The Ascendancy & the Gaelic World

The Ascendancy & the Gaelic World

Funded by: HEA (Higher Education Authority), NDP (National Development Plan), EU (European Union).

Publications for this project...


Professor Mícheál Mac CraithConvenor and Project Leader
Dr. Riana O'DwyerProject Leader
Dr. Lesa Ní MhunghailePostdoctoral researcher
Ronan LynchPostgraduate researcher


Convenor: Professor Mícheál MacCraith, Scoil na Gaeilge

The Ascendancy and the Gaelic World

The aim of this project is to describe and analyse the cultural exchange between Irish and English languages and literatures during the eighteenth century. The lessening of distrust between the Ascendancy and Gaelic cultures in Ireland, after the Jacobite defeat in 1745, led to a reassessment of Irish identities. The cultural exchange between the Ascendancy world and the Gaelic world is emblematic of a general interest in Celtic materials that came to the fore in these islands in the mid-18thC, and of the Ossianic controversy in particular. This focus on Ossianic literature enabled the Irish Ascendancy to concentrate on the more anodyne and neutral aspects of the Gaelic past, thus conveniently avoiding the vast corpus of subversive Jacobite literature. In addition, a developing interest in the literary treasures of medieval Welsh helped create the necessary climate that led members of the Irish Ascendancy to appropriate as their own the Gaelic literary heritage. Translation studies provide an interpretative context for this investigation. Charlotte Brooke's Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789) is the first published book of Gaelic poetry with English translations, a seminal work for the mediation between English and Irish cultures in the eighteenth century. It is not available in a modern annotated edition. Charles Vallancey was a founder-member of the Royal Irish Academy and remains the greatest proponent of romantic Orientalism in Ireland. His ‘Itinerary of Ireland' (1793) is a highly nuanced text, influenced by his travels and his ethnographical writings. Celticism and Orientalism played a part in making Vallancey an agent and a purveyor of a particular interpretation of modernity, all of which can be defined through the publication of a critical edition of his ‘Itinerary'.

Professor Mícheál Mac Craith, Professor Kevin Barry, Dr Mary Harris, Dr William O'Reilly, Professor Catherine O'Brien, Ms. Marie Boran, Professor G. Sheridan (UL), Dr Claire O'Halloran (UCC)

Cnoc Meá / Castle Hacket: Cultural Boundaries on a Local Scale

The aim of this project is to engage in a study of the Kirwan family from the east Galway area of Cnoc Meá / Castle Hacket as an exemplar of the cultural exchange between the Gaelic and Ascendancy worlds in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Since the west was not anglicised as early or as thoroughly as other parts of Ireland, Connacht exhibits longer continuities of settlement and language. A rich body of folklore is associated with the Cnoc Meá / Castle Hacket area and with the Kirwan family, available in published and unpublished sources. Among published sources are Lough Corrib and Lough Mask (1867) by William Wilde and studies by Tomás Ó Broin, and in the collection of songs published by Eibhlín Bean Uí Choistealbha in 1923, Amhráin Mhuighe Seola. The richness of this area in materials relevant to several disciplines, including linguistics, musicology, folklore, literature and local history, provides an ideal case study to trace the reassessment of identities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Dr Máirtín Ó Briain, Dr Riana O'Dwyer, Dr Mary Harris

Publications from this project

Lynch, R. 2004, 'A Contested Landscape in the Irish Imagination' in The Proceedings of the III International AEDEI Conference, Spanish Association of Irish Studies.

Ní Mhunghaile, L. 2003, ‘Joseph Cooper Walker (1761-1810): Cúrsaí Féiniúlachta agus an Deighilt Sheicteach', Taighde agus Teagasc, Belfast, vol. 3, pp. 45-56.

Mac Craith, M. 2002, 'Cúlra Seacaibiteach James Macpherson', in M. Ó Briain & P. Ó Héalaí (eag.). Téada dúchais aistí in ómós don Ollamh Breandán O MadagáinCló Iar-Chonnachta, pp. 93-110.

O'Dwyer, R. 2002, 'Women's Narratives 1800-1840', in G. Meaney et al (eds), The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Cork University Press, vol. 5 pp. 833-893.

Mac Craith, M. 2004, Associate editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 60 volumes, Oxford University Press.

Mac Craith, M. 2004, ‘We know all these poems: The Irish response to Ossian', in H. Gaskill (ed.), Ossian in Europe, pp. 91-108.

Mac Craith, M. 2004, Review of Dafydd Moore (ed.), ‘Ossian and Ossianism', British Journal for Romantic Studies, vol. 28, pp. 43-46.

Mac Craith, M. 2005, ‘Ceol an Phíobaire: urscéal 1798, úrscéal Gaeilge an Tí Mhóir', in D. Ó hAodha and D. Ó Baoill (eds.), Féilscríbhinn Ghearóid Mhic Eoin, Cló Iar-Chaonnachta.

Mac Craith, M. 2005, ‘Macpherson's wake', in A. Titley and F. Sewell (eds.), History of the Irish Book , vol. 2, The history of the printed book in Irish 1567-2000, Oxford University Press.

Mac Craith, M. 2005, ‘Wrestling with his form: the genesis of Macpherson's Fragments', in M. Procházka and O. Pilny (eds.), Myths, foundation texts, imagined communities, pp. 344-365.

Ní Mhunghaile, L. 2001, Léirmheas ar Úna Nic Éinrí, An Cantaire Siúlach: Tadhg Gaelach An Sagart, An Daingean, Eighteenth Century Ireland /Iris an dá chultúr iml. 18.

Ní Mhunghaile, L. 2002, 'Joseph Cooper Walker, James Macpherson agus Melchiorre Cesarotti', Eighteenth Century Ireland /Iris an dá chultúr iml. 17.

Ní Mhunghaile, L. 2003, ‘An Lucht Cinsil in Éirinn san Ochtú hAois Déag: Joseph Cooper Walker mar bhall lárnach den chiorcal liteartha', Bliainiri, Ráth Cairn.

Mac Craith M. 2005, 'The political and religious thought of Florence Conry and Hugh McCaughwell', in Alan Ford and John McCafferty (eds.), The origins of sectarianism in early modern Ireland , pp. 183-202.

Mac Craith, M. 2006. 'Fun and Games among the Jet Set: A Glimpse of Seventeenth Century Gaelic Ireland', in Joseph Falaky Nagy (ed.), Memory and the Modern in Celtic Literatures, CSANA Yearbook 5, pp. 15-36.

Mac Craith, M. 2006, 'Literature in Irish, c. 1560-1690: from the Elizabethan Settlement to the Battle of the Boyne', in Margaret Kelleher and Philiip O'Leary (eds.), The Cambridge History of Irish Literature, vol. I, pp. 191-231.

Mac Craith, M. 2006, 'Fun and Games among the Jet Set: A Glimpse of Seventeenth Century Gaelic Ireland', in Joseph Falaky Nagy (ed.), Memory and the Modern in Celtic Literatures, CSANA Yearbook 5, pp. 15-36.

Mac Craith, M. 2004, Prefazione, Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Messa dei defunti, nota introduttiva, traduzione con testo originale irlandese a fronte e note a cura di Rosangela Barone, pp. 11-17.

Ní Mhunghaile, L. 2005, Review of Dafydd Moore, Enlightenment and Romance in James Macpherson's "The Poems of Ossian":Myth, Genre and Cultural change Ashgate Publishing Limited (Aldershot, 2003) in Eighteen Century Ireland / Iris an dá chultúr iml. 20