Landscape, Memory and Imagination

For nearly 10,000 years, human settlement and patterns of migration have shaped the landscape of Ireland, just as Ireland’s rugged terrain has played a key role in shaping the island’s human culture. In this program, based at the Burren College of Art in County Clare, students will be immersed in artistic, literary, environmental and historical examinations of the ways that landscape, memory, and human creativity intersect. Both academic and studio work will be supported by field trips and guest speakers to steep students in the rich environmental and human history of Ireland, the turbulent waves of invasion and emigration, the traditions of Irish literature and art, and the lives and works of contemporary Irish artists and writers. Course materials and activities will examine and encourage the ways in which human experiences of place and history translate into creative interpretations of landscape in art and writing.

The Burren College of Art, located in a restored 16th c. castle near the village of Ballyvaughan, provides a unique base from which to explore the wonders of County Clare. The surrounding area, known as the Burren, comprises 250 square kilometers and is one of the largest limestone karst landscapes in Europe. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Galway Bay on the west and north, this wild and unforgiving topography is characterized by subterranean caverns, rugged hills, and dramatic seascapes, along with a unique assemblage of plant and animal life.

This course will utilize both the human and natural environment of the Burren and the village of Ballyvaughan as classroom, studio, resource, and subject, inviting students to explore the relationships between individual identity, collective memory, and a sense of place. Assigned readings and studio projects will complement numerous field trips and guest artist presentations to focus discussions, reflections, writing, and making.

The Writing/Humanities component will have a particular emphasis on Irish poetry, storytelling, and balladry: through both academic and experiential learning, students will examine the connections between landscape and literary form, discovering how an author constructs a voice, a self, and a sense of place through language. At the same time, the Studio component of the course will guide students to consider how place and history shape an artist’s creative work, culminating in an individual project that thoughtfully incorporates new experiences with Irish landscapes and culture into the conceptual and physical creation of student work.

Students will be required to do some preparatory coursework in advance of trip and will complete coursework upon return. See syllabus for more complete details.