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Publisher's Summary

Many political and cultural events sent shock waves through the Irish world in the 19th and early 20th centuries as Ireland gradually shook off the shackles of British rule. Alongside a long and painful political process arose one of the greatest flourishings of literature in modern times - a spirited discourse among those who sought to shape their nation's future, finding the significance of their bloody present intimately entwined with their legendary past. As nationalists including Charles Stewart Parnell, Patrick Pearse, and Michael Collins studied their political situation and sought a road to independence, writers such as W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, J. M. Synge, Lady Gregory, and many others examined the emerging Irish identity and captured the spirit of the nation's ongoing history in their works.

Delve into this remarkable period with The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature. After laying the groundwork of ancient Irish history and centuries of British rule - from the Norman invasion in the 12th century through the brutal Penal Laws and the Great Famine - Professor Conner brings you inside the Irish Renaissance, also called the Irish Revival. Around the turn of the 20th century, a group of writers began taking a keen interest in the uniquely Irish culture, from its language to its art to its mythology. This fascination fed into the growing demand for Irish nationhood, and the arts, culture, and politics of the time are inextricable.

The Irish Renaissance fused and elevated aesthetic and civic ambitions, fueling a cultural climate of masterful artistic creation and resolute political self-determination reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. Over the course of 36 enthralling lectures, Professor Conner reveals the multifaceted story of the Irish Renaissance through an exploration of its complex history and remarkable literature.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2016 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature

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Title is misleading, this is a lecture on literature

The lectures focus on Irish literature more than any historical events or political history. This is an English professor talking about lit history. I was extremely disappointed that there were two chapters combined on Collins and DeValero and ten chapters on Lady Gregory. I learned more about Irish independence and Irish civil war on Wikipedia. Good listen if you want to deep dive on James Joyce chapters, stay away if you want to learn about Irish history

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Need to recommend a prerequisite

If one was familiar with all the writings of all the Irish authors perhaps one might have understood what he was talking about. Was like being at a party where all they did was name drop. Yes I would like to learn more about my Irish roots but most of this was awful unless you know the writings of the authors he is talking about. Not a history, more a fan club. Disappointed , couldn't finish after several tries.

23 people found this helpful

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Entertaining and educational... Especially for literature buffs

The narrative of the first few lectures was a little hard to follow, but after that this course was very entertaining, educational and interesting. I gained a strong appreciation for Irish literature and history and their role in shaping the national identity. After having traveled trough the country, this was a very rewarding course.

9 people found this helpful

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Too heavy on literature

I was looking for more of a history lesson, over 50% reviewing Irish literature which to be honest was not as interesting as the lecturer made out.

14 people found this helpful

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More Literature with a little history thrown in.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

If you're a fan of Irish "Renaissance" literature and academic literary analysis this is for you. It focuses mostly on a small group of writers that seem to have created said renaissance with special attention paid to James Joyce.

What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I would have preferred the history of the independence movement and the average Irish citizen to have taken a larger role in the lectures. Instead they were occasional seasoning next to a group of writers that the professor stresses were not like the average Irishman at all. I was expecting more actual history and connections between the literature and the actual independence movement given the description. While the professor does try to connect them it doesn't work. We're given academic and disconnected analysis of pretentious writing not a real look at Irish Identity.

31 people found this helpful

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Please lose the background music

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

This course was interesting enough, though I was expecting a much greater focus on history rather than literature. Still, the thing that really annoyed me was the occasional foray into background music - ~20-30 second clips of background material played under the main narration. I find this distracting and tedious, and it takes away from the overall experience. I would really like it if the Teaching Company would stop doing this!

14 people found this helpful

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history?

this is all about authors, a little of the other arts, and a tiny bit of history. I still need to find a book about the history of Ireland

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Great choice for history and literature of Ireland

If you've been thinking about this, or have done research on Ireland/have ancestors there, do it. This has been in my queue a year but once I started I couldn't stop. Was afraid it would be dry, but the lilt and language and passion make it almost enthralling.

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Great content, bad pronunciation

The content relayed is accurate and historically accurate. However, in what I’m assuming is an attempt to speak clearly, the speaker mispronounced names of most ancient gods and famous tales For example, “Lug” is was pronounced “Luke”, when it should have been pronounced like the name “Lou”.

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A Masterpiece from Professor Connor

I can't say enough god things about this course. I have been known to be a notoriously tough reviewer but I honestly struggled mightily to identify any kinds of flaws in this masterfully produced course. Perhaps the only minus is the lack of Irish history narrative from 1940's to the present (especially the resolution of the struggles between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland) even if in summation for completeness sake (the political narrative seemed to end in the 1930’s). But this was not the focus of the Irish Identity/Renaissance of the late 1800's and early 1900's.

I've taken one other course with Professor Connor: "How to Read and Understand Shakespeare". And while I thought that was an excellently produced work, this course was just as brilliant and has elevated the professor in my pantheon of favorite instructors which includes Professors Elizabeth Vandiver, Gary Gallagher, and Jennifer Paxton.

I will admit I am much more interested in history than literature and I had some reservations purchasing this course because I knew it would be difficult for anyone to hold my attention through lectures on literature. But I bought it thinking at least I will retain 10 or so lectures on history and just "get through" the literature lectures as a necessary evil. While he knocked the ball out of the park on providing excellent narration of historical events surrounding Ireland from its first inhabitants in the Stone Age to independence in the 1930’s, I was amazed that his lectures on literature also kept me enraptured. He really knows how to capture the human condition.

This course focuses on the Irish Renaissance (the formation of the Irish identity in the late 19th and early 20th century). Its main theme is how Irish literature is inexorably tied up with politics and the search for independence from their English overloads. The historical narrative included (but was not limited to):
o The first inhabitants
o The Celtic people
o Christian missionaries/monasteries
o The Vikings
o England's dominion of the island/union
o The great famine
o The home rule debate
o The Dublin Lockout
o World War I
o The Easter Rising of 1916
o The War of Independence
o The Civil War

Another theme the professor does a good job of positing is the connection between the poets and the land of Ireland itself as if the history and culture is embedded in the soil itself.

For those of you interested in the breakdown: lectures 1-6, 18-19, 23-24, and 35 have a good mix of historical narrative and literature/poetry. The remaining lectures were strictly literature discussions.

Professor Connor has a great voice for lecturing. He has great command when presenting and communicates in a clear and easy to understand style but provides enough detail and color to draw you in to the narrative. He describes the atmosphere of certain events in such a way that makes you feel like you were there yourself. He superbly painted a picture of the land of Ireland and what the Irish identity truly entails.

Even the music that accompanied the intro and endings of the lectures was pleasant and soothing and seemed to fit the general theme of the course: optimism around the preservation of the Irish identity with a hint of sorrow reflecting the struggles and often heartbreaking history of the Irish under British rule. Does anyone know if there is a longer version for purchase anywhere??

It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this course to anyone with even a flicker of interest in history or literature. In fact even if you don't I would suggest it just so you could listen to how a great professor presents and teaches. Textbook stuff.

Please, please, please sign up Professor Connor for another course (hopefully on Shakespeare). And then a second. And third. And...

1 person found this helpful

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  • MC
  • 06-12-17

Well.

I have found the book to be very interesting. I am Irish so have learned a lot of the history and literature in school which provided me a better foundation to follow along in the listening but I wouldn't say it was necessary. I really like how the author ties in art and culture in order to explain the political processes because it is an extremely accurate depiction and still quite relevant today.

My only real negatives are:
1. There is a lot of repetition. He mentions some points 3 or 4 times. It's only a sentence or two that gets repeated, but I picked up on it immediately even though I listened to the book over several weeks.
2. Sometimes the audio would jump or skip back for a few seconds- less than 5 but still annoying.
3. The narrator's pronunciation; it killed me. I'm sure it wouldn't bother non-Irish but it grated on me every time he would say O'Mahony or Pearce or Dail Eireann and absolutely massacre them. Weirdly enough there is a part where he reads out a short poem in Irish and the was pronounced properly so I'm not sure why he was not able to properly pronounce places and people.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Réamonn Ó Ciaráin
  • 08-23-16

In depth, incisive & invaluable account of Ireland's story

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book. It is well written & well read. The series of lectures seemed to flow naturally from the story of Ireland's earliest inhabitants to the huge influence of Seamus Heaney. The listener is guided backwards & forwards through the material in an entertaining & informative way. I highly recommend this fascinating & balanced overview of Irish Identity. I have walked, driven & exercised my way through five thousand years of my country's history in the company of a master teacher. Mo mhíle buíochas Marc c. Conner. Réamonn Ó Ciaráin - Ard Mhacha.

12 people found this helpful

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  • James
  • 07-16-20

really Great.

really Great he mispronounced some names and places but really great. I learned a lot more than in school it was particularly interesting getting an outside perspective.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Rebecca Kelleher
  • 08-09-18

Ahhhhh....

Content is good but the pronunciation is horrific. Don’t get if this would annoy you

2 people found this helpful

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  • Borders1
  • 08-07-16

Intelligent and engaging

Refreshing perspective on all things Irish. Succinct and illuminating. I liked the authors intent and delivery and could easily forgive his occasionally dodgy pronunciation. Very much enjoyed. Thanks!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tina McCloskey
  • 05-09-22

Really accessible

This is a great summary but he gets some things wrong either accidentally or does it for the American market. Eg he refers to the celtic revival but it was the gaelic revival. The irish are Gaels not celts. He refers to Irish slaves sent to the America's. This is also for the American market. The irish were sent as indentured servants, and treated badly but were not chattel slaves and their children were not slaves. Irish scholars who've looked at genetics of bodies found in Irish bogs have concluded that the celts never invaded nor took over Ireland but came and traded and brought art and tools etc but did not make a genetic input to Ireland. Re the famine, reasons why the populace were so dependent on potatoes is not dealt with significantly enough to counter the idea that we were stupid to have done so. Also he glossed over the importance of why DeValera kept Ireland neutral in the WW2. And very much glossed over why the provisional IRA started up, almost like they started up for no reason rather than in response to severe oppression and violence from ulster unionists upon the irish in NI and violence from the British government/army who incited sectarian violence by sending in plain clothes army men at night to catholic areas to shoot random victims and drive back to protestant areas, stoking up fear and hatred. But despite these failures of is very much worthwhile listening to and he writes of Lady Gregory in a lovely way. I've no sympathy nor love for the Anglo irish who stole irish land, kept themselves apart for generations and took part in Irish oppression but she was a woman apart.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 08-22-20

An Informative and Enjoyable Listen

As a native Irishman and student of English, I found this audiobook from Prof. Conner hugely informative. The material covered in this mammoth listen is not covered in Irish secondary schools and is therefore recommended for any student seeking to fully capture Ireland's identity and culture. I came to this book with the goal of discovering my nation's identity but came away with so much more. Through Prof. Conner's course, I discovered in my own country's history and literature a wealth of agonised soul-searching which resulted in the creation of artists the likes of which Europe had never before seen. Such writers as James Joyce, J.M. Synge, Lady Gregory, W.B. Yeats, and G.B. Shaw crafted works which properly illustrated the angst and suffering of a people oppressed by British rule.

As a creative writing student at University College Dublin myself, I found the chapters on Joyce particularly insightful and surprisingly enjoyable, an adjective I never thought to use in connection with Joyce. I study in the James Joyce library on campus every day and have visited MoLI (The Museum of Literature Ireland) many times. While these structures brim with Joyce’s legacy, Conner’s book more accurately brought the man and his work to life. To be guided through 'A Portrait' and 'Ulysses' in an hour or two is intensely satisfying and sparked my curiosity to perhaps one day complete these challenging masterpieces.

I don’t want to give the impression that this listen is only for those of a literary bent. As the title suggests, this book is chock full of history and will definitely satisfy the historians amongst you. I don’t agree with some reviewers that this book does not contain enough history - for to accurately depict our country’s history, we of course must cover literature and Prof. Conner does this expertly. To be guided through the Neolithic period right up until the 1930s was illuminating and something which is undoubtedly missing from the Irish secondary curriculum.

Overall, 'The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature' was informative and enjoyable. While I agree that some names and places were poorly pronounced, this hardly diminishes the wealth of information contained within this book. If you are in any way interested in Ireland’s history, its people or its literature, I highly recommend this well-structured listen.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 05-17-22

Magnificent

Superb sweeping survey of the topic, insightful, authoritative and delivered with clear and engaged narration. I shall go back to sections of this many times.

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  • NC
  • 10-19-21

Embarrassing, nausiating

Embarrassingly fanatical about Ireland. Feels like someone who isn't from Ireland, but has just heard of it second hand, and only through people who push an unrealistic positive view of the place. Just falls flat in my opinion. No real depth. I couldn't get past the first few lectures though, so maybe it improves...
I do like Ireland (and I was born and grew up there), but couldn't stomach this for whatever reason.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • GRANT MCCLURE
  • 07-03-21

Uniquely comprehensive. Give it a go. Go on

It's grand stuff . You'll be as jaunty as a half-shaven Buck Mulligan while picking up a few things in the way of context on the way.