Immersive Summer Writing Course on Work of Ireland’s Master Writers Inspires Wellesley Students

Two Wellesley faculty are interviewed in an Irish radio station.
Photo provided by Ciara Cheli-Colando ’20
July 3, 2018

Heather Corbally Bryant’s admiration of Irish literature inspires her work as lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley. She and Lynne Viti, senior lecturer emerita in the Writing Program, traveled to Ireland with a group of ten students to a cultural region of County Galway called Connemara, where they visited some of the settings that are a part of the landscape in which well-known writers such as Lady Augusta Gregory, James Joyce, and William Butler Yeats produced their famous works.

Bryant and Viti discussed their course during an interview on a public radio program called “It’s Friday with Marian Herriott” on Connemara Community Radio. Bryant, a published writer who studied British and Irish literature as a student, said the trip was “a total immersion experience” in which her students explored the country world from which so many writers came. Both Bryant and Viti read selections from their own recent poetry publications.

In visiting the places where poets, lyricists, and fiction writers lived and worked their craft, Bryant took the students to “remote places where we could get a more authentic experience of the places where the writers lived and were inspired.”

Over two weeks, they visited several cultural and historical landmarks including the village of Letterfrack, Kylemore Abbey, the cultural region of Galway called Connemara, coastal Achill Island, and Louisburg. On Achill Island, the group visited the Deserted Village of Slievemore, where more than 80 stone cottages sit empty.

At Slievemore, Bryant used the opportunity for students to find a place to sit down and write while taking in the haunting scenery presented by the vacant cottages and the surrounding landscape. The village sits on the southern slope of the Slievemore Mountain. “It was a very ghostly setting in which to sit among the stone cottages that have been empty for hundreds of years, but very evocative for a writer’s imagination and talents,” she said. 

The group also toured Galway and hiked into the countryside to such places as Kylemore Abby in Connemara, and Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park, and the students experienced several readings by contemporary Irish writers including Joan McBreen, Mary O’Malley, Eamon Grennan, Geraldine Mitchell and Mary Madec

Allie Collins-Anderson ’20 found the entire trip inspirational, particularly the poetry readings. “All of the poets who came and read for us shared their wisdom on their own unique experiences and ways of writing and processing the twists and turns of life,” said Collins-Anderson, who was particularly moved by Madec, who she said read from her collection, Demeter Does Not Remember. “The way that she framed the story in her own writings from life experiences was so inspiring.”

The writing course, Writing 293, was offered for the first time this summer at Wellesley. Bryant said she plans to teach the course again next summer.