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Heroic Saga and Classical Epic in Medieval Ireland

Heroic Saga and Classical Epic in Medieval Ireland

BRENT MILES
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 284
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81z87
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  • Book Info
    Heroic Saga and Classical Epic in Medieval Ireland
    Book Description:

    Original, innovative work which elucidates a number of individual narratives; but more significantly, by placing these texts in their proper intellectual context, the author demonstrates how the world of learning in eleventh- andtwelfth-century Ireland re

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-842-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. NOTE ON TEXTS AND EDITIONS
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. x-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION: FIGMENTA POETICA AND HEROIC SAGA
    (pp. 1-14)

    Táin Bó Cúailnge‚ ‘The Cattle-Raid of Cooley’‚ is a long prose tale from Christian medieval Ireland‚ in which are recounted the deeds of Iron Age kings and heroes from Ireland’s pre-Christian past. The text is a sophisticated recreation of pre-history from the point of view of a society that had been literate in both Latin and its own vernacular‚ Irish‚ for centuries. Based ultimately on history that could be traced in oral tradition back to before the coming of Christianity‚ the Táin may have emerged as a written text as early as the seventh century. However‚ the written text grew...

  7. 1 CLASSICAL LEARNING IN MEDIEVAL IRELAND: THE STATE OF THE QUESTION
    (pp. 15-50)

    Because the aim of the present study is to examine classical studies in medieval Ireland‚ we would like‚ ideally‚ to distinguish between the Latin and Greek learning of Christian Ireland on the one hand‚ and the survival of specifically ‘classical’ or pagan learning on the other. In practice‚ this separation can be only imperfectly observed. Our records of the Christian conversion contain no explicit account of the origins of Latin literacy in Ireland. We are constrained to view the eventual vitality of Latin learning in Ireland as the fruit of one indivisible movement. In so far as the Latin grammarians...

  8. 2 THE IRISH CLASSICAL TALES: TEXTS AND SOURCES
    (pp. 51-94)

    ‘Classical tales’ is a term of convenience I have adopted to designate an extremely diverse body of writings in Middle Irish.¹ By restricting the term to works in Middle Irish I exclude a few well known items in Early Modern Irish‚ such as the late-fifteenth-century Stair Ercuil ocus a Bás of Uilliam Mac an Legha‚ and the corpus of references to classical heroes in later Bardic poetry.² The contrast I draw here between Middle and Early Modern Irish‚ however‚ is not merely linguistic. Mac an Legha’s work‚ for example‚ amply testifies that he was conscious of writing in a tradition...

  9. 3 CLASSICISM AND TOGAIL TROÍ
    (pp. 95-144)

    In his influential ‘Towards a history of classical influences in Ireland’‚ William Stanford did much to popularize the view that the classical tales in Irish were attempts to construct typical Irish scéla out of material inherited from classical antiquity. The argument rests on the conviction that the classical tales were intended as entertainment for a class whose aesthetic tastes are already exampled for us in the native prose literature of Middle Irish. While some adaptation to Irish convention is unmistakable in this corpus‚ the argument for gaelicization has been refined in recent criticism by the assertion that the classical tales‚...

  10. 4 TÁIN BÓ CÚAILNGE AND LATIN EPIC
    (pp. 145-193)

    Táin Bó Cúailnge‚ ‘The Cattle-Raid of Cúailnge’‚ describes how the men of the combined provinces of Connacht‚ Leinster and Munster‚ together termed ‘the men of Ireland’‚ conduct a táin bó‚ ‘cattle-raid’‚ into the province of Ulster. Commanded by Medb‚ queen of Connacht‚ the men of Ireland aim to take from Ulster the Donn Cúailnge‚ ‘Brown Bull of Cúailnge’. The Ulaid ‘men of Ulster’ are stricken with an annual debility which leaves them unable to repell their attackers. The defence of the province falls to a single fighter‚ Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn keeps the attackers at bay during the months of...

  11. 5 THE RHETORICAL SET PIECE AND THE BRESLECH OF THE PLAIN OF MURTHEMNE
    (pp. 194-244)

    Classical epic‚ indebted so much to Homer’s Iliad‚ has a superabundance of detailed‚ extravagant depictions of life and its loss on the battlefield. Early prose literature in Old Irish‚ interestingly‚ has comparatively few. The desultory description of the human battle which comes near the end of Táin Bó Cúailnge is one instance of early Irish indifference to the genre. Heroic single combat‚ however‚ fascinated the author; perhaps the impersonal quality of actual battle between armies failed to inspire him. A vigorous tradition of describing battle between armies did develop in the Middle Irish period. The descriptions of battle in these...

  12. AFTERWORD: AN INVITATION TO STUDY
    (pp. 245-250)

    From the opening chapter of this book I chose to describe medieval Irish interest in classical literature and history as a nascent medieval Irish ‘classical studies’. Medievalists and classicists both may judge this choice of terms odd. Medieval literacy was so imbued with the learning and language of late antiquity that the existence of a ‘classical studies’ distinct from the mainstream medieval curriculum needs defending. Classicists may resist the comparison of what the medieval Irish modestly accomplished to what is done today in departments of Classics. The term has been chosen‚ however‚ to bring into relief features of the medieval...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 251-266)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 267-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-275)