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Belfast Module

IRS7011                Belfast: Place, Identity and Memory in a Contested City


Module is compulsory for all students taking MA Irish Studies, and open to students on other MA pathways as an option module


This module introduces students to themes in Irish Studies through an interdisciplinary case study of Belfast. Throughout the module students will be encouraged to consider the ways in which Irish and other identities (municipal, regional, ‘British’, religious, class, gendered etc) have been constructed and contested in the urban environment, in language, literature, political affiliations and social interactions, from the (re)establishment of Belfast as a colonial settlement in the 17th century, to the present day. Students will also be introduced to the ‘Belfast’ approach to Irish Studies as a subject of study dating to the foundation of the Institute in the 1960s, and encouraged to debate its continuing relevance and redefinition.

Convenor: Prof Peter Gray (IIS)



Outline of classes for 2021-22 (this may change year by year)

  1. Introduction: Belfast – Place Identity and Memory (Peter Gray)  
  2. Belfast from colonial to revolutionary town, c.1613-1800 (History – Peter Gray)
  3. Belfast - industrial giant and cockpit of violence, c.1800-1922 (History – Peter Gray)
  4. Belfast – class, gender and religion in a divided city, 1922-1972  (History – Sean O’Connell) 
  5. Staging Belfast: Stewart Parker’s drama (Drama – Mark Phelan) 
  6. READING WEEK - no class
  7. Fiction and the city (English – Eamonn Hughes) 
  8. Belfast in contemporary poetry (English – Scott McKendry) 
  9. Politics of Belfast since the Troubles (Politics – Margaret O’Callaghan) 
  10.   Anthropological approaches to understanding the symbolic landscape of Belfast  (Anthropology - Neil Jarman) 
  11.   The Titanic Town: Civic space and contemporary Belfast (Anthropology – Neil Jarman)
  12. Optional Field trip to Belfast City Hall Exhibition (PG)


Learning Outcomes:

1. familiarity with the major themes and debates in Belfast’s history, cultural life and social and political development

2. a critical appreciation with the disciplinary and interdisciplinary literature relating to these themes and the ability to engage with this in analysing questions of national, regional, class, gender and other identities evident in Belfast, past and present 

3. a critical appreciation of major debates in interdisciplinary Irish Studies, especially those most associated with the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s

4.  The ability to write an informed and original analysis of the problems discussed in the module, with particular reference to Belfast in preparation for work on the dissertation



Essay (90%)

Class Participation (10%)