On the Edge: Irish Traditional Culture

Presented by Tara MacLeod
This course introduces the culture, heritage, language and literature of the Aran Islands, a set of three Irish-speaking islands off Ireland's west coast. Part of the considerable allure of Aran lies in what it lacks, but also in what it offers. The unique island culture has long attracted playwrights, poets, essayists and visual artists: J.M Synge, P.H. Pearse and Martin McDonagh among them. Responding to such exotified, external depictions, islanders such as Liam O'Flaherty, Mairtin O'Direain and Dara O'Conaola created a 'native' island literature.

In this course, we learn about island life, cultural traditions, historic buildings and efforts to modernize the island economy while reflecting and exploring the evolution of material culture, social customs and communal practices. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, we consider the island's depiction in the popular culture by studying film and television, visual arts, performing arts, archeology, folklore, history, politics and literature as we deconstruct the competing and conflicting images of the communities. We read a selection of poems, short stories and plays to understand and appreciate the unique culture of this island, lost in time but hiding in plain sight, caught between modernity and tradition.

About Tara MacLeod
Tara MacLeod is a native Irish-speaker from Ceantar na nOilean in the Connemara Gaeltacht. She received a Bachelor of Social Science in Social Administration and Library Information Studies from University College Dublin, a Masters in Social Work from University College Cork and a Dioploma sa Ghaeilge from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She has previously worked as a social worker, specializing in child protection services. At the University of Notre Dame, she teaches Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced levels of Irish as well as Ireland's Edge, a cultural studies course on Gaeltacht heritage and culture. She is currently completing the three-volume Irish-language course for Glossika that uses syntax to enable learners to internalize grammatical structures. Ms. MacLeod's interests include second language acquisition, the development of students' language skills in conjunction with an understanding of Gaeltacht culture and the age old tradition of sean-nos singing. She has also taught Irish at Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 and is the Irish language examiner for Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and UMass Amherst. The recipient of the Rev. Edmond P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2011 and 2017, she has led Irish language workshops in the MId-West for Daltai na Gailge.