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CE451C: CELTIC ENCOUNTERS: THE GAELIC WORLD IN IRISH AND SCOTTISH LITERATURE (2021-2022)

Last modified: 16 Aug 2021 13:55


Course Overview

Celtic Encounters looks at the ways in which Irish and Scottish writers have reimagined texts of Celtic origin in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, from the Irish Literary Revival through the Scottish Literary Renaissance, to the present day. Writers have adapted Old Gaelic sagas and hero tales for modern consumption, reinvented themselves as latter-day bardic poets, and been inspired by the Celtic and Gaelic past to produce daringly modernist and experimental new work.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
Co-ordinators
  • Dr David Wheatley

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Any Undergraduate Programme
  • Either Programme Level 4 or Programme Level 5

What other courses must be taken with this course?

None.

What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?

Yes

One or more of these courses have a limited number of places. Priority access will be given to students for whom this course is compulsory. Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions for more details on this process.


Course Description

The encounter with the Gaelic past is a central part of the modern Irish and Scottish literary traditions. In Ireland, the mid-nineteeth century was marked by the rise of the Irish Literary Revival and the rediscovery of the Gaelic past. Writers as diverse as James Clarence Mangan, W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Douglas Hyde were engaged in a project of cultural reawakening that would culminate in the creation of an independent Irish state. Their writings helped to mould the nation-in-waiting, and to forge a common Irish identity transcending the political divisions of the day. Translations from the Old Gaelic sagas proliferated, and folklore collectors gathered much valuable material.

In Scotland, the Scottish Literary Renaissance was led by the firebrand modernist poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and aimed to replace a jaded narrative of Scottish culture (symbolised for MacDiarmid by the sentimental cult of Robert Burns) with a dynamic and politically assertive vision of modern Scotland. Even as writers celebrated the past, however, they were also reimagining it. The encounter with the past was both a return to the source and an act of marketing – a version of Irishness and Scottishness these writers could sell to the world.

The term ‘Celtic’ used in the course title and also in the Celtic Twilight of the 1890s is one indicator of the slippage involved in handling the Gaelic past. In the Scottish context, the term ‘Celtic’ can be usefully dated to University of Aberdeen graduate James Macpherson and his Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland (1760). Macpherson was widely attacked for having fabricated his sources, and for trading in a form of pseudo-Celtic mystique. The controversies that ensued marked Scottish culture deeply. In the transition from Gaelic origin to ‘Celtic’ adaptation something has been repurposed, and lost or gained, and understanding this process will be central to the course.

While the course will range widely over historical periods, there will be a focus on the modern and contemporary. Thus, we will examine versions of the medieval saga Buile Suibhne (‘Sweeney Astray’) produced by Seamus Heaney and Trevor Joyce, and use the contrast to study approaches to translation in contemporary Irish poetry. Nor is the process of influence studied exclusively from Irish/Gaelic into English. In looking at the work of Sorley MacLean and Hugh MacDiarmid, we will study the influence of Irish poetry on Scottish writing in both Gaelic and Scots. MacLean was profoundly influenced by Yeats, while in his poetry of the 1930s (e.g. To Circumjack Cencrastus) MacDiarmid pursues a vision of a fully integrated Gaelic consciousness combining all the strands of Irish and Scottish, Gaelic and Scots-language culture. In more recent writing, we will look at the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, its powerful historical reflections, and the ways in which these are refracted back onto contemporary questions. Other authors will include the younger contemporary writers Doireann Ní Ghríofa, whose ‘auto-fiction’/novel A Ghost in the Throat is a haunting to the Gaelic eighteenth century, and ‘MacGillivray’ (Kirsten Norrie), the Scottish poet whose Gaelic Garden of the Dead is both a profound elegy for the Jacobite Risings and an innovative contribution to avant-garde poetics. Other genres as well as poetry and fiction will be covered, such as the writing of Tim Robinson, the adoptive Irish cartographer, whose studies of the West of Ireland (Aran Islands/Connemara) combine cartography, cultural geography, history, ecocriticism and a genre he termed ‘geophany’.

The picture that emerges from the course will be one of a long civilisational arc from the medieval period to the present day, rooted in history but uniquely hospitable to the reinventions that have driven Irish and Scottish writing so dynamically through this period.


In light of Covid-19 this information is indicative and may be subject to change.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

  • 2 Seminars during University weeks 26 - 35

More Information about Week Numbers


In light of Covid-19 and the move to blended learning delivery the assessment information advertised for second half-session courses may be subject to change. All updates for second-half session courses will be actioned in advance of the second half-session teaching starting. Please check back regularly for updates.

Summative Assessments

Essay

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 30
Assessment Weeks 7 Feedback Weeks 10

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Feedback

Feedback will be provided in time for the second essay

Word Count 1500
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualAnalyseAdvanced ability to apply the literature of the past to the present, and make connections across historical periods.
ConceptualApplyAbility to carry out sophisticated analysis of literary forms across a variety of genres.
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the nature of cultural transmission from one language to another.
ConceptualUnderstandAdvanced understanding of complex literary material in its historical and cultural context.
ProceduralApplyHigh-level ability to plan and execute critical essays displaying a clear command of this material.

Essay

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 50
Assessment Weeks 11 Feedback Weeks 14

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Feedback Word Count 4000
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualAnalyseAdvanced ability to apply the literature of the past to the present, and make connections across historical periods.
ConceptualApplyAbility to carry out sophisticated analysis of literary forms across a variety of genres.
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the nature of cultural transmission from one language to another.
ConceptualUnderstandAdvanced understanding of complex literary material in its historical and cultural context.
ProceduralApplyHigh-level ability to plan and execute critical essays displaying a clear command of this material.

Tutorial/Seminar Participation

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 10
Assessment Weeks Feedback Weeks

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Feedback
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
Sorry, we don't have this information available just now. Please check the course guide on MyAberdeen or with the Course Coordinator

Oral Presentation: Individual

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 10
Assessment Weeks Feedback Weeks

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Feedback

Formative feedback will also be offered on presentation.

Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
Sorry, we don't have this information available just now. Please check the course guide on MyAberdeen or with the Course Coordinator

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Resit Assessments

Essay

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 100
Assessment Weeks Feedback Weeks

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Feedback Word Count 4000
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
Sorry, we don't have this information available just now. Please check the course guide on MyAberdeen or with the Course Coordinator

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualUnderstandAdvanced understanding of complex literary material in its historical and cultural context.
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the nature of cultural transmission from one language to another.
ConceptualApplyAbility to carry out sophisticated analysis of literary forms across a variety of genres.
ConceptualAnalyseAdvanced ability to apply the literature of the past to the present, and make connections across historical periods.
ProceduralApplyHigh-level ability to plan and execute critical essays displaying a clear command of this material.

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