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  1. Compare the Easter 1916 Proclamation with Yeats’s poem about the Easter Rising, “Easter, 1916” (NAEL 8, 2.2031). What are the differences between how the two texts represent the Irish nationalist struggle? What is the significance of these differences? Are there similarities as well?
  2. Modern Irish writers supported Irish political independence but asked whether it should come at the price of Irish lives. How does Sean O’Casey represent Padraic Pearse’s call for blood sacrifice? Compare the excerpt from the second act of O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars with the Easter 1916 Proclamation’s injunction that the Irish must “sacrifice themselves for the common good.” How does O’Casey contextualize Pearse’s fiery rhetoric? Is there a relationship, for example, between the prostitute Rosie’s approach to the Covey and the effect of Pearse’s oratory on Peter and Fluther?
  3. The rise of Irish nationalism after the Easter Rising placed considerable demands on Irish writers to produce works that remember the Rising as heroic and that support the cause of Irish independence. How do Yeats in “Easter, 1916” (NAEL 8, 2.2031) and Sean O’Casey in The Plough and the Stars remember the Rising? How do they negotiate the demands of Irish nationalism and their own skepticism? What evidence can you find that they perceived Irish nationalism as liberating, constraining, or both?
  4. The immediacy and frequency of violence throughout the Troubles have forced Northern Irish writers to ask how to respond to such violence. Is a writer’s role to offer explanation and reportage, consolatory language and expressions of grief, or further questions? Should the violence be represented directly or indirectly, as heroic or wasteful, as necessary or arbitrary? Consider how Northern Irish poets, in particular, respond to the Troubles: see Seamus Heaney’s “The Grauballe Man,” “Punishment,” and “Casualty” (NAEL 8, 2.2825–30), and Paul Muldoon’s “Meeting the British” and “Gathering Mushrooms” (NAEL 8, 2.2869–71). If you were a writer living in the midst of political violence, how would you respond?
  5. A visitor to Northern Ireland might notice how much the history of the Troubles is on display through murals on city streets. The protagonist of Fiona Barr’s short story “The Wall-Reader” is fascinated by the murals. But she learns, as have many Northern Irish people, that speaking to people on the other side of the Protestant/Catholic divide can be dangerous. How does Barr suggest both the longing for uninhibited communication and the dangers of speech amid the political turmoil of the North? What is the role of language in both crossing sectarian divisions and in reinforcing them?
  6. Martin McDonagh’s play The Lieutenant of Inishmore uses humor in representing the violence of the conflict in Northern Ireland. In the first scenes of the play, how does McDonagh use humorous juxtapositions to draw out the absurdities of fanatical devotion to a political cause? How, why, and to what effect does he include comedy in his representation of torture and strife in the North?
  7. Compare how early-twentieth Irish writers, such as Yeats and O’Casey, represent the Easter Rising, with how later twentieth-century writers, such as Heaney or Muldoon, Barr or McDonagh, represent the Troubles. Are there significant continuities and contrasts? What do you make of these?
  8. Many Irish and Northern Irish writers have felt a deep responsibility to represent the nation. Sometimes, though, two different kinds of “representation”—political and imaginative—are at odds with one another for Irish writers. On the one hand, Irish writers speak for the nation through their texts, and critics sometimes read their words as political speech. On the other hand, these texts are artistic creations and imaginative representations, which may not correspond to popular Irish political opinions. Consider how the texts by any of the writers featured here join together, separate, or negotiate their political and imaginative representations of Ireland.
  9. The creation and passage of “The Good Friday Agreement” by Irish and Northern Irish people represented a turning point in the history of the Troubles. Northern Irish writers have also worked artistically to aid the peace process. Compare how Michael Longley’s “Ceasefire” and “The Declaration of Support” from “The Good Friday Agreement” imagine and hope for eventual peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

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