Celtic Tigers: The Writers of the Irish Literary Revival


Around the end of the nineteenth century, a group of Catholic and Anglo-Protestant writers dramatically modernised Irish writing. Having spent time in Paris and London and influenced by contemporary European literature, authors such as W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, and Lady Gregory refashioned ancient Irish myths and legends and depicted the hard, unromantic lives of the poor deprived classes in the cities and countryside. This well-spring of writing came to be known as the Irish Literary Revival.

Ireland was in a time of immense social and political upheaval. The Irish Home Rule movement led by Charles Stewart Parnell agitated for a looser relationship to Britain. Parnell’s downfall through a scandalous affair with Kitty O’Shea shaped the political sensibilities of these writers. Through these difficult years of political chaos, Yeats’s prose writings and lectures channelled the public’s mixed feelings of nationalism, its potential and its risks, as did his love poems to Maud Gonne, a strikingly beautiful nationalist and organiser who seemed to embody the spirit of young Ireland.

With Lady Gregory, a wealthy patron of the arts, Yeats established the Irish National Theatre Society (later the Abbey Theatre). Cathleen ni Houlihan, their highly nationalist play, received a tumultuous reception and J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907) led to riots due to its depictions of Irish womanhood. With a strong focus on writings in dialects of Hiberno-English, the Abbey was a crucible in which the debates about Irish cultural identity were enacted.

We will follow these writers up to the Easter Rising of 1916, commemorated by Yeats in his famous poem, the moment when the Irish Literary Revival was left behind and the War of Independence from Britain began.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 29 November 2023.

Programme details

Registration at Rewley House reception (in-person attendees only)

Introduction to the Irish Literary Revival


The Poetry of W.B. Yeats


Lady Gregory and the Abbey Theatre


The scandal of J.M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World

End of day



Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £90.00
Baguette Lunch £6.50
Hot Lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Angus McFadzean

Dr Angus McFadzean is the Programme Director of the Oxford University Summer School for Adults and teaches on international programmes at the Department for Continuing Education, specialising in British and American Literature and Film. He is the author of Suburban Fantastic Cinema: Growing Up in the Late Twentieth Century (Columbia University Press, 2019) and the co-editor of James Joyce’s Epiphanies: A Critical Edition, forthcoming from University Press of Florida (2024). He has published on James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon and Hollywood cinema and has taught widely on literature of the late nineteenth early twentieth century, specifically modernism and the works of Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf and W.B. Yeats.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this event. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.