This June, students were able to call Ireland their home for a time as they studied abroad with UNO’s Irish Literature and History program, coordinated by Professor Hugh Reilly and co-taught by Dr. Lisabeth Buchelt and Instructor Molly Loesche.
This is the third summer that the UNO Irish Literature and History program took students and community members to Ireland. There, they engaged with the cultural, historical, and geographical landscape to better contextualize the land’s history and how that has been communicated through literature, art, and politics.
The lessons began in UNO’s classrooms with the three-week course Artists, Writers, Rebels: the Women of Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising. The program, which takes place during the first summer session, offered 3 hours of credit for students in either English, History, or Women’s and Gender Studies, and the class was open to all majors. During these three weeks, students engaged with political essays, literary texts, visual arts, and more. The class aimed to grapple with notions of gender and cultural nationalism and their relationship to Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising, through “materials… in which the gendered iconography of Irish cultural nationalism is constructed and deconstructed.”
Those lessons were then given further depth as students headed abroad over a two-week period, staying in Westport, Galway, and Dublin and traveling to geographical, historical, and cultural sites of interest in between. Students visited what Dr. Buchelt classifies as “cultural touchstones for a brand of identity,” connecting locations with what students had learned about the 1916 Easter Rising and lending theoretical ideas “an emotional, political, and cultural weight.”
Highlights of the program this past summer included hiking Croagh Patrick, traveling to Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór of the Aran Islands, and meeting with author Lia Mills, whose novel, Fallen, students had read in their course. Students experienced life in a village, a small town, and a large metropolitan city; they traveled through the richness of the west and concluded in Ireland’s capital city; and they did all this in a small group with whom they had shared three weeks of intellectual exchange and discovery.
“This trip to Ireland has opened me up to a wider world, with more opportunities and experiences than I ever thought I could accomplish, and I’ll remember it for as long as my brain is willing to keep working,” wrote one student, reflecting on the experience. “Everyone used the knowledge they had tried to give us in the first few weeks of the class and enhanced it with the surroundings of Ireland. I could not have had a better trip for my first experience out of the United States.”
The program runs every other year and will next run in the first summer session of 2018.
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