Current PhD students: project details

Grace Attwood

Obscurity Has Another Tale to Tell: The Reception and Modification of Latin Literary Models in Ireland during the early Middle Ages

Early Medieval Irish literary and intellectual culture was shaped by the reception and re-elaboration of Late Antique literature and educational practices. Against this background, a vibrant corpus of Hiberno-Latin texts began to develop a highly unusual, obscure style known as ‘Hisperic’. This research questions the context, development, and motivations underlying textual obscurity in Hiberno-Latin and Irish vernacular materials between the seventh and ninth centuries. Using as comparanda texts from other Medieval Latin traditions, it re-considers the attribution of ‘Hisperic’ materials to an Irish provenance and aims to provide insight into the relationship between Ireland the wider scholarly milieu of the early Middle Ages.

Supervisor: Dr Jacopo Bisagni
Funding: Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2017–2021)

Michael Doherty

The use and representation of Classical themes and imagery in Victorian art as part of a colonial discourse on Empire

This thesis offers a postcolonial analysis of the representation of Classical subjects in Victorian art. Its contention is that in the mid- to late nineteenth century themes and imagery from Antiquity were appropriated in high art as part of an ongoing discourse that promoted, celebrated and problematized racial, cultural and political ideologies prevalent within the British Empire. Within this discourse Hellenic Ideals and Idealism, in particular, became privileged cultural codes in relation to artistic style and literary canon, and gave academic credence to theories of European racial superiority. Edward Said's Orientalism proposed that non-Western cultures simply became objects of study rendered through the mediating focus of the West as primitive and 'other'. Through my study of paintings by artists such as Frederic Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Edwin Long this discourse becomes unsettled as we see Classical Greeks and Romans portrayed as both familiar and exoticised, civilized and primal.

Supervisor: Michael Clarke
Funding: NUI Galway College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies Fellowship (2013–2014); Irish Research Council (2014–2017)

Ioannis Doukas

A Trojan Cycle for Late Antiquity: Towards a Digital Intertextual Commentary

This research project focuses on three late Greek epic poems: the Posthomerica by Quintus of Smyrna, The Sack of Troy by Triphiodorus and The Abduction of Helen by Colluthus (ca. 2nd-6thcentury AD). These are all re-workings of the Epic Cycle and relate the events which either precede or follow the Iliad. Within the context of their recent scholarly re-evaluation, they will be closely examined in terms of their interdependence with earlier texts. With the assistance of digital methods and techniques, instances of intertextuality will be identified and analysed. The final output of the project will include an electronic resource, conceived and built as a born-digital commentary, focusing on the visual representation of intertextuality.

Supervisors: Michael Clarke, Pádraic Moran
Funding: Digital Arts and Humanities Structured PhD Scholarship (2014–2018)

Noémi Farkas

Intertextuality and ideology in Sedulius Scottus,De rectoribus christianis

The ninth century Carolingian political treatise, De rectoribus christianis (On Christian rulers), written by Irish scholar Sedulius Scottus, belongs among the most prominent of medieval literary contributions to Western thought. Its twenty chapters instruct an unidentified ruler on morals and governance, embracing the foremost intellectual and ideological concepts that laid the foundations of the Carolingian world. This PhD project will investigate the literary, intellectual and ideological frameworks Sedulius developed in his text, providing the first detailed analysis of its contents and full appreciation of its cultural contexts.

Supervisor: Pádraic Moran
Funding: Galway Doctoral Fellowship (2017–2021)

Francesca Guido

De Analogia, ut ait Romanus: Recovering an embedded text in Charisius’ Latin grammar

About AD 360, somewhere in the East, possibly in Constantinople, Charisius wrote a Latin grammar for his Greek-speaking son. This work went on to travel widely all around Europe, going hand in hand with the history of Latin education and scholarship. The project focuses on Chapter I.17, De Analogia, excerpted from a text of Iulius Romanus otherwise lost, in which we recognize Caper and considerations ultimately attributable to Pliny’s Dubius Sermo.

My research intends to highlight the intertextual connections between this text and the surviving ancient scholastic literature, in both its sources (Quellenforschung) and its reception. The text itself will be redefined thanks also to a new survey of the extant manuscripts. Digital technology is on one hand a necessary precondition for achieving theproject, and on the other the instrument to disseminate the research through a digital edition of the text, supplied with linguistical and philological commentary.

Supervisor: Pádraic Moran
Funding: Galway Scholarship (2019–2023)

Micheál Geoghegan

Generational tensions in classical Athens: a problem for the citizen self-image, and an aspect of female suppression within the patriarchy

It has long been established that the Ancient Greeks, or more specifically the adult male citizens of classical Athens, defined their sense of collective identity through the construction of binary oppositions with groups of non-citizen “others”: namely women, slaves, metics and foreign “barbarians”, all of whom were typically regarded as lacking in, or incapable of achieving, the higher levels of rational thought and self-control that defined the citizen male. The exclusionary nature of this self-image is captured in the title of Paul Cartledge’s seminal work, The Greeks: A Portrait of Self & Others.

My research project seeks to examine representations of the behaviour of young men, as a subgroup of the privileged male citizenry, in the literature and material culture of classical Athens. It posits the theory that a general anxiety – on the part of the older, governing generation – about the younger man’s capacity for supposedly un-Greek excesses of sex and violence was instrumental in forming attitudes towards a maligned and repressed “other” group that accounted for roughly half of the population of the Athenian polis: women.

Supervisor: Edward Herring
Funding: Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2016–2020)

Paula Harrison

A study and critical edition of the Carolingian compilation De Astronomia in Laon, Bibliothèque Municipale, MS 422.

This research is undertaken as part of the project ‘Ireland and Carolingian Brittany: Texts and Transmission,’ funded by the Laureate Scheme of the Irish Research Council. It explores the intellectual exchanges between Ireland, Brittany and Francia during the Carolingian age, in particular the impact of the literary and scholarly heritage of early Christian Ireland on the shaping of textual and cultural identity among the intellectual élite of medieval Brittany. The study will focus on a newly-discovered early medieval text on computus (the science of time-reckoning). A comprehensive philological analysis of the text in question and a collation of its main manuscript witness (Laon Bibliothèque Municipale, 422) will be carried out, with a view to shedding light on the sources available to the medieval Breton ecclesiastical literati, the linguistic character of Breton Latinity, and the Breton contribution to the development of Carolingian computus.

Supervisor: Jacopo Bisagni
Funding: Irish Research Council Laureate Project Scholarship (2018–2022)

Ann Hurley

The Anonymous Excidium Troiae: Its importance as a didactic question-and-answer text and its reception and intertextuality in later vernacular literature

This project examines the Excidium Troiae, an anonymous text, dated to the 6th century, which details the story of the battle of Troy up to the introduction of the wooden horse and the destruction of the city. It then follows the escape of Aeneas from Troy, his travels and eventual landing near Rome and the founding of the city of Rome. It is an educational question-and-answer text which is significant for its mythological content as well as for the insight it gives into medieval education. It is also important because of its reception in later vernacular literature. The Troy narrative has been of fundamental importance in the national and cultural identification of so many Western European Nations as is clearly evidenced by its pivotal place among their pseudo-histories and foundation myths.

Supervisor: Michael Clarke
Funding: Galway Doctoral Research Scholarship (2015–2016), Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2016–2019)

Maria Chiara Marzolla

Music and the Early Irish Church

This project straddles the areas of Medieval Hiberno-Latin Studies and Historical Musicology, in particular with reference to a hitherto neglected phase of the history of music in Ireland. It has been long known that the development of a specific form of ecclesiastical culture in Early Medieval Ireland (especially c. AD 600–1169) was strongly influenced by close reading of the writings of the Fathers of the Church and it is therefore likely that the domain of music was not immune to this influence. This project aims at tracing the Patristic roots of the 'ideology' of music found in Early Medieval Hiberno-Latin sources.

Supervisor: Jacopo Bisagni (co-supervisor: Prof. Cesarino Ruini, Bologna)
Funding: Galway Doctoral Scholarship (2018–2022)

Erin McKinney

Linguistic Code-Switching in Bethu Brigte, the Old Irish Life of St Brigit

Bethu Brigte, the Old Irish Life of St. Brigit, is a ninth-century composition written in a fascinating blended language, mixing Latin and Old Irish. Barbara Bullock and Almeida Jacqueline Toribio in The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Code-Switching define “code-switching” as “the alternating use of two languages in the same stretch of discourse by a bilingual speaker.” Historical code-switching is a new and evolving field which is currently witnessing a substantial rise in international scholarly attention. Ecclesiastical communities wrote in mixed Latin and Irish in the early Middle Ages, centuries before this mixing occurs in Western Europe. Much remains to be answered as to why this linguistic blending should occur in Ireland several centuries before similar phenomena occur on the continent; apparent and significant linguistic differences clearly exist between Latin and Irish, while the vernacular languages of Italy, France, and Spain derive from Latin. The colourful language of Bethu Brigte, as survived in its single extant manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson B 512), is roughly one-third Latin; Latin words, phrases, dialogues, even entire chapters are interspersed throughout this Irish text. The purpose of this research is to assess why and how Bethu Brigte alternates between Latin and Old Irish to such a varied and extreme degree, by applying methodologies developed within the linguistic study of code-switching in both contemporary and historical contexts. Accordingly, a linguistic study of code-switching in Bethu Brigte can make a significant and unique contribution to this growing research area and will help us answer long-unanswered questions about this and other texts connected with St. Brigit. Such an interdisciplinary study would be timely and relevant within the fields of both Medieval Latinity and Early Irish, in as well as in the currently expanding fields of pre-modern multilingualism and historical sociolinguistics.

Supervisor: Jacopo Bisagni

Elena Nordio

Regionalism and Diversification in Seventh-Century Visigothic Latinity: A Sociolinguistic Approach

During the seventh century, the Iberian Peninsula witnessed a remarkable cultural flourishing, which was dominated by the figure of Isidore, bishop of Seville. However, given both the towering status of Isidore and the relatively scarcity of available sources, a thorough assessment of the Latin of this period has yet to be brought forth. This project aims to advance our understanding of seventh-century Visigothic Latinity by a systematic sociohistorical linguistic analysis of all the extant sources of the period. By doing so, it also seeks to contribute towards the research methodology concerning regional varieties of Latin in the Early Middle Ages.

Supervisor: Jacopo Bisagni
Funding: Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2018–2022)

Lioba Speicher

The Old Norse Sagas of Antiquity: a study in cross-cultural Classical reception and transnational networks in medieval Scandinavia, Ireland and Europe.

Trójumanna saga (‘Saga of the Trojans’), Eneas saga (‘Saga of Aeneas’), Alexanders saga (‘Saga of Alexander’), Rómverja saga (‘Saga of the Romans’), Gyðinga saga (‘Saga of the Jews’) and Veraldar saga (‘Saga of the World-Ages’) are six adaptations of Latin works on Classical history and mythology composed in Iceland around 1200. Although they were independently adapted, they belong to a transnational tradition of Classical reception attested in an extraordinarily wide range of Medieval European languages, e.g. Irish, Welsh, German, English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Byzantine Greek.

The aim of this research is to investigate the composition, reception and influence of the Sagas of Antiquity, while placing them in the broader context of cross-cultural Classical reception and transnational networks in Medieval Scandinavia, Ireland and Europe. As Middle Irish adaptations such as Togail Troí (‘Destruction of Troy’), Imtheachta Aeniasa (‘Adventures of Aeneas’), Scéla Alexandair (‘Story of Alexander’) and In Cath Catharda (‘The Civil War’) are roughly contemporaneous and deal with the same matters and source texts as their Old Norse counterparts, they are ideal key comparanda to the Sagas of Antiquity.

Supervisor: Michael Clarke (co-supervisor: Prof. Mikael Males, University of Oslo) 
Funding: Galway Doctoral Scholarship (2019–2023)

Mary Sweeney

Jewish identity in 2nd century BCE Alexandria: The texts and transmission of fragmentary Hellenistic Jewish literature

Alexandria in the 2nd century BCE was a cultural nexus that facilitated communication by Jews, with Greeks and other Mediterranean communities. At the same time, it was a thriving intellectual centre for the development of Greek literary criticism. This research investigates how Alexandrian Jews, within this environment, were producing sophisticated narrative literature written in the Greek language, and which blended biblical stories with Greek literary forms to express their Jewish identity. A corpus of target texts, which are fragmentary in form, will be investigated using comparanda from pagan Greek literature. Progressing beyond traditional single-disciplinary approaches, this research aims to reconfigure analysis of Classical, Jewish and Christian literature in a more comprehensive Mediterranean context.

Supervisor: Michael Clarke
Funding: Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2018–2022)

Harry Tanner

(Greek lexical semantics. Details to follow.)

Supervisor: Michael Clarke


Classics PhDs Recently Completed

Dr Charles Doyle (2018)

Studies in the Latin Christian reception of early Greek materialism

This thesis examines the legacy of the Presocratic philosophers as transmitted through the doxographical tradition in Late Antiquity and the Early Medieval period. By investigating attestations of doxographies in literature during these eras this thesis demonstrates how authors engaged with the Presocratic philosophers. In doing so, I argue that the opinions (doxai) of the Presocratics on nature were used as tools by writers to a variety of ends within the contexts of polemic, exegesis and historiography.

Supervisors: Pádraic Moran
Funding: Galway Doctoral Fellowship (2014–2015), Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2015–2018)

Dr Jason O’Rorke (2017)

Voice of Ancients: An examination of verbal diathesis and its didactic practices in Latin grammars from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages

My research analyses the theory and the terminology of verbal diathesis in Latin grammatical treatises of the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages (3rd–10th century AD). Furthermore, it examines the didactic methods employed by Latin grammarians to lead their students (and, more generally, their readers) through the intricacies of grammatical theory. The thorough investigation of these teaching techniques should improve our understanding of Ancient and Early Medieval linguistic education and language learning.

Supervisor: Jacopo Bisagni
Funding: NUI Galway College of Arts and Social Science Fellowship (2010–2011), Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2011–2014)

Dr Sarah Corrigan (2017)

The sea in early medieval Hiberno-Latin and latinate literature: Cosmological problem and imaginative resource

This research project is investigating conceptualisations of the sea in Ireland as evidenced by Hiberno-Latin and Latinate writings from the sixth to early ninth centuries. It explores the ability of the sea to accommodate a broad range of diverse conceptualisations and allegorical assignations. It also examines the unique perspectives of the sea found in Ireland as a consequence of its insular nature and its location at the very edge of what was, at that time, the known world.

Supervisor: Michael Clarke
Funding: NUIG College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Doctoral Fellowship (2009–2011), Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2011–2013)

Corrigan, S. (2013–2014) ‘Hisperic Enigma machine: sea creatures and sources in the Hisperica famina’, Peritia, 24/25, pp. 58–72.

Dr Peter Kelly (2016)

Synthesizing identity and text in Ovid’s Metamorphoses

This work examines Ovid’s portrayal of identity and its relationship with the text in the Metamorphoses. Through analysing a number of myths from the Metamorphoses this work shows how Ovid explores the fracturing of identity in relation to the body, voice and visual image of a person, while also demonstrating how Ovid uses the text as a metaphor for the self as the authorial voice enters the echo-chamber of intertextuality.

Supervisor: Michael Clarke
Funding: NUI Galway Hardiman Fellowship, Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship (2011– )

Kelly, P. 2017 (forthcoming). ‘Compounding Compound Creatures: The Catalogue of Hybrids in Tristia 4.7 and Empedocles’, Mnemosyne.

Kelly, P. 2017 (forthcoming). ‘Intersexuality and Intertextuality: Hermaphroditus and the Early Universe in Ovid’s Metamorphoses’, in: Surtees, A., Dyer, J. (eds.) Gender B(l)ending in Greek and Roman Culture and Society.

Kelly, P. 2017 (forthcoming). ‘Tears and Liquefaction: Corporeal Permeability in Ovid’s Metamorphoses’, in: Leonard, V, Totelin, L. (eds.) Bodily Fluids / Fluid Bodies.

Kelly, P. 2014. ‘Voices Within Ovid’s House of Fama’, Mnemosyne 67, 65-92.

Kelly, P. 2012. ‘Appropriating Identity in the Houses of Rumour and Fame’,Imbas Journal 2, 1-28.

Dr Francesca Bezzone (2013)

Deconstructing the Man, creating the Saint: The literary sanctification of Saint Germanus in the Vita Germani Auctore Constantio

This study is centred on the analysis of the evolving figure of Saint Germanus in the Vita Germani Auctore Constantio, from mortal, mundane man at the beginning of the text to fully sanctified figure in its last chapters. My aim is to propose a new reading of the text, based on literary, semantic, liturgical and theological analysis, where the sanctification of Germanus is made all the more evident through intra-textual details and inter-textual comparisons with other hagiographies of the time, such as the Vita Martini, the Vita Amatoris and the hagiographical work of Jerome.

Supervisor: Mark Stansbury

Dr Adelia Greer (2015)

Xenophon and the ancient Greek cavalry horse: an equestrian perspective

Four primary research topics are at the core of this thesis. The first deals with the physical characteristics of the ancient Greek horse. Using archaeological and artistic evidence, I challenge assumptions made by many scholars about the size of the ancient Greek cavalry horse. The second topic explores the equestrian equipment utilised by the ancient Greek cavalry. The standard view that the lack of saddles, stirrups and horseshoes made the cavalry an ineffective fighting force is challenged. Using both Xenophon’s Art of Horsemanship and the Cavalry Commander, the third topic compares ancient Greek horsemanship with modern theories on horsemanship. This exploration reveals not only the depth of Xenophon’s equestrian knowledge and its relevance today, but also his profound understanding of the physical and psychological workings of the horse. The fourth topic combines the findings of the first three in order to offer a new perspective on the effectiveness and value of the ancient Greek cavalry. It is hoped that my conclusions will be used as a springboard for further study and will lead to a greater appreciation of the cavalry as an important and necessary arm of the ancient Greek military.

Supervisor: Edward Herring

Dr Eóin O'Donoghue (2011)

Remember me when I am gone away: An examination of the representation of gender in the material culture of archaic Etruria

The study of the lives of men and women in ancient Greece and Rome has attracted scholarly attention. However, there has been a comparative neglect of the study of gender identities in the world of the Etruscans. It was the purpose of this thesis to partially rectify this situation through the examination of the gender identities of men and women from Archaic Etruria (c. 600–450 BC). Unlike most previous scholarship on gender the approach employed was not grounded in feminist thought, instead the aim was to seek to analyse the differences in the roles, activities and identities of men and women during this time. The apparent power of Etruscan women was carefully analysed, it was shown that while they had many significant public roles and duties, they were performed within the framework of a hegemonic masculine society. The public and private identities of men were examined within their social and political environment.

The evidence employed was primarily artistic. As well as explaining the respective roles of men and women the evidence was considered in its environmental, regional, and historical setting. This allowed for the understanding of gender roles in the respective regions of Etruria at different points during the period examined, and significantly how gender as a medium of social difference was used in their civilisation.

Supervisor: Edward Herring
Funding: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies Postgraduate Fellowship

Dr Anastasia Remoundou-Howley (2011)

Palimpsests of Antigone: Contemporary Irish versions of Sophocles’ tragedy

My thesis explores the reception of Sophocles’ Antigone in contemporary Irish drama with works by Aidan Carl Mathews (Antigone1984), Tom Paulin (The Riot Act 1984), Brendan Kennelly (Antigone 1984), Conall Morrison (Antigone 2003), Seamus Heaney (The Burial at Thebes 2004), Stacey Gregg (Ismene 2007), and Owen McCafferty (Antigone 2008). The creative synergy between original text and adaptation, from page to stage, is symptomatic of an archipelago of literary and philosophical responses to Antigonean discourses which reroute politics and ethics into a current critique that extends far beyond the field of Classical studies. Through the lens of inherited interpretations and postmodern theorizations, with which all of these writers are familiar, I seek to demonstrate that the implications of Antigone’s mourning act, in the text and through performance, can be read as tropes for a post-humanist discussion redirected into the political sphere. In this way, these Irish adaptations, written in response to modern national and international tragedies, contest notions as varied and complex as ’agency’, ’representation’ versus ’disappearance’, ’mourning’, ’democracy’, ’law’, ’violence’, ’cultural identity’, ’gender’, ’mothering’, ’kinship’, ’war’, ’suffering’, ’memory’, ’trauma’, and the defense of human rights by revisiting Ireland’s violent historical past and redefining its role in the present beyond the narrow interpretative borders of an assumed anti-colonial terrain. I therefore submit that by reimaging itself as Other on Antigone’s legitimate space, the stage, and textually, these Irish playwrights, from the North and the South of the island, challenge Western logocentrism and democratic ideals from within by refiguring Antigone’s defiance as a protest against injustices inside the boundaries of their country and in the world at large. The contexts through which Antigone is palimpsestuously re-inscribed within Irish theatre exemplifies a metaphora (as ’transposition and as ’translation’) into new spaces and new possibilities of an agonistic pluralism that, being political, liberates Antigone from the confines sanctioned by Classical tradition. Antigone thus returns on the Irish stage since 1984 as the autonomous individual against the state, as the worn-out anti-heroine and mock-sacrificial martyr perpetually vanishing from the final act (Mathews), as a Republican rebel (Paulin), as a feminist icon (Kennelly), as an avenger/suicide bomber (Morrison), as a human rights defender (Heaney), as displaced by her sister Ismene (Gregg), and as a mothering pacifist in post-conflict Northern Ireland (McCafferty).

Supervisor: Brian Arkins