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Semester 2 Modules
Semester TwoAll 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.
This module provides an introduction to the mythology and religious beliefs and customs of the ancient and medieval Celts, on the continent and in the Isles, and to the later reflexes of these beliefs in modern folklore. It will examine evidence for the religious beliefs of the pre-Christian Celts and explore some of the essential elements of Celtic mythology. Material and archaeological evidence from Continental Europe, Britain and Ireland will be consulted, as well as written evidence, from classical writers of the late centuries BC to the Christian writers of the middle ages in Ireland. This section of the course includes study of some major Irish mythological texts (read in English translation) and consideration of the place and function of mythology in early Irish society. The student will also be introduced and to folk-beliefs and customs of Ireland, including traditions and stories concerning the fairies, saints and holy wells, death customs and rituals, and traditions concerning the calendar and seasons. No previous knowledge of this material is assumed.
- Knowledge of the major themes of Celtic folklore and mythology.
- Knowledge of the variety of sources available to access Celtic folklore and mythology.
- Knowledge of the social and cultural contexts of Celtic folklore and mythology.
- Understanding of the critical approach to analysing the meaning of folklore and mythological sources.
The medieval Celtic peoples left us a wide range of texts recording traditional stories and legends which have a background in the ancient mythology of the Celts, some of which are introduced in the first-year module SG116. This second-year module uncovers more of the detail in these texts, looking at the ways in which the medieval Irish and Welsh received and represented these tales of pre-Christian gods. The module also takes account of the material that we have from ancient times themselves, in the inscriptions and iconography of the early Celts of Britain and Continental Europe, and introduces the student to the ways such sources cast light on the belief systems of the Celts in early history and prehistory. The quote ‘A field of gods and men’ is a translation of a phrase on a Celtic inscription from northern Italy of the first century BC, and indicates a place where, it seems, gods and men would be linked in some way through ritual practices.
- Detailed knowledge of the sources for ancient Celtic mythology.
- Detailed knowledge of the analysis of medieval sources for Celtic mythology.
- Ability to deal critically with sources from a wide variety of genres and media.
- Knowledge of the belief systems of the ancient Celts.
The Celtic languages remain media of communication to a greater or lesser extent in communities scattered on the western fringe of twenty-first century Europe, in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany, the survivors of a history traceable over two and a half thousand years encompassing, at one time, nearly the whole of western Europe and much of central and eastern Europe. The modern Celtic languages interact in various ways with the societies in which they are embedded, the official and unofficial institutions of those societies (government, legislation, industry, etc.), and with the wider cultures of the countries where they are used. The module will introduce the student to the study of the Celtic languages in these contexts, the sociolinguistics of the Celtic languages, and consider the ways in which they are endangered as languages of the lives and thoughts of the people who use them, and also ways in which their existence and status can be strengthened and expanded, through language planning, looking also at the cases of Cornish in Cornwall and Manx in the Isle of Man, where, though technically ‘dead languages’, vigorous revival movements work to prove that news of their demise was premature.
- Knowledge of the social and political status of the Celtic languages today.
- Knowledge of the historical and demographic background to the social and political statusof the Celtic languages today.
- Knowledge of the methods of studying the sociolinguistics of languages.
- Ability to deal critically with the sources and methods of sociolinguistics.
King Arthur and the legends surrounding him are known from medieval times throughout western Europe, but his origin is as a Welsh folk hero. The module traces the earliest development of the Arthurian legend from its Welsh beginnings, looking at our earliest sources to bear witness to Arthur (from Wales in the ninth to the eleventh centuries), and considers how this hero from a far western-European culture became famous throughout the world. The Celtic origin of the theme of the Holy Grail is examined as well as the way it became represented and adapted in later literature and culture. The Welsh origin of the character of Merlin the Magician will also be studied. Original sources in translation will form the basis of the study of all these themes.
- Knowledge of the earliest sources for ‘King’ Arthur.
- Knowledge of the origins of the Arthur legend.
- Knowledge of the Celtic roots of the Grail legend.
- Knowledge of the way the originally local Welsh hero became o familiarliterary figure throughout Europe and the world.
- Critical understanding of the way the legends were interpreted and reinterpretedin successive periods by different cultures.
The Celtic languages form a language family that includes not only the languages of medieval and modern Ireland, Britain and Brittany, but also several ancient languages of France, Spain, Italy and even Turkey. And this family of languages is part of a wider family, Indo-European, that encompasses hundres of languages throughout Europe and Asia and, by now, through historically recent expansions, many other parts of the world. This module will show the student how the known Celtic languages are related to each other, including looking in detail at some of our sources for the ancient Celtic languages, and will provide an introduction to the methods by which we show how languages from Galway to Calcutta, from Inverness to Tehran, are all derived from a single original language spoken around six thousand years ago.
- Detailed knowledge of the ways the Celtic languages are related to each other as a coherent language family.
- Detailed knowledge of the place of the Celtic languages in the Indo-European language family.
- Appreciation of the information to be gained from sources for the ancient Continental Celtic languages.
- Knowledge of the methods and results of comparative-historical linguistics.
This module concerns the status, roles and representation of women in medieval Irish and Welsh society. The student will be introduced to primary material which can inform us about the socio-legal position of women in these societies as contrasted with that of men, including legal tracts, literary texts, historical texts and didactic writings, the originals of which were written in Irish, Welsh and Latin (but read in English translation). The importance of marriage and other kinds of union in the lives of women will be examined, and the impact these unions had on women’s social status will be assessed. Various literary texts will be read, with a view to considering how femininities and masculinities are constructed in them, and the characters of prominent literary women will be examined and analysed. The question of women’s agency in society, especially in the area of learning, as well as the factors that wrought change on women’s social position, will also be addressed.
- Knowledge of an important historical topic.
- Familiarity with a range of medieval Irish and Welsh sources, specifically those concerning the status, roles and representations of women.
- An understanding of gender as a construct.
- Essay writing skills, including the use of a range of literary and editorial conventions.
This module will concentrate on literary culture and its production in Ireland and Scotland in the transitional period of c.1100-1600. We will examine the literary corpus that existed in Ireland before the arrival of the Normans, looking at the structure, genres and typical content of this literature. The twelfth century in Ireland witnessed the changeover from monastic to secular schools, a new professionalization of poetry-making, and the perfecting of syllabic metres which had been in use for some 500 years. We will assess the function of the poet and the nature of his relationship with his patron. A key text from this period is Acallam na Senórach (Tales of the Elders of Ireland) which is one of the greatest extant narratives in the Irish literary tradition. We will explore the background of this text and analyse and interpret the structure, themes and possible functions of this text. It represents perhaps the high point of Gaelic literary culture before Norman influence becomes pervasive. Irish-Scottish literary connections at this period are often over-looked and forgotten, but the same standard literary language stretched across the straits of Moyle from north east Ulster to Gaelic-speaking Scotland. Beginning with Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh (1180-1250) and finishing with one of the last posts of the tradition, Fear Flátha Ó Gnímh (1602-1640), we will examine (in translation), some examples of the exemplary poetry of these Gaelic poets.
- Evaluate some of the key works in the literary traditions of Ireland & Scotland in the period c.1100-1600.
- Summarise issues associated with the production of literary works, such as: manuscript production; the literary formation of its authors; changes in education; forms of patronage; poetic schools; manuscript content; scribal schools.
- Identify the political, historical and continental influences which affected literary production.
- Critique, both orally and in writing, responses to this literature from your peers, and from other scholars.