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Course Information

Instructor Info:Robert Meagher
Office Extension x5417
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 2
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 2

An introduction to the archaeology, myth, history, art, literature, and religion of ancient Ireland: 4000 BCE to 1200 CE, from the earliest megalithic monuments to the Norman conquest. Consideration will be given, then, to these distinct periods: Pre-Celtic (Neolithic and Bronze Ages--4000 BCE-700 BCE); Pre-Christian Celtic (Late Bronze & Iron Ages--700 BCE-400 CE); and Early Christian Celtic (Irish Golden Ages and Medieval--700-1200 CE). The emphasis throughout will be on the study of primary material, whether artifacts or documents. Readings will include: selections from the Mythological, Ulster, and Finn Cycles; The Voyage of St. Brendan; The History and Topography of Ireland by Giraldus Cambrensis; the writings of Patrick; and selections from early Irish poetry and hagiography.

Course Objectives:

Attendance and Participation:

Students are expected to come to class on time and to attend all scheduled class meetings. If you have to miss a class due to serious illness, religious observance, or family emergency, you should email the instructor and inform him of your absence prior to the missed class. Keep in mind that when you miss a class, it becomes your responsibility to contact your classmates to find out about the announcements and class discussion that you missed. Three absences from class are allowed for medical and other contingencies.  With four absences, for any reason, a student forfeits any right to formal evaluation of his or her work in this course.  In certain instances, however, evaluation may be possible, given exceptional circumstances and additional independent work.  The initiative for such an exception must be made by the student.  A sign-in sheet will be on hand for each class, and it is the student’s responsibility to check off their name on that sheet. This will be the basis for assessing class attendance. Students are expected to complete the reading assignments and assigned film viewings before coming to each class and to be ready to take an active role in the discussion. Class participation is an important part of the course requirements.

Evaluation Criteria:

Summary of Requirements for Evaluation

• attendance and active engagement in all class meetings

• completion of all assigned readings and films prior to their consideration in class

• timely submission of all one-page commentaries

• timely submission of prospectus for independent research project

•  Each weekly commentary will be returned promptly with minimal diagnostic evaluation.  Primary response to insights and questions raised in the commentaries will occur in class for the sake of everyone.  An abbreviated form of critique will be used on the papers:

Content                                                            Form

1C —insufficient grasp of material                    1F—unsatisfactory presentation

2C—adequate grasp of material                        2F—adequate presentation

3C—perceptive/insightful grasp of material      3F—concise/crafted presentation

• At our final class meeting, together with their final projects, all Hampshire students wishing evaluation must submit a one-page self-evaluation.  This should be submitted to me in hard copy and also filed on the HUB. For return of work, include a self-addressed, stamped (if necessary) envelope. There will be no extensions or incompletes.

Writing Assignments

•  More or less weekly responses to readings and class lectures/discussions.  These weekly “Commentaries”—one side of one page or maximum 300 words in length—will contain two parts: (1) a brief discussion of what you find most interesting or thought-provoking in the material under current consideration; and (2) the formulation of an unanswered question raised by your reading or by the class presentations. Please submit in hard copy.  Electronic submissions will not be accepted.  Ordinarily, these commentaries will be due each Monday and they will be made available for everyone to read within 24 hours on the course Moodle site.

•  Final research essay, approximately 10–12 pages (3,000–3,500 words) in length, due at our last class meeting, Wednesday April 30. These essays will be submitted both in hard copy and in electronic form as a pdf email attachment. Similarly, a one-page sketch of your paper topic and a preliminary bibliography is due on Wednesday March 26. The focus of your final research project is entirely up to you, provided that it falls clearly within the core concerns of this class.

Additional Info:

Texts (available at Amherst Books on the town green)

Carmel McCaffrey, Leo Eaton, In Search of Ancient Ireland • 9781566635257

Kelli Ann Malone, Discovering Ancient Ireland • 9781845889777

Marie Heaney, ed., Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends • 9780571175185

The Voyage of St. Brendan, tr. John J. O’Meara • 9780851055046

Giraldus Cambrensis, History and Topography of Ireland, tr. John J. O’Meara • 9780140444230

Other readings and resources will be available for download or streaming on the class Moodle site. For purposes of in-class discussions, students should either print out these readings and bring their copies to class or else bring their own substantial notes on the readings.

Policy on Cell Phones and Laptop Computers:

As a courtesy to your instructors and classmates, please turn off your cell phone for the duration of the class. If your phone rings, you will have to bring cookies for everyone to share in the next class. Open laptops are not permitted in class.


If any member of this class has a diagnosed disability, please notify the instructor at the beginning of the term so that special assistance or provisions might be arranged for full participation in and completion of this course. Any accommodations for disabilities are dependent on this prior notification and must be negotiated through CASA and the Office for Disabilities Services.