The University of Iowa

Immersed in Dublin's Literary History

November 3rd, 2014

This student profile originally appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of the Honors at Iowa newsletter

Stephanie Smith finds Irish Writing Program a perfect fit

By Stephanie Smith

This past summer, I studied in Dublin, Ireland, attending the Irish Writing Program with several other UI students. Between the intensive writing workshops, literature courses, and program-sponsored events, it was a wonderful experience.

In addition to its rich literary history, Dublin is known for its theatresAs part of the Irish Drama course, students attended plays including The Importance of Being Earnest at the Gate Theatre and Brian Friel’s Aristocrats at the Abbey TheatreDrama instructor Gavin Kostick, the Literary Officer of Fishamble: The New Play Company, was especially knowledgeable when it came to the process of accepting or rejecting scripts.

At the end of the 6-week program, students were treated to Swing, a play co-written by Kostick at the historic Bewley’s CaféBoth of the writing instructors were published authors.

Martin Roper, the director of the program, has recently published the novel Gone. Katy Hayes has published novels, plays, short stories, articles, and reviews. They each held workshops with distinctly different styles. Katy Hayes’ workshop focused on crafting a 2000-word story, after writing a pitch and a 600-word preview.

Martin Roper focused on writing something new every day, making sure that students could make their passion into a daily habit. Though the coursework was rigorous, there was time to explore the surrounding country. Bus passes enabled students to explore the city of Dublin. The curriculum also included a weekend trip to Galway; outside of the curriculum, students planned trips to nearby places like Howth and Sandycove and more distant places such as Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I loved the abundance of events and sites related to James Joyce. The program happened to fall on Bloomsday, which celebrates Joyce’s Ulysses with readings and exhibitions in Dublin. I caught a reading at a plaza in Temple Bar, which included excerpts from chapters of Ulysses, music from Ulysses, and personal anecdotes about how James Joyce related to modern Irishmen.

There was also an exhibit in Dublin Castle featuring art dedicated to specific chapters in Ulysses. Plaques in the sidewalk, much like the ones in Iowa City, featured quotes from Joyce. The suburb of Sandycove holds the Martello Tower where Joyce lived and The Forty-Foot, a promontory on the southern tip of Dublin Bay, where he and other Irishmen used to bathe.

Something as nebulous as “culture” may be hard to grasp, but the program provided ample exposure to Ireland and Irish identity, offering opportunity for both self discovery and cultural discovery.

Stephanie and her classmates on the Irish Writing Program created this video about their time in Dublin. To learn more about the Irish Writing Program, visit our program page.