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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Celtic

Undergraduate Course: Heroes, Wonders, Saints and Sagas: Medieval Celtic Literature in Translation (CELT08022)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course provides an introduction to selected genres of Celtic literature from the medieval period, and an understanding of the social and historical background that gave rise to the texts studied. Two strands make up the course, one dealing with the Medieval Welsh tradition and the other looking at Medieval Gaelic literature. English translations are used throughout the course, and no knowledge of the original Celtic languages is required. The course is aimed at students who have successfully completed Celtic Civilisation 1A and 1B, but it is also open to anyone who has taken a course in a literary or historical or similar subject at University level and wishes to explore the Celtic tradition. The course does not aim to provide a comprehensive survey of the two literatures studied, but rather to examine in greater depth certain periods or themes or genres which are characteristic of the tradition, which offer cross-cultural comparisons within the Celtic world, and which are amenable to study through translation and without abstruse technical knowledge. For history students, the course offers insight into the nature and working of the two literary traditions; for literature students, enhanced understanding of the social and political background to the selected parts of Medieval Welsh and Medieval Gaelic literature; for students of Celtic Studies, the opportunity to range widely in the medieval field in advance of Honours course choices and the more intensive but narrower language-based study of the Honours classes. In most weeks the first meeting will consist of a lecture to introduce general background, new concepts, and fresh material; and the second meeting will be a 'workshop' class to study and discuss specific texts illustrating and elaborating the subject matter introduced in the lecture. Together with its companion Celtic Literature course CELT08023, the course offers the opportunity to progress to the Honours programme of Medieval Celtic Studies.
Course description The course introduces students to selections of medieval Gaelic and Welsh literature in translation. The course will cover a number of important and characteristic genres of medieval Gaelic and Welsh literature, and provide historical and social background against which to interpret the different texts.

One strand examines some major features and themes of medieval Gaelic literature (mainly prose saga material) dating from between the ninth and the twelfth century. We begin with the contexts of the composition of the tales and the production of manuscripts, followed by an exploration of the representation of mythological and otherworld narrative elements within the earliest textual tradition. We then introduce a series of texts from the corpus of Ulster Cycle narratives, enabling discussion of compilation, characterisation, the relationship between different tales within the cycle, and exploring concepts of violence, gender representation and humour. The final section of the course introduces texts which allow us to explore the boundaries between hagiographical writing and secular narrative traditions, and to examine the rich body of medieval Gaelic translation literature that reworked classical and continental texts into new vernacular forms.

The other strand examines medieval Welsh literature from the very earliest poetry to the later medieval Arthurian tradition, ranging from as early as the sixth century to the fourteenth. We begin with the work of the earliest Welsh poets, including that attributed to the sixth-century Taliesin and that associated with the heroes of the Gododdin and the Old North. We then move on to looking at the rich body of medieval Welsh prose narrative, including selections from the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and a variety of Arthurian narrative including historical writing, vernacular romance and poetry.

In both strands, the texts studied reflect in various ways the cultural, intellectual and political contexts in which they were produce and students may expect to acquire a good understanding of the function of such texts and the historical background to their composition.

The course consists of lectures introducing the texts, technical and theoretical approaches to reading them, and their historical and socio-cultural background, and of seminars where we engage in discussion of individual works. The written assignments are designed to give the students the opportunity to explore more texts in the light of what they have learned in the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Course Start Date 17/09/2018
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One essay (2,500 words) (25%), one textual interpretation exercise (up to 1,200 words): 50% (22.5% + 22.5% + 5%)«br /»
Degree Examination (2 hours): 50%
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on written work and are encouraged to contact staff for informal feedback.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. 1.demonstrate a sound knowledge of the characteristics of a selection of key genres of Medieval Welsh and Early Irish literature in translation;
  2. 2.evaluate the value of the material as literature, drawing on scholarly evaluation as well as detailed study of the primary texts;
  3. 3.demonstrate an understanding of the significance of the texts in the context of the time of their origin;
  4. 4.demonstrate an understanding of the role of the purveyors of literature in the context of both society and historical environment;
  5. 5.demonstrate competence in transferable skills, e.g. close engagement with texts, critical evaluation of source material, independent reading, coherent and clearly structured writing, oral presentation, group discussion, time management.
Reading List
Background and general reading (Irish)

J.T. Koch and J. Carey eds., The Celtic Heroic Age (1997)
J. Gantz, Early Irish myths and sagas (1981)
T. Kinsella, The Táin (1969)
T. Cross & C. Slover, Ancient Irish tales (1936, reprint 1969)
D. Greene & F. O'Connor, A golden treasury of Irish poetry (1956)
G. Murphy, Early Irish lyrics (1956, reprint 1998)
T. Kinsella, New Oxford book of Irish verse (1986)
K. Jackson, A Celtic miscellany (1951, reprint 1971)

General histories of medieval Irish literature:

A. Dooley, Playing the Hero: reading the Irish saga Táin Bó Cúailnge (2006)
M. Ní Bhrolcháin, An Introduction to Early Irish Literature (2009)
K. McCone, Pagan past and Christian Present in early Irish literature (1990)
J.E. Caerwyn Williams & P. Ford, The Irish literary tradition (1992)
M. Dillon, Early Irish literature (1948, reprint 1994)

Medieval Welsh Literature

R. Bromwich et al. (eds.) , 1991, The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature
R. Bromwich & D. S. Evans, 1992, Culhwch and Olwen: a Study and Edition of the Oldest Arthurian Tale
Rachel Bromwich, 2006, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, The Triads of the Island of Britain
Joseph P. Clancy, 2003, Medieval Welsh Poems, pp. 130-33
T. O. Clancy ed. 1996, The Triumph Tree: Scotland's earliest poetry
J. B. Coe and S. Young, 1995, The Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend
Sioned Davies, 2007, The Mabinogion (Oxford).
Patrick Ford, K. 1992, Ystoria Taliesin
J. R. Henken, 1987, Traditions of the Welsh Saints.
K. H. Jackson, 1969, The Gododdin: the Oldest Scottish Poem
J. Wilhelm James (ed.), The Romance of Arthur
G. Jones & T. Jones, 1949, The Mabinogion [Everyman]).
O. H. Jarman & G. R. Hughes (ed.) 1976 (new ed. 1992), A Guide to Welsh Literature, vol. 1
R. S. Loomis (ed.), 1959, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History
Meirion Pennar , 1988, Taliesin Poems (English translations)
Ifor Williams, 1987, The Poems of Taliesin (A critical edition in English)

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsCeltic literature,Celts,Gaelic,Welsh,Irish
Course organiserMs Abigail Burnyeat
Tel: (0131 6)51 1310
Course secretaryMs Anne Kelly
Tel: (0131 6)50 4167
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