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ND to host summer creative writing program in Ireland

| Friday, February 5, 2016

Notre Dame undergraduate students now have the option to take a three-credit creative writing workshop in Ireland through a summer program sponsored by both the creative writing program and Notre Dame International. Running from July 17 to Aug. 7, students will spend one week in the city of Dublin and two weeks at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, professor of English Valerie Sayers said.

Students participating in a new summer study abroad program sponsored by the English department in Ireland will spend a week at Kylemore Abbey, pictured.Catherine Owers | The Observer

Students participating in a new summer study abroad program sponsored by the English department in Ireland will spend a week at Kylemore Abbey, pictured.

“One thing we want all our students to think about is not just their place in American literature, but also their place in world literature, and where better to start than Ireland?” Sayers said.  

Valerie Sayers said the course was the brainchild of Barry McCrea, professor of Irish studies, English and Romance languages, and Lisa Caulfield, director of the Notre Dame academic center at Kylemore Abbey. Sayers and Joyelle McSweeney, director of the creative program within the department of English, will teach the course. Guest authors Alice McDermott and Kevin Barry will also participate in the course. 

Sayers said she and McSweeney will collaborate on the classes and teach two separate sections of the class.

“Students in both sections will have the opportunity to work on whatever genre interests them. We know we’ll be doing prose, and a lot of it, because that’s where the majority of interest lies,” she said. “We’re also both open to and will create some opportunities for people to think about the overlap between fiction and nonfiction, between prose and poetry, and even, if people are interested, drama, which is the great Irish genre.  

“I think we’re both excited to teach that way, too,” Sayers said. “In the program here, though we encourage a lot of inter-genre work in the graduate program, just for practical reasons the undergraduate curriculum is set up as prose or poetry. And this is one of these rare opportunities to mix it up.”

Sayers said writers of all levels of experience are invited to enroll in the course. The course will fulfill the University and College of Arts and Letters fine arts requirement, and for English majors it will count as a standard major elective and will also fulfill one of the four required courses for the Creative Writing concentration.

“Non-English majors are more than welcome. In fact, they always provide a great contrast and complement to English majors,” she said. “One thing we like about the design of this course is that it is open to all levels. … There’s maybe an initial shyness from people who have never written before, but it dissipates so quickly when you realize that every time you write, you are a beginner because you are learning how to create a new manuscript. Every single time is a beginning time — that is one of the things I’m most excited about.”

Sayers said the dual locations of the course will make for a “richer experience, particularly for students who are going to Ireland for the first time and have not had a chance to experience the rest of Ireland.”

For the first week in Dublin, Sayers said, students will have the chance to absorb the literary traditions of the city, as well as see theatre productions and hear live music.

“Dublin is one of my favorite cities in the world, and the literary vibe there is intense and infectious,” she said. “I think by contrast, the time at Kylemore, which by its nature will be very contemplative and very meditative, will make for a really rich, full experience, both of writing and of culture.”

The course will be designed to provide a multitude of stimuli for students while giving them the opportunity to pursue their own projects. Both in Dublin and at Kylemore, Sayers said, the course will link “the practice of walking and the kind of opening up of the language centers that walking provides.”

“We’re going to be doing lots of exercises around place, both architectural space and Kylemore Abbey itself will be a fabulous architectural space to explore, but absolutely once we’re in Connemara, we’ll be thinking about nature,” she said.  “We’re still working on course texts and things like that, but we’re trying to include some writing that thinks about both nature and ecology, and our moment in climate time.”

Sayers said the program is designed for accommodate 20 Notre Dame students and 10 Irish university students.

“Because this is the first year, those would be ideal target numbers for the life of the program, but it’s entirely likely that we’ll be a smaller group going over the first time,” she said.

More information regarding the course and the potential to apply for financial aid will be available to students at an information session Wednesday at 11 a.m. in 320 Malloy Hall. Applications for the course are due Feb. 26. 

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About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine