahon  
14 Paul Durcan Third essay due after two days
15 Paul Muldoon  
16 Ciaran Carson  
17 Paula Meehan  
18 Medbh McGuckian  
19 Free sampler day. Come to class prepared to read us a poem from the Crotty anthology. No explanation or defense expected, we’ll just listen.  
20 A video encounter with Eavan Boland  
21 Yeats, Cathleen ni Houlihan and Evan Boland, “A Kind of Scar.” Think back to any women you recall appearing in any of the poems we’ve read.  
22 Panel discussion of Boland’s poetry. Each of you should put forth a “provocation,” a statement which includes which poem in the book seems most clearly to grapple with Yeats, and a few sentences about how that struggle is enacted.  
23 Panel discussion of Rita Ann Higgins. Same sort of “provocation” due for this class.  
24 Panel discussion on Nuala ni Dhomhnaill. Same “provocation” system as before.  
25 Last class. Ah, that we could sip some stout or fine Irish whiskey!  

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples