Lecture Deirdre Nic Chárthaigh: Early Modern Irish Romantic Tales

Maartje Draak Seminars 2024

Maartje Draak. Foto: Archieven Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht
Maartje Draak. Photo: Utrecht University Library (Draak Archives)

On 27 June Deirdre Nic Chárthaigh (Trinity College Dublin) will give a lecture ‘Early Modern Irish Romantic Tales: A Forgotten Corpus?’, as part of the Maartje Draak Seminars 2024.


A large corpus of episodic prose romances, written in Early Modern Irish (the linguistic period of which spans from the 13th to the 17th century), survives in Irish-language manuscripts. The frequency with which these texts were copied and transmitted in manuscripts is evidence of their popularity in early modern Irish society.

They range in subject and style: some belong to the so-called Ulster and fiannaíocht cycles; some are translations of tales imported from Britain and Europe; others are reworkings of early medieval prose texts.

A forgotten corpus?

Despite the immense value of this corpus for our understanding of the language and of the literary tradition of late Medieval and Early Modern Ireland, Early Modern Irish prose remains the most understudied branch of Irish literature. It is not yet understood, for example, who composed most of these texts or for whom they were composed, and little work has been done on their transmission, development, and reception. Our understanding of the texts is considerably hindered by a lack of reliable modern scholarly editions.

In this lecture, Nic Chárthaigh will give an overview of this corpus, of its linguistic and thematic diversity, and of aspects of its transmission and development. She will discuss its traditional neglect by Celtic scholars, before attempting to address some of the obstacles that continue to hinder our understanding of these texts, including problems of definition and categorisation, and – crucially – of access.

About Deirdre Nic Chárthaigh

Deirdre Nic Chárthaigh is a lecturer in the Department of Irish and Celtic Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. Her research interests include Early Modern Irish poetry and prose, and the Irish manuscript tradition in the post-classical period. She has published articles in journals such as Celtica and Ériu and her edition of the Early Modern Irish text Bodach an Chóta Lachtna is forthcoming. Nic Chárthaigh worked as postdoctoral research on the IRC-laureate project MACMORRIS, and she is a member of the working group of the project Léamh since 2018.

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Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, 0.06

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