Integrative Essays

Four Integrative Essays will be a central part of your work in the Ireland program. For these essays you will engage in a process of synthesizing material from the current period in the program. The two essays for Fall Quarter include Ancient Ireland [9000 BCE to 1600 CE], as well as Conquest & Famine [1600 CE through 1860 CE]; for Winter Quarter, Irish America. In spring, you will develop one last essay that covers the full year. Integrative Essays provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate your intuitive, analytical, and empathetic understanding of the program themes and materials.

For this assignment you will need to draw from each of the following mediums of presentation used in the current period of study:

• Films
• Lectures
• Seminar notes
• Songs
• Irish language
• Drama
• Poetry
• Texts

Understandably, however, it would be impossible to cover everything (i.e., every film, each lecture) presented during the period. Your instructor considers all mediums to be equally important, and she will be looking for examples drawn from each one. You are also encouraged to draw on outside information such as research or your own personal passions if you choose, but you must focus mostly on program materials. Your papers must be at least five pages in length for the two Fall Quarter papers, and eight pages in length for the one in Winter Quarter. In spring, between twenty and thirty pages is appropriate. These essays must be typed, double spaced, stapled, with 1″ margins, and in a reasonable font (Times New Roman 12).

To start with, making sure to cover each medium of study as mentioned above, go through your portfolio and jot down any lecture, seminar, language, and film notes, important quotations (“and we asked ourselves, what has she to lose?”) literary passages, song lyrics, personal thoughts, comments from seminar, or other elements that seem important to you.

Think of the items on this list as “dots.” Using your list of dots, work on developing a theme — a kind of golden thread — that matters to you. Your job will then be to connect the dots in some coherent order. You may wish to prove something, or argue a position, or you may prefer to show how a particular image or idea plays out in the materials presented in this particular period. In the conclusion of your paper, you should show why the theme you chose matters to you. Ask yourself, “How can the reader know it was I who wrote this paper?” It is important to reflect on how you, at this point in the program, are processing into your life and worldview what you are encountering in this section. Every major point needs an example and must have a specific reference drawn from program materials.

These essays provide the opportunity for you to develop and showcase your best creative and academic writing skills, so plan ahead so that you can revise as many times as you need. Please proofread your final draft carefully for any errors. Your faculty will be much more compelled to provide useful feedback if she can focus on your content instead of on mechanical errors or chaotic organization, and you are likely to be much more satisfied with the level of feedback you receive if you have these things handled prior to turning in your final draft. You must adequately introduce each source as though your reader is not acquainted with them. To aid in this you may even wish to choose a hypothetical outside audience for your papers, such as a smart sibling, or the readers of an academic journal.

Also, pay attention to your introduction, conclusion, and your transitions, as these places provide opportunity to show how you are integrating the material. Don’t forget to title your paper (it helps you to focus; trust me on that), and include your name. Finally, please attach an Author’s Note (see below) to the back of your paper when you hand it in.

For the fall quarter papers you could could cover any number of topics (see below for winter and spring). Here are some possibilities for the first paper:

  • Examine ancient Irish concepts of possession & ownership.
  • Pick a theme, like blood, or water, or the land, or being a warrior, or geasa, or gaisce, or sexuality, or relationships between humans and gods.
  • Explore how masculine and/or feminine issues are played out in ancient or early Christian Ireland.
  • Explore the shift from pre-Christian to early Christian spirituality in Ireland as revealed through the program resources.
  • Argue which conditions in ancient and early Christian Ireland made the people susceptible to waves of invasion (through the 12th Century). Choose a lens (legal, economic, spiritual or linguistic). Feel free to bring in conditions outside of Ireland to support your argument.
  • Argue which aspects of ancient and early Christian Irish life are specifically pre-Christian, or specifically Christian.
  • Explore the importance of cyclic thought in ancient and early Christian Irish artifact, sung poetry, literature, code of law, etc.

For your second paper in fall quarter, please consider some of the following OPTIONAL topics, keeping in mind that the period of time covered by the conquest and famine is 1600-1860. The basic idea is for you to discuss and give evidence of the cultural conquest of the Irish people.

  • How does the Famine loom so large in Irish cultural, social and economic life?
  • What was the impact of “Hang All Harpers Where Found”?
  • Why did Scotland and Ireland develop so differently in response to English hegemony and cultural imperialism?
  • Compare and contrast major figures within this period: Oliver Cromwell, Charles Trevelyan, Daniel O’Connell, Wolfe Tone, and others.
  • Discuss the dramatic changes to the Irish peasant class in terms of their relationship to land.
  • How do the oral and performative traditions serve to illuminate this period in ways that the historical narratives do not? Use specific examples from each perspective.
  • What happens to the Irish when they lose their language?

Just keep in mind that this is not an essay that begs for extensive library research; it’s about your ability to draw together different aspects of the program. In terms of placing yourself into the body of the paper, ask yourself what is at stake? why does this matter? why should you care about this?