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Hugo Hamilton teaches Contemporary Irish Literature

Hugo+Hamilton+taught+his+first+class+on+Contemporary+Irish+Literature+on+Monday+from+7+to+10+p.m.+Photo+by+Sarina+Lincoln.
Hugo Hamilton taught his first class on Contemporary Irish Literature on Monday from 7 to 10 p.m. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

By Gabriel Loewenson
loewenso2@grinnell.edu

This semester, Hugo Hamilton, an Irish writer, is teaching a short course on Contemporary Irish Literature.

Hamilton is from Dublin, Ireland, and is of mixed German and Irish descent. He mostly writes memoirs based on actual events in his life.

“For me place and location are everything, and language, countries. My mother was German, my father was Irish. So I was born with that sort [of] enforced fascination for identity and place,” he said.

In fact, Irish literature itself revolves around a similar theme.

“Irish literature is very taken by the whole business of sense of place. Ireland has had a huge history of emigration. A lot of people coming to the USA, and so, a lot of Irish writing focus on the gaps left behind by emigrants, by emigration itself,” Hamilton said.

He said that he tries to draw upon this background to grant students greater insight into the mind of a writer and help them draw upon their own creativity.

“I think that it’s probably important that students get a view of a working novelist, and a working writer,” Hamilton said. “How the creative process works for me, what my obsessions are, and to explore their own obsessions then, their own wishes, and then how they want to be creators.”

Hamilton says that he first heard of Grinnell after being approached by Professor Brigittine French, anthropology, who invited him as a visiting professor in 2016.    

“We met in Dublin and she invit[ed] me as a [John R. Heath Visiting] Professor for 2016. So the fall of 2016, I was here for a semester. … [This semester] I’m coming back for a short course,” he said.

In the short course, students will be reading novels by three contemporary Irish writers.

“We are having a look at three Irish novelists, three Irish women writers: Anne  Enright, Edna O’ Brien and Molly McCloskey. In a three week course there won’t be time to look at the work in great detail, but its sort of an example of what’s going on in contemporary writing in Ireland. And hopefully it’s a sort of way of finding motivation to look at the work and create your own,” Hamilton said.

Through the class, he hopes to give students a view on both the thought process of a writer, and on Irish literature.

“I think that the goal of the class is to give people a view of me as a writer, the inner workings and contradictions of a writer and also on contemporary Irish literature, where it’s going to and how that might potentially stimulate the process of writing in students attending the course,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton noted that it is also a personal pleasure for him to be teaching the course.

“For me it is always a huge inspiration to work with young people in a classroom situation. I possibly get more out of this than any of the students,” he said. “It’s a really sort of inspiring, stimulating moment for me as a writer. To see what young people are thinking, their thoughts  and what my students think about migration and sense of home and all of those things.”

Hugo Hamilton taught his first class on Contemporary Irish Literature on Monday from 7 to 10 p.m. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
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