Erin Finneran

Erin Finneran

Senior Lecturer, Modern Irish and English Literature
research interests:
  • Irish and British Literary Modernism

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University in St. Louis
    Campus Box 1122
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Erin Finneran is a Senior Lecturer in English with over two decades of teaching experience at Washington University in St. Louis and University College.

I enjoy working with undergraduates from all backgrounds in literature courses ranging from Art of Reading Poetry and Modern Texts and Contexts, to Ampersand: Literary Culture of Modern Ireland and Turn and Face the Strange: Alienation and Transformation in Modern Literature and Contemporary Music, as well as in writing courses, including Rhetoric and Power and Argumentation. My abiding interest in Irish and British modernism was sown while an Honors English major at Kenyon College, grew through a Masters in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at University College Dublin, Ireland, and blossomed at Washington University through an M.A./Ph.D. that culminated in a dissertation on parody in Samuel Beckett’s early fiction. I bring a passion for the liberal arts to my teaching, and I am continually inspired by my WashU students. 

Courses Taught

L14 357: The Art of Reading Poetry

It is usually assumed that poetry, as a genre, presents the most intensely charged form of literary language. Extending this premise, the Art of Poetry offers an introduction to advanced literary study through a directed series of close readings. To give students a critical vocabulary for analysis, an instinct for discovering and evaluating literary problems, and a sense of different historical periods of poetic production, we study the formal and conventional aspects of verse, taking the major elements of poetic craft-the line, the stanza, rhythm and meter, metaphor and simile, symbolism, etc.-as our main categories of analysis. In doing so, we establish a basis of intellectual understanding for the special, often powerful effect that poems can produce in us. Whether or not the student becomes an English Major, however, the course is designed to provide the reader (or writer) of poetry with an experience and a set of skills that will inform and foster this enthusiasm.

    L14 2152: Introduction to Literary Study

    Introduction to Literary Study introduces how to analyze literary forms, genres, and conventions by applying a wide array of approaches to fiction, drama, and poetry ranging across two centuries. Organized around five themes—literary revolutions; questions of genre; gender, sexuality, and identity; subjectivity and authorship; and, modernism—readings ranging across two centuries include Wordsworth’s The Prelude and other poetry; Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Wilde’s The Important of Being Earnest; Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and Beckett’s Endgame. After first placing each text in its cultural and generic context, the class explores how critical approaches to the same text have varied over time. By emphasizing how to question and analyze the historical context, stylistics, and genres of different texts, this class strives to prepare students to thrive in 300-level English courses.

      L61 2811: Literary Culture of Modern Ireland

      This course explores the literature of Ireland from the fall of Charles Steward Parnell in 1891 to the establishment of the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera in the 1930s. This is the period of an emerging cultural nationalism, a great efflorescence of literature in many genres, and some of the most important political, social, and military events in modern Irish history. One of the remarkable things about the period is the close relationship between prominent figures in the literary and artistic world and those in the realm of politics and social change. The result was a rich cross-fertilization of ideas and attitudes that had enormous implications for the future of this embattled island nation. We will explore this vital and transformative exchange through close attention to some primary texts of the period. Writers to be studied include Yeats, Gregory, Wilde, Synge, Shaw, Joyce, O’Casey, and Bowen.

        L61 2812: Literary Culture of Modern Ireland

        This course explores the intersection of literature and culture in Ireland from the establishment of the Fianna Fáil government of de Valera in 1932, through the lean years of the 40s-70s, to the economic boom of the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s and beyond. To appreciate this small nation's rocky road to a successful entrance into the European Union, economic security and national confidence, we will closely read how Ireland's rich and diverse literature casts a cold but feeling eye on its hard-earned independence and fraught nationalism. For the fiction, poetry, and drama of Ireland not only mirrors but often moves the story of this nation's growth and transformation over the decades of economic, social, and political strife. After a spring-break trip to Ireland, the course takes up the literary culture of Irish America, including some works by Eugene O'Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary McCarthy, Maureen Howard, Elizabeth Cullinan, William Kennedy, and Alice McDermott.

          L13 212: Rhetoric & Power

          The study of rhetoric, one of the original seven Liberal Arts, is perhaps more relevant today, in a world where diverse opinions reverberate 24/7 from television and the internet, than in ancient times when rhetors invented arguments to help people choose the best course of action when they disagreed about important political, religious, or social issues. How do we make our voices heard? How can we invent and present compelling written discourse. This course will introduce students to common rhetorical principles and to the disciplinary history of rhetoric and compositional studies. Assignments in this class include rhetorical exercise in invention and craft, imitations, and varied compositions, ranging from the personal to critical, from the biographical to argumentative. We will examine rhetorical principles (audience, context, kairos, exigency, ethos, pathos, logos, and so forth) that are employed, for example, not only in literary analysis but in law, politics, education, and science. We will aim for a mastery of craft and a refinement of thought.

            L13 312: Argumentation

            Argumentation, through regular practice in both written and oral argument, considers the enthymeme, the three appeals, various claim types, and fallacies, with the goals of emphasizing audience awareness, reflective thinking, and strategic presentation.

              L13 311: Exposition

              This course examines the logical and rhetorical principles in the development and presentation of ideas, uses the principles of classical rhetoric—invention, arrangement, and design—to help focus discussion on specific styles of language. Wide-ranging essay assignments, inspired by the readings and discussions of a diverse array of major modern essays, cultivate this awareness of style.

                L 14 3522: Turn and Face the Strange: Alienation and Transformation in Modern Literature and Contemporary Music

                This course explores the transformational effects of estrangement by pairing modern English literary and popular musical figures famous for their roles in reflecting and effecting radical social shifts. Questions of performance, social ritual, alienation, the culture industry, fame and failure will thread through five pairing units—Godot and Glam: Samuel Beckett / David Bowie; Portrait and Punk: James Joyce / The Clash; Aestheticism and Alternative: Oscar Wilde / Morrissey; Modernism / Monsters: Virginia Woolf / Lady Gaga; and, Romance and Rap: John Keats / Kendrick Lamar. Students will then construct their own pairing for a class presentation and final essay.

                  Courses taught in University College:

                  • U65 ELit 352:  Make ‘em Laugh:  Comedy and Culture
                  • U65 ELit 310:  “Nohow on”:  An Introduction to Samuel Beckett
                  • U65 ELit 352:  Lilies and Languor:  The Life and Writing of Oscar Wilde
                  • U65 ELit 351: “A luminous halo”:  Virginia Woolf and Our World
                  • U65 ELit 351: “New in New Ways”:  British and Irish Literary Modernism
                  • U65 ELit 310: “I write to cheat the cat”:  Irish Women Writers
                  • U65 ELit 310:  Modern Irish Drama:  from Shaw to McDonough
                  • U65 ELit 320:  Major American Writers