Fall 2015: 138

Irish Literature 700-1800

4 units
MWF 12-1
Thomas Walsh

L&S Breadth: Arts & Literature

From our earliest poetic texts to the last moments of the Gaelic order in the 1700s, Irish literature presents us with a vast wealth of material in a wildly diverse variety of genres. This course will focus tightly on the famous sagas of the Ulster and Finn Cycles as well as on the lyrical texts of “nature,” praise and, at the end of the tradition, Bardic Poetry, but we will also give a panoramic view of the range of early Irish genres from history, genealogy, law, satire, gnomic literature, as well as philology, prosody, medicine, hagiography, etc. not to mention the translations of Greco-Roman epic. Of concern will be the theoretical orientation of our readings: how does the literature in its early phases exhibit the techniques of oral story-making (so markedly present in the Táin Bó Cualinge)? What theoretical models for analyzing these texts have developed in recent thinking? How have other textual traditions (such as the Greco-Roman or Judeo-Christian traditions) affected the texts themselves and our understandings of what they might mean? Are terms like “lyric” or “epic” helpful or not? What is the place of early Irish literature in the newly emergent conceptions of “World Literature” or “Early Comparative Literature”?

Student work will include a few short quizzes, 1 short midterm and a final; 1 short paper (due mid-semester) and a term paper (due at semester’s end).

The course will be presented as a series of lectures with plenty of room for discussion.

Required Texts:

 Thomas Kinsella, The Tain: Translated from the Irish Epic Táin Bó Cualinge New York: Oxford, 2002 (1969). ISBN-10: 0192803735.

Anne Dooley and Harry Roe, Tales of the Elders of Ireland. New York: Oxford University Pres, 2008. ISBN-10: 0199549850.

G. Murphy. Early Irish Lyrics. Foreword by Tomás Ó Cathasaigh. Dublin: Four Courts, 1998 (1956). ISBN 978-1-85182-198-3.

John T. Koch (ed.) with J. Carey, The Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe and Early Ireland and Wales. Rev. ed. Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2003. ISBN 1-891271-09-1.

COURSE READER: Prepared by the instructor, this text will be available during the first week of classes.

Prerequisite: None. Course and readings in English