Monday 2 May 2011

Authorities and Adaptations

Dr Elizabeth Boyle writes:

On Friday 15th and Saturday 16th April, thirty scholars working on various aspects of medieval Irish history and literature gathered in Cambridge for an advanced research workshop on the theme of 'Authorities and Adaptations: the Reworking and Transmission of Sources in Irish Textual Culture, c. 1000 - c. 1200'. The reshaping of earlier source material to accommodate contemporary concerns is a significant phenomenon in medieval literary culture, and particularly so in Ireland. The process of recycling and reworking textual materials has often been commented on by scholars of medieval Irish, but had never been systematically interrogated. Over the course of the two days of the workshop, Celticists from Britain, Ireland, Germany and the United States, addressed the question of how sources were reshaped and adapted in eleventh- and twelfth-century Ireland. By studying how older authorities were used in medieval Ireland, the participants sought to further our understanding of how medieval Irish intellectuals and authors understood their own history and literary inheritance.

The papers presented at the workshop encompassed texts in both Latin and Old/Middle Irish, and ranged across many genres, from law to history-writing, from narrative prose to doctrinal poetry, and from biblical exegesis to grammatical tracts. A number of papers also focused on how earlier texts, including legal texts, grammars and poetry, accreted layers of learned commentary, which shaped the way those texts were read and understood by later audiences. As all of the papers demonstrated, the reworking of earlier source material was not merely a deferential act of preservation: rather, authors engaged actively with their sources, reshaping them to meet contemporary concerns, and using authorities to lend weight to words that would resonate with new, and changing, audiences.

The workshop was funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the H. M. Chadwick Fund, and the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. The programme of papers was as follows:

Papers I – III
Session chair: Dr Pádraic Moran (NUI Galway)
I. Prof. Patrick O'Neill (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill): 'Old wine in new bottles: the reprise of early Irish Psalter exegesis in the eleventh and twelfth centuries'
II. Dr Deborah Hayden (Hughes Hall, Cambridge): 'Metrical mnemonics and anatomical accents in Auraicept na nÉces'
III. Dr Paul Russell (University of Cambridge): 'Adaption, re-working and transmission in the commentaries to Amrae Coluimb Chille'

Papers IV - VI
Session chair: Dr Paul Russell (University of Cambridge)
IV. Dr Elizabeth Boyle (St Edmund’s College, Cambridge): 'Invisible authority: Echtgus Úa Cúanáin’s use of Paschasius Radbertus in his poetic treatise on the Eucharist'
V. Dr Brent Miles (University College Cork): 'The Hiberno-Latin background to the Sermo ad reges and an Irish tradition of advice to kings'
VI. Dr Caoimhín Breatnach (University College Dublin): 'Irish and Latin abridged versions of the Gospel of Nicodemus'

Session chair: Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (St John’s College, Cambridge)
VII. Prof. Thomas Charles-Edwards (Jesus College, Oxford): 'The manuscript transmission of Bretha Comaithchesa'
VIII. Prof. Máire Herbert (University College Cork): 'Some thoughts on history and history-writing in the post-Viking era'

Papers IX-XI
Session chair: Dr Ralph O’Connor (University of Aberdeen)
IX. Prof. Ruairí Ó hUiginn (NUI Maynooth): 'Recycling a cycle: some late "Ulster" tales'
X. Dr Hugh Fogarty (University College Cork): 'Aided Guill 7 Gairb and the "inward look" in late Middle Irish prose saga'
XI. Dr Geraldine Parsons (University of Glasgow): 'Revisiting Almu in Middle Irish texts'

Papers XII – XIII
Session chair: Dr Mark Williams (Peterhouse, Cambridge)
XII. Prof. Michael Clarke (NUI Galway): 'Catheads and Trojans: reworking of Sex Aetates Mundi material in later medieval narratives'
XIII. Prof. Dr Erich Poppe (Philipps-Universität Marburg): 'On some sources of "On the beginning of Christ’s teaching" in the Leabhar Breac'

Paper XIV-XV
Session chair: Dr Elizabeth Boyle (St Edmund’s College, Cambridge)
XIV. Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (St John’s College, Cambridge): 'Authorial attribution in twelfth-century Ireland: new wine in old skins'
XV. Dr Kevin Murray (University College Cork): 'The reworking of Old Irish texts in the Middle Irish period: contexts and motivations'

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