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Summer Seminar for School Teachers
The Irish Sea Cultural Province:
Crossroads of Medieval Literature and Languages
Douglas, Isle of Man and Glasgow, Scotland
June 30-July 28, 2013

Dear Colleague,

Thank you for expressing an interest in our summer seminar on The Isle of Man: Crossroads of Medieval Literature and Languages, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are very excited about this project and very much look forward to bringing together K-12 teachers from across the United States and from diverse disciplines and subject areas to explore medieval language, literature, and culture via texts and artifacts on the Isle of Man and in Glasgow, Scotland.

The purpose of this four-week seminar is to provide participants with an enriched appreciation for the multicultural reality of the British Isles and Ireland (the Irish Sea cultural province) in the Middle Ages. While early British literature and culture is sometimes thought to be exclusively Anglo-Saxon, in fact, Britain was rich in cultural and linguistic diversity. In this seminar we will survey the extent and the significance of this linguistic, cultural, and physical multiplicity as we investigate the conflict and resolution which characterized the relation between Briton, Saxon, Gaelic, Norse, and Latinate culture.

During the course of the seminar, we will focus on five distinct cultures: the Irish, the Scots (and Picts), the Welsh, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Norse. Situating ourselves at an important nexus of these cultures on the Isle of Man, we will focus on the Irish Sea as a means of cultural connection rather than as cultural barrier. We will spend the first two weeks on the Isle of Man, and we will visit the seats of these various cultures to explore their diversity through the study of their language, literature, and history. We will also explore ways in which the Irish Sea connected these communities and provided a means for the interaction of ideas, commerce, and the spread of Christianity. The Isle of Man is ideal for this enterprise, not only because it was such an important and rich link for all these cultures, but also because the island is small enough that the various settlements are in relative proximity. Man, which was a popular Victorian vacation site, has ample inexpensive accommodation; it also has a wonderfully functional, extensive, and charming railway system, which incorporates steam, electric, coal, and diesel power. Our excursions over the island will be both economical and enjoyable.

We will spend the final two weeks of the seminar in Glasgow, Scotland, where participants will research individual topics and projects in the facilities of the department of Celtic, the University Research Library, and various college libraries, as well as museums in Glasgow and Edinburgh. While the Isle of Man is the ideal place for us to do our field research and to witness the coming together of various Medieval cultures, Glasgow, with its excellent libraries and museums, and its unique department of Celtic, is the ideal place for the seminar participants to be exposed to the latest research in the field and to utilize these resources for our own endeavors.

The ultimate goal of the seminar, then, is to explore some of the infinite variety, beauty, intellectual rigor, and diversity that were the Middle Ages. To this end, we will study a variety of texts and tap the accumulated resources of prominent scholars. We will select participants in the seminar based on the relevance of the seminar to their teaching duties and to their interests. We will not, however, require any special knowledge of the applicants. We are interested in applicants who teach medieval history or medieval literature and who are keen to learn more about the complexity and diversity of medieval British languages and cultures.

Seminar Director and Staff

Dr. Charles MacQuarrie

As Director of this seminar, I am pleased to introduce myself. I earned my Ph.D. in Medieval languages and literature from the University of Washington after taking my B.A. degree in Classical and Medieval literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz and my M.Litt in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh. I currently teach at California State University, Bakersfield. My book, The Waves of Manannan: The Biography of the Irish God of the Sea from The Voyage of Bran to Finnegans Wake, was published by Edwin Mellen Press in 2004. I have also contributed a chapter on the Isle of Man in Medieval literature in the New History of the Isle of Man:Volume 3, published by Liverpool University Press. Additionally, I have published an academic monograph on Manannan mac Lir the titular sea god associated with the Isle of Man (Manannan essentially means “the dear chap from the Isle of Man”) as well as various other articles on the Isle of Man, Celtic Tattooing, Celticity in William Faulkner, and gods in disguise. I am currently working on a book on Celtic tattooing, another on Celtic themes in British and American literature, and my children’s book on Manannan is being published by a Manx publisher and should be available when we arrive on the Island. I have directed two previous seminars to the Isle of Man in the last six years, and I have enjoyed them immensely. I am eagerly looking forward to introducing you to this fascinating region with its rich cultural heritage.

The seminar will also have an on-site coordinator, Christine Marsh, who attended the 2006 seminar. Christine is ready, willing, and able to share the wisdom of her experience and answer your questions about plans and preparations as well as to facilitate the smooth functioning of the seminar throughout our time together.

Application Procedure

Application materials, including the guidelines and application form, are available on-line at: Once you have completed the application, please submit all application materials electronically to Charles MacQuarrie at This will be very helpful in expediting the selection process, and your cooperation will be much appreciated. If you are unable to submit your application electronically, your completed application should be postmarked no later than March 1, 2013, and should be addressed as follows:

  • Charles MacQuarrie
  • California State University, Bakersfield at Antelope Valley
  • 43909 30th Street West
  • Lancaster, CA 93536

Perhaps the most important part of the seminar application is the four-page application essay. This essay should include any personal and academic information that is relevant; reasons for applying to the seminar; your interest, both intellectual and personal, in the topic; qualifications to do the work of the seminar and make a contribution to it; what you hope to accomplish by participation; and the relevance of the seminar topics to your teaching. If you have any questions about the seminar or the application process, feel free to email Charles MacQuarrie ( Also, check out our web page, as we will be updating it regularly with relevant and useful information:

Again, thank you for your interest in the upcoming NEH Summer Seminar; we look forward to learning more about your interests and background and look forward to the opportunity to engage and explore this subject with a group of educators next summer.

Yours sincerely,

Charles W. MacQuarrie
Professor of English