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The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature

Narrated by: Marc C. Conner
Length: 18 hrs and 41 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

Non-member price: $61.45

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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

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Profile Image for Tracie Smith
  • Tracie Smith
  • 08-09-2016

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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • ELG
  • 13-11-2016

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.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Brett P. Ziller
  • 29-12-2018

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

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Dana Payne
  • 23-08-2016

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.

29 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 29-12-2016

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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. Tim Skirvin
  • 30-12-2016

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 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Heather H.
  • 30-01-2019

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tricia
  • 13-08-2018

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”.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon04
  • 16-10-2016

Terrific!

A wonderful blend of Irish history, literature, theater, politics and the people who lived through it all. Professor Conner is an excellent narrator and I was sorry when it came to an end! I enjoyed his Shakespeare course, too. More, Please!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 24-07-2019

An English Prof Teaches History

Interesting if you like Irish literature and poetry, but if you are looking more for history outside of famous Irish writers stear clear.

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  • maire
  • 12-06-2017

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Réamonn Ó Ciaráin
  • 23-08-2016

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Borders1
  • 07-08-2016

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nors
  • 12-04-2019

good book, but some pronunciation issues

good book
good narration but there are issues with the pronunciations of some names, places and especially with the irish language when quoted

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-02-2019

Interesting telling of the Irish story but....

If you want to be a credible narrator surely a basic ability to pronounce local words and language is a prerequisite. Narration is often interrupted by jarring and laughable mispronounciation of Irish names.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-01-2019

Chapter 1

The early history, in the light of recent research, seems somewhat populist. Recent DNA research shows little evidence of any substantial Celtic presence. Certainly the peoples then would have copied, adopted and benefited from the pervasive culture much as American culture is aped today. But that doesn't mean any substantial presence in Ireland.
There is also newer evidence questioning the role of Patrick, which is probably overstated. He is more likely a symbol of the obsession of Rome to subdue Irish Christianity which was still influenced by paganism and Celtic cosmology.

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  • Des Bluett
  • 12-09-2018

Overview of series

Most enjoyable series of lectures, well researched and well presented. History and culture/literature are well integrated and the lectures are well paced and interesting.
The lectures are somewhat spoiled by the many mispronounciations,, notably Ireland ( 2 syllables) being called I er land ( 3 syllables), and one of Ireland’s greatest heroes Padraig Pearse, always referred to as Padraig Persse. There are numerous others. Still most enjoyable and well wort listening to!


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  • Rebecca Kelleher
  • 09-08-2018

Ahhhhh....

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

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  • Richard
  • 22-03-2018

excellent book. the topics explained clearly and always gives the historic context of each poem and book

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CJC
  • 09-03-2018

The Irish Identity

Anyone with a smattering of interest in the complex and often tragic history of Ireland will benefit from this series of lectures. Interspersed with poetry and the Gaelic language delivered without prejudice from an author who clearly understands his subject, a small island on the very edge of western Europe the Irish Identity is full of sorrow and towering culture which can never be denied.