Irish Studies

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Program Overview

An opportunity to learn about the intriguing history, politics, literature, and art of Ireland is available to you through a minor in Irish studies at Fairfield. You can focus on the:

  • Troubled history of the nation and its colonial and postcolonial significance
  • Difficult politics of Northern Ireland
  • Inspired art and literature that emerged from its turbulent past

‌The Irish Studies Program explores various aspects of a culture which has produced the oldest vernacular literature in Europe, a rich tradition of Celtic art, and a devotion to scholarship which perhaps was crucial in saving Western civilization. As a nation, Ireland has had a long, turbulent and fascinating history. In the last century, Ireland has changed from a conservative, agricultural country to a modern, technologically aware one, from a colony of Great Britain to a free, democratic republic, and from one of the poorest nations in the world to a vital economy in the European Union.



Enthusiasm for this area of study has surged in the last three decades as the Irish people have sought to resolve long-standing political issues and taken an interesting role in the new global economy. Fairfield, with a significant Irish-American representation among its students and alumni, provides a welcoming environment for Irish studies. The University hosts a number of lectures, concerts, plays, and readings that complement the academic program and has established a study abroad affiliation with the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Irish Studies at Fairfield affords you the opportunity to investigate the contributions of Ireland to the world in terms of its literature, history, politics, film, and art. Affiliated with the National University of Ireland, Galway, the Irish Studies program, through study abroad, also allows you to take Irish-focused courses in archeology, economics, sociology, linguistics, and the Irish language, as well as focused internships.

Learning Objectives

Students minoring in Irish Studies should be able to:

  • Express, orally and in writing, the significant connections between Irish literature, history, politics, and art
  • Articulate the complexity of another culture (social, political, religious, economic) using the example of Ireland
  • Explain clearly and in depth the social, political, and religious problems that confronted and still do confront Irish people, including the role of literary and artistic production in the country’s troubled history


For a 15-credit minor in Irish Studies, students:

Complete five three-credit courses including one of the following:

  • EN 161: Irish Literature, HI 215: History of Ireland, Middle Ages to the Present, or HI 315: Irish History from the Famine to the Present.
  • Those who choose EN 161 may take up to two additional English courses and must take the remaining two courses in different fields.
  • Those choosing HI 215 or HI 315 may take up to three additional courses in English, with the remaining course in a field other than English or history.
  • Notes: Subject to the Irish Studies Program Director's approval, students may apply up to 9 credit hours taken while studying abroad in Ireland during the fall or spring semesters toward the minor's requirements. English credits earned (as EN 369) during Fairfield University's two-week Galway Summer Experience at the National University of Ireland, Galway may be counted as EN 161.

While studying abroad is not required for completion of the Irish studies minor, students are encouraged to do so.

Course Offerings

cas_is_castle2_10For course descriptions, visit our online catalog.

Courses are organized by Department, i.e.: visit 'Art History' for Irish Studies-themed courses listed below. 

  • AH 121: Celtic and Early Irish Art
  • AH 221: Art of Ireland and the British Isles 500-1000
  • CE Introduction to Irish Language and Culture I (non-credit)* (Earn a certificate in Irish through this continuing Eduation course)
  • EN 142: Myths and Legends of Ireland and Britain
  • EN 161: Irish Literature
  • EN 162: Irish Women Writers
  • EN 252: Topics in Modern and Contemporary Irish Literature
  • EN 319: James Joyce's Ulysses
  • HI 215: Ireland from the Middle Ages to the Present
  • HI 315: Irish History Since the Famine
  • IRI 110/111: Introduction to the Irish Language
  • PO 147: Northern Ireland: The Politics of War and Peace



‌Fairfield students have abundant opportunities for internships with corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Given the large Irish population of New York City and the northeast, there is an abundance of Irish cultural, political, and historical/archival organizations in the area. The program will work with students to inform them of potential internship opportunities in these organizations and to secure course credit for those internships. ‌

Life After Fairfield

irish_arms10Your career path is likely to be governed by your choice of a major, but the minor in Irish studies adds an interesting dimension to your qualifications for graduate study or future employment. Graduates of the Irish studies program find that their studies enhance all kinds of careers, especially those which demand international awareness and cultural diplomacy. Ireland is a rising economy in the European Union, offers no language barrier for native English speakers, and is only a short flight away. Knowing about Ireland’s rich and complex history and culture gives students a decided edge in seeking employment, fellowships, or further academic degrees in the country. Some recent graduates of Fairfield’s Irish Studies program have earned Fulbright fellowships in Ireland, pursued graduate degrees at leading Irish Universities, and earned internships at Irish political and cultural organizations in New York City.

Learn more about how Fairfield's Career Planning Center can support your post-graduate goals, and how Fairfield's tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.


The "Irish in Film" Series: Fall 2018

All films will be presented at 7 p.m. in the Kelly Center Presentation Room. Admission is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, October 10

"Hidden Agenda” (1990) 
Director Ken Loach's political thriller about British state terrorism during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Written by Jim Allen, the film depicts the fictional assassination of an American civil rights lawyer during an investigation of the alleged torture of IRA prisoners in Belfast. Brian Cox plays Kerrigan, a British police officer who attempts to solve the murder and eventually uncovers a governmental plot conspiring to bring down the British prime minister. English Professor Robert Epstein, PhD, will introduce the film.

Wednesday, October 17

“No Stone Unturned” (2015)
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s 2017 documentary investigates the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, an unsolved case in which masked members of an anti-IRA loyalist paramilitary group murdered six Catholic civilians in a Northern Ireland pub during a World Cup soccer game. The film’s presentation is made possible by the Irish Film Institute, Dublin, Ireland, and will be introduced by Kevin Cassidy, PhD, professor of politics. 

Wednesday, October 24

“The Journey” (2017)
Director Nick Hamm's docu-drama portrays a fictionalized relationship between Ian Paisley, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein political leader. The film depicts the men in a friendly car ride after they engaged in negotiations to end the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. Although the car trip is pure invention, the film is based on a historic event that led to the 2006 St. Andrews power-sharing agreement. William Abbott, PhD, associate professor of History and co-director of the Irish Studies Program, will introduce the film. 


cas_irish_logo2 Culture Ireland Logo  cas_irish_logo3 IFB logo 


The "Irish in Film" Series: Fall 2018

All films will be presented at 7 p.m. in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library Multimedia Room. Admission is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, September 27

"Song of the Sea” (2014) 
Directed and written by Tomm Moore (“The Book of Kells”), this Oscar-nominated animated film follows Ben and his little sister Saoirse - the last of the selkies – as they embark on a fantastic journey into the Celtic spirit world. The film takes inspiration from the mythological selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land. The screening will be introduced by Visual and Performing Arts Professor Dr. Marice Rose. 


Wednesday, October 4

“Black Mass” (2015)
Based on the true story of James “Whitey” Bulger, this American crime drama directed by Scott Copper stars Johnny Depp as a ruthless south Boston gangster and brother of a senator (Benedict Cumberbatch), who becomes an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. The screening will be introduced by English Professor Michael C. White. 


Wednesday, October 11

“A Monster Calls” (2016)
Based on a coming-of-age novel by Patrick Ness, this magical fable directed by J.A. Bayona stars Lewis MacDougall as Conor O’Malley, a 13-year-old whose life takes a turn after his mother (Felicity Jones) becomes fatally  ill, and he moves in with his unsympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). As an escape, Conor turns to his artwork and conjures up a 40-foot-high monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who guides him on a journey of courage, faith and truth that helps the young boy cope with his grief. Dr. Robert Epstein, professor of English, will introduce the film.


Wednesday, October 18

“Jimmy's Hall" (2015)
Set in Ireland in the 1930s and based on real events, famed director Ken Loach’s "Jimmy's Hall" stars Barry Ward as Jimmy Gralton, an Irish communist and community activist, who returns from New York after a ten-year, self-imposed exile. Upon witnessing the levels of poverty and oppression overtaking his country, the activist in him reawakens as he looks to re-open the dance hall that led to his deportation. This film will be introduced by English professor Dr. Nels Pearson.


Wednesday, October 25

“After '16” (2016)
This short film collection commissioned by The Irish Film Board to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising, consists of nine short films by various Irish filmmakers in a mixed format of live action, animation, and documentary that date from the eve of the Rising to the Troubles in 1970s Northern Ireland. The film’s presentation at Fairfield University is made possible by the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, Ireland, and will be introduced by associate professor of History and co-director of Irish Studies William Abbott, PhD.

For more information, contact Prof. Marion White, Co-Director of Irish Studies.   

This Film Series is sponsored by the Irish Film Institute ‌and the College of Arts & Sciences.

cas_irish_logo2 Culture Ireland Logo  cas_irish_logo3 IFB logo 


Fall 2016 Irish Studies Field Trip

Fall 2016 Irish Studies Field Trip

Ireland's Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University

November 5, 2016
Lead by Dr. William Abbott and Prof. Marion White


The "Irish in Film" Series

Fall 2016

All films will be presented at 7 p.m. in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library Multimedia Room (lower level).
Admission is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, September 28

"Pilgrim Hill” (2013)
Written and directed by Gerard Barrett, this award-winning, documentary-style film imparts a compassionate view of Jimmy Walsh (Joe Mullins), a withdrawn bachelor farmer living in the west of Ireland who is caring for his sickly father. Through a number of documentary style sequences in which Walsh speaks directly to the camera, the film explores the themes of loneliness, isolation and caregiving, as the main character is confronted by a series of crises beyond his control. “Pilgrim Hill” premiered at the Galway Film Festival, where it won the 2012 award for “Best New Irish Talent.” This screening has been made possible by the Irish Film Institute and will be introduced by Adjunct Professor John E. Feeney.

Wednesday, October 5

“Michael Collins” (1996)
This historical biopic stars Liam Neeson in the title role as the charismatic leader of the Irish Volunteers, whose guerilla warfare against the British proved very effective in the struggle for Irish independence. The film also stars Irish actor Stephen Rea as Ned Broy, an Ulster Protestant and government employee, who sympathizes with the Republican cause. An interesting aspect of the film is Director Neil Jordan’s implication of Eamon de Valerna’s role in the 1922 assassination of Michael Collins. Dr. Kevin Cassidy, Associate Professor of Politics, will introduce the film.

Wednesday, October12

“August Rush” (2013)
Directed by Kirsten Sheridan, this “modern musical fairytale” follows a teenage music prodigy (Freddie Highmore), who has been separated from his musician parents, (Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Keri Russell), who have, in turn, been separated from each other. Like Mozart, the boy hears music in his head and believing in its magical powers, sets out on a quest to find his parents in New York City.  Dr. Robert Epstein, Associate Professor of English, will introduce the film.

Wednesday, October 19

“’71” (2014)
Written by Gregory Burke and directed by Yann Demange, this fast-paced British thriller stars Jack O’Connell as Gary, a British soldier from Derbyshire, who is caught behind enemy lines during an ugly riot on the Falls Road in west Belfast. The plot involves a fifth column (“the enemy within”) with Republican operatives working for British intelligence.  Dr. William Abbott, Associate Professor of History and Co-Director of Irish Studies, will introduce the film.

Wednesday, October 26

“Brooklyn” (2015)
Based on Colm Toibin’s best-selling novel, this Academy Award-nominated film directed by Jack Crowley stars Saoirse Roan as Eilis Lacey, a young, intelligent immigrant who makes a new life for herself in 1950s Brooklyn with the help of an Irish-American priest from home (Jim Broadbent). Eilis, whose name suggests Ellis Island, meets Tony, an Italian-American plumber, and everything seems settled until Eilis returns to Ireland for her sister’s funeral. There she quickly becomes absorbed into her own culture, but as a more accomplished and glamorous version of her old self. The film addresses the issue of women’s emigration in post-World War II America – both the gains and the losses.  Dr. Nels Pearson, Professor of English, will introduce the film.

For more information, contact Prof. Marion White, Co-Director of Irish Studies.   

This Film Series is sponsored by the Irish Film Institute ‌and the College of Arts & Sciences.

cas_irish_logo2 Culture Ireland Logo  cas_irish_logo3 IFB logo 

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