The College of Arts and Sciences, under the auspices of the English Department, offers a minor in Irish Studies that will provide students with access to instruction, study and research in the fields of language, history and literature as well as the opportunity to participate in the preservation and promotion of the Irish language and culture. This academic and artistic approach to the subject of Irish culture involves an interdisciplinary and inter-collegiate collaboration that brings together leading scholars in the humanities and in the creative arts. Such collaboration will ensure that students receive a unique in-depth understanding and training in Irish Studies as well as a broad-based exposure to that vibrant and imaginative culture that continues to unite and inspire the people of the United States and Ireland.
A key objective of this minor is to build on the high quality of scholarship produced by past and present faculty and to enhance the reputation of the University of Montana as a center of excellence in language, literature and history. Courses in Irish history will focus on the experience of the Irish in the United States, their role in shaping the course of American history and their impact on their homeland. Dr. David Emmons of UM's Department of History has pioneered much of the research in this area and his study The Butte Irish is widely recognized as one of the finest studies of an immigrant Irish community yet produced.
Closely allied to the study of history is the study of literature in both the English and Irish languages. Irish writers in the English language such as Joyce, Beckett, Yeats and others form a core of writers whose work has been of great importance to contemporary canons of Irish literature. Courses in the Irish Studies Minor will also focus on the contemporary conflict in Northern Ireland; such writing confronts the ravages of sectarian violence, but also increasingly represents the hopefulness of the peace process and its model for tolerance and multi-ethnic inclusiveness. While work of this kind in Ireland has an ancient pedigree, Northern writers have not yet been fully embraced by the aristocracy of Irish letters. These custodians of tradition find that the literature of the North casts light on an Ireland many would prefer kept in the shadows. Students of this course will find many of their preconceived notions about Ireland profoundly shaken by the 'Northern voices.'
This minor assumes a pioneering role in offering students the opportunity to study the literary tradition of the Irish language, the oldest vernacular literature in Europe. Stretching back nearly 2,000 years, it records the history of a people and expresses with eloquent defiance the response of the Irish to the their traumatic and turbulent experience of conquest and colonization. By providing students with access to the literature of Gaelic Ireland in translation, the University of Montana stands alone as the only institution west of the Mississippi to offer such courses.
This minor is unique in the West for the centrality it accords Irish Gaelic culture in general and the Irish language in particular and in so doing places the University of Montana alongside the University of Notre Dame as the only two institutions in the country with this emphasis. While this commitment may be seen as a logical extension of UM's long involvement in the promotion of the Irish language, it is also true that the need to investigate the place of the Irish language and culture in the formation of the Irish identity in America is an equally important consideration. The dearth of investigative research in this area can be traced to a lack of scholars familiar with the Irish language. This minor proposes the first step towards producing a future crop of scholars with the linguistic training necessary to engage this important aspect of the Irish historical experience.
This minor also recognizes the need to accommodate a growing local and nationwide demand for instruction in the language. Indeed, it was in response to this demand that the University initially got involved in teaching Irish and became aware of the great need for teachers. This minor take a bold step in meeting this need by providing students with intensive courses designed to produce fluent speakers and competent teachers of the language.
The Irish tendency to defy norms and conventions has seen a body of progressive work emerge in drama and film that is much sought after as both a subject of study and a source of entertainment. It is the aim of this minor to bring together the artistic and imaginative impulse that has shaped theatre and film in Montana and Ireland in a manner that is not only intellectually rewarding for our students, but will also be appealing to the community. Moreover, this commitment to Irish Gaelic culture demands that our minor provide our students with access to the music, dance and various other artistic aspects of that culture.
Finally the minor takes seriously the status of Ireland as a colonized country-a "training ground' for British Empire-and offers a way for students to understand both the colonial experience of Ireland itself how the way in which this experience of conquest and colonization can be connected to the experience of other cultures and identities such as Native American peoples.