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Semester 1 Modules
Semester OneAll modules are 5 ECTS modules, and consist of two lectures per week, each of one-hour duration. Please click on a module title to reveal a description of that module.
The module is divided into two sections. Both sections must be taken to complete the module.
SG111 (A) Early and Medieval History of the Celts
This section of SG111 will provide an introduction to some of the more important aspects of the archaeology of the Celtic world, dealing briefly with such topics as the discovery of the archaeology of the Celts in the nineteenth century and the material culture (weapons, personal ornaments and art) that came to be identified with the spread of Celtic-speaking peoples across Europe. Aspects of the Celtic archaeology of Britain and Ireland will also be examined. The module will then survey the linguistic background to the identification of the Celtic languages as a distinct group, locating them within their proper geographical and historical contexts as Celtic languages, and showing their relationship with, and distinctiveness within, the vast family of languages known as Indo-European, which historically includes languages spoken in the territory from the west of Europe to India (since modern times also into the lands of the New World). The lectures will also look at the way the ancient Celts were portrayed by the classical Greek and Roman authors who are our only source of information on the history of ancient Celtic Europe.
SG111 (B) Early and Medieval History of the Celts
This section of SG111 will introduce the student to some of the most significant events, changes and movements in the history of Ireland and Britain from the late centuries BC to the tenth century AD. The topics addressed will include the insular Celtic migrations and settlements of the early medieval period (including the migrations from Britain to Brittany and from Ireland to Scotland, and the Irish settlements in Wales and in Man), the Christianisation of the West (of Ireland, of western Scotland from Ireland, and of northern England from Scotland), and the incursions, settlement and impact of the Vikings.
- Knowledge of the prehistory and ancient and medieval history of the Celts.
- Awareness of the types of source available for the study of the history and prehistory of the Celts.
- Awareness of the relationships and tensions between archaeological, linguistic and historical sources.
This module will study, in translation, selections from early Irish lyric poetry – including nature poetry, religious poetry and early poems from the Finn-cycle. It also involves the study of the early Irish Voyage-tales, including ‘The Voyage of Bran’ and the related ‘Expedition of Connlae’, the other Voyage-tales in Irish, and the Latin ‘Voyage of Brendan’. Finally the module will explore the interaction of history and literature in some early Irish tales, and their allegorical significance.
- A basic knowledge and appreciation of early Irish lyric poetry.
- A basic knowledge of early Irish metrics.
- A knowledge of early Irish Voyage-tales, composed in both prose and verse, and also inboth Irish and Latin.
- Knowledge of the early Irish concept of the Happy Otherworld, as imagined under theinspiration of both Christian and secular ideas.
- An awareness of political allegory in early Irish narrative.
The main source of prose stories in medieval Wales is the collection known in modern times as The Mabinogi. These eleven stories from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries cover a wide range of themes, from the very human concerns of friendship, love, honour and betrayal, to grand adventures combating strange beasts, giants and mysterious supernatural forces. Some of the tales are located in the concrete landscape of medieval Wales, where we can trace exact locations of events and routes of journeys. Other tales take place in a vaguer, otherworldly landscape, with no clear location in the real world.
- An understanding of the themes of medieval Welsh stories.
- An understanding of the techniques of the medieval Welsh story-teller.
- An understanding of the social and historical context of medieval Welsh stories.
- An understanding of the application of critical analysis to medieval Welsh texts.
This module provides a first introduction to the language of the Old Irish period (ca. 600-900). There is a single core text for both SG221 and SG222: David Stifter, Sengoídelc. Old Irish for Beginners (Syracuse, 2005). This can be purchased online, or from the lecturer at the beginning of the year (currently at the cost of €28.00 or thereabouts). Any supplementary materials (such as sample texts) will be provided in the classes. Medieval Irish I in Semester 1 is a prerequisite for taking Medieval Irish II in Semester 2.
- Knowledge of the fundamentals of Old Irish grammar.
- Ability to understand and analyse straightforward Old Irish text.
- An understanding of the relationship of Old Irish to later stages of the language.
This module provides an introduction to the key social and political institutions of the Middle Ages in the Ireland: kinship, clientship, kingship, and the church. The first three will be discussed both in terms of the evidence they provide for a common Celtic inheritance from the prehistoric period and their medieval actuality, while the church will be considered as a new institution which, more than any other, shaped and changed the organization and outlook of the Celtic regions. The module shows how personal and familial relations were lived in the matrix of kinship. It considers clientship as a cornerstone of the economy, and looks at the roles and obligations of the different grades of lords and clients. It examines kingship as the key political institution, looks at the terminology and ideology of kingship, and provides an introduction to the political geography of medieval Ireland. It considers the role of the church (including the monastery) in the formation of communities, small and large, local, national and international.
- Describe in detail key social and political institutions of medieval Ireland.
- Conceptualise and explain medieval Irish society in terms of a variety of institutions andsocio-political systems.
- Discuss a range of relevant primary and secondary materials, and assess their evidence for ourknowledge of medieval Ireland.
- Communicate their knowledge in written form, including the use of a range of literary andeditorial conventions.
This module looks at the discovery of the Celtic family of languages by the early comparativists of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, focussing especially on the ground-breaking work of Edward Lhuyd in establishing a scientific foundation for the linguistic classification. Together with the work of James Macpherson, the influence of ideas about the Celts on the Romantic movement is considered, and their subsequent integration into the mature comparative linguistics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The strange forms the interest in the ancient Celts took in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is considered, with particular emphasis on the obsession with the Druids. Finally various modern-day conceptions and misconceptions about the Celts, ancient and modern, are examined.
- Understanding of the way fact and imagination were interwoven and confused in the creation of new traditions about the Celts.
- Ability to analyse critically the early modern sources on the Celts.
- Knowledge of the major historical and ideological trends in the history of the study of the Celts.
In the period 600 – 1100, Wales experienced a flowering of poetic expression which formed the traditional basis for the continuation of the Welsh love of, and skill in, poetry in the subsequent centuries and down to the present day. The earliest Welsh poetry reflects significant aspects of the culture, history and thought of the time, from the politics of rule to the delicate relationship between humans beings and nature, from the ethics of war to the potential loneliness of old age. This module will explore how the earliest surving Welsh poems represent and express the hopes and fears, the brutality and tenderness, the knowledge and the propaganda, of an early medieval society.
- Detailed knowledge of the themes and structure of medieval Welsh Poetry.
- Appreciation of the beauty and variety of medieval Welsh poetry.
- Ability to deal critically with a medieval poetic tradition quite different from modern poetic expectations and practice.
- Understanding of the value of medieval Welsh poetry as a source of information on the mental and emotional world of the early medieval Welsh.
This module will examine some of the cultural consequences of the coming of Christianity to medieval Ireland, especially in the area of reading and writing. Among the topics covered will be the early history of Christianity in Ireland, the earliest writings from the Celtic-speaking world, religious literature in Irish and Latin, the contribution of the Irish to Christianity and learning abroad, and the impact of Christianity and the new learning on Irish vernacular culture.
- Knowledge of religious attitudes in medieval Ireland.
- Knowledge of the literary sources for the religious ideas and practices in medieval Ireland.
- Knowledge of the early history of Christianity in medieval Ireland.
- Knowledge of the ways in which Christianity differed from, influenced and was influenced by, Christianity amongst neighbouring medieval cultures.
- An appreciation of the close connection between the coming of Christianity and the spread of literacy, especially in the case of Ireland which never formed part of the Roman Empire.