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The Irish Sea Cultural Province:
Crossroads of Medieval Literature and Languages

Detailed Schedule

Isle of Man: 30 June - 14 June (14 days)

Week 1 Focus: Gaelic and Norse influences on medieval language, literature, and culture

Day Morning
9.30am
Afternoon
2.00pm
Evening
(Optional)
Transport
Sun.
6/30
Arrive on IOM Check in & orientation Get acquainted gathering N/A
Mon.
7/1
Jennifer Kewley Draskau:
Manx Language & Medieval Manx
Culture @ Manx Museum
Reading/Discussion
Session
  N/A
Tues.
7/2
Professor William Gillies: The Lordship of the Isles Reading/Discussion
Session
N/A
Wed
7/3
David Wilson: Introduction to
Vikings on Man & Njal’s Saga
@ Manx Museum II
Discussion Session with
David Wilson
Evening with David
Wilson
N/A
Thurs.
7/4
House of Manannan Peel Castle Minibus
Fri.
7/5
St. John's - Tynwald Day St. John's - Tynwald Day Ceildh at Tynwald Minibus
Sat.
7/6
Free Morning Individual research N/A
Sun.
7/7
Free morning Free/field research* N/A

*independent student exploration of Andreas Church, Knock-y-Doonee, Bride, Jurby to see Manx crosses in situ


Week 2 Focus: From Gaelic and Norse to Welsh and Latin influences on the Isle of Man and in medieval British culture and literature

Day Morning 9.30am Afternoon 2.00pm Evening
(Optional)
Transport
Mon.
7/8
Peter Davey: Manx archaeology & early Christian Period(Manx Museum) Rushen Abbey Excavations: tour led by Peter Davey Evening in Peel N/A
Tues.
7/9
Discussion Session @ Manx Museum Research and prepare Manx cross presentations N/A
Wed
7/10
Discussion Session @ Manx Museum(early), then bus Maughold Maughold to see Manx crosses in situ Manx Cross research presentations Minibus
Thurs.
7/11
Discussion Session (early a.m.) @ Manx Museum Research/optional Laxey Wheel & Snaefell Evening discussion session Manx Electric Railway
Fri.
7/12
Sionad Davie: Introduction to Medieval Welsh literature & the Mabinogion @ House of Keys Castletown* Castle Rushen Steam train
Sat.
7/13
Discussion session/Hike to Mull Circle Hike to Mull Circle (Neolithic burial site) & “Sleeping Giant” Niarbyl: Manx National Heritage site & Farewell Dinner Minibus
Sun.
7/14
Leave IOM for Glasgow En route to Glasgow Glasgow orientation Bus/Ferry

**Optional nearby site visits: Balladoole, Meayll Circle, the Sound, Cregneash, St Michael’s Isle



University of Glasgow: 14 July - 28 July (14 days)

Week 3 Focus: Welsh-Celtic Connections, Beowulf, and independent research projects

Day Morning 9.30am-11.30am Afternoon 2.00-4.00pm Evening
(Optional)
Transport
Mon.
7/15
Thomas Clancy: Celtic sea voyage tales Session with Dr. Clancy TBA N/A
Tues.
7/16
Thomas Clancy: Mabinogian and the Celtic Connection Discussion Session with Dr. Clancy TBA Train
Wed.
7/17
Kathryn A. Lowe: Beowulf and the insular manuscript tradition Discussion Session with Dr. Lowe TBA N/A
Thurs.
7/18
Discussion Section/ head to Edinburgh (Edinburgh) National Library of Scotland Tour & obtain Reading Cards TBA Train
Fri.
7/19
Lecture: Medieval Manuscripts U. of Glasgow Research TBA N/A
Sat.
7/20
Free morning Free afternoon Train/bus
Sun.
7/21
Free morning Free afternoon Train

Week 4 Focus: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight & independent student research

Day Morning 9.30am-11.30am Afternoon 2.00-4.00pm Evening
(Optional)
Transport
Mon.
7/22
Graham Caie: Introduction to Middle English literature and SGGK Discussion Session Led by Dr. Caie N/A
Tues.
7/23
Visit National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh Discussion Session(in Edinburgh) N/A
Wed.
7/24
Discussion Session Research Train
Thurs.
7/25
Discussion Section Research N/A
Fri.
7/26
Finalize research presentations, train to Edinburgh Final Session: Research presentations @ Royal Overseas League, Edinburg Farewell Dinner @ Royal Overseas League Train
Sat.
7/27
Optional independent field trips Optional independent field trips Prepare for departure
Sun.
7/28
End of Seminar, Depart Glasgow


The Irish Sea Cultural Province:
Crossroads of Medieval Literature and Languages
NEH 2013 Summer Seminar for School Teachers

Week-by-Week Seminar Description
(Tentative & subject to minor change)

Week One: We will begin our study by discussing excerpts from the New History of the Isle of Man, which will be digitally accessible to participants before they arrive. This volume by prominent scholars in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic studies presents a balanced and inclusive survey of the languages, literatures, and cultures of the Isle of Man in the medieval period. The New History also discusses the importance of the Irish Sea and of the Isle of Man as a means of trade and communication and as a nexus of medieval multiculturalism. In early seminar meetings we will discuss early migration to the island in the Middle Ages of Middle Irish speakers and speculate, based on physical and textual evidence, what these medieval Irish brought to the island, what they found when they got to the island, and what remains of their influence.

We will examine the Isle of Man as a focal point of language and culture in the British Middle Ages and come to grips with the various other populations that came together on the Isle, sometimes integrating and sometimes remaining quite separate. We will also address the vexing problem of the linguistic situation during the Middle Ages. On the Isle of Man, as elsewhere in Britain and Ireland, how much intercourse speakers of various dialects and languages had with one another is not clear. We will discuss the lack of borrowing in English from Celtic sources and contrast that with the rich linguistic diversity in Manx, which is a root Q-Celtic language but has influences from Welsh, Norse, English and Latin.

Dr. James Mallory professor of prehistoric archaeology at Queen’s University, Belfast, and editor of the Journal of Indo-European Studies, will give us an introductory lecture on the linguistic and archaeological history of the British Isles, providing background and context for the literary texts we will be reading and discussing during the seminar. Dr. Jennifer Kewley Draskau, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Manx Studies at the University of Liverpool, will introduce us to medieval Manx culture and the oldest Manx literature. We will hold several seminar discussions at the Manx Museum in Douglas. Dr. Draskau will address the archaeology of Man and will discuss the cultural and linguistic influences that came together on the Isle during the medieval period.

During our first week, we will focus first on the Gaelic influence and will read and discuss the Táin Bó Cuailnge and its place in the Irish manuscript tradition. The Táin is the great medieval epic of the Irish, which deals with a mighty battle between the people of the North and the people of Munster. We will have introductory discussions on Irish and Welsh language, philology, and paleography and will address particular attention to the Celtic element in medieval insular culture. Participants will focus on insular manuscript culture and will learn to appreciate the richness of Celtic language and Celtic manuscripts. We will look at photocopies of Irish manuscripts, such as the Book of the Dun Cow, and we will work through a few short passages in Irish. We will note the manuscript hand, details of manuscript date and provenance, and the nature and ramifications of manuscript evidence. We will discuss the Táin both as a historical work that give us insight into medieval and perhaps even Iron Age Celtic culture, and as a literary text. What are the main plots, themes, tone—are there identifiable aesthetics? How do these elements of fact and fiction differ from traditional Western modes that are written in the Classical model? We will focus on both the familiar in medieval Irish culture as well as on the outré qualities, and we will discuss the extent to which medieval Irish culture is “Western” and the extent to which it is radically different. Are Western cultures such as medieval Ireland, which have arguably not been much influenced by Roman or Greek civilization, “Western” at all? We will also discuss the method of transmission of these texts, the role of the Church in this transmission (transposition, omission, and even transformation), and potential echoes from “native” Celtic cultures, of Classical culture, and of Indo-European archetypes that suggest much broader prehistoric geographical and linguistic roots. This “native” vs. “Christian” debate is of particular concern to Celticists, and we will explore the parameters of the debate in relation to the texts we will be examining.

The presentation of the heroic in texts from various insular cultures will be one of our particular concerns, and we will pay special attention to the role and function of the character Cú Chulainn, the hero of the Táin. Cú Chulainn, a marvelous child hero, who is unable to grow a beard and yet undergoes a terrible physical transformation (“warp-spasm”) before going into battle, is very unlike most of the heroes encountered in Western literature classes. Here we see what Matthew Arnold described as the Celtic delight in overstatement and hyperbole, as opposed to Anglo-Saxon understatement. We will also explore the portrayal of women as remarkable architects of power in the text, represented notably by Queen Medb and the sorceress Scathach, and we will pay particular attention to the representation of children, including Cú Chulainn.

We will then turn our attention to the Norse influence on medieval British language, literature, and culture. In the wake of the period of wide-ranging Viking expansion that began in the late eighth century AD and left its mark on an area extending from the Caspian Sea to the Atlantic, North Africa to North America, Norse rule governed the Isle of Man for over four hundred years from approximately 800 AD to 1265 AD. Our core text will be Njal’s Saga, with its portrayal of dynastic conflict and blood feud among various Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Scottish, and Irish characters and families. Njal’s Saga, known as the War and Peace of Icelandic literature, includes portrayals of medieval democratic assemblies, or Althings, gives a detailed description of the coming of Christianity to Iceland c. 1000 AD, and is concerned, as are all of the tales we will be reading in the seminar, with the attempts to use law and reason to avoid the cycle of bloodshed and revenge which was so common in medieval European culture. Dr. David Wilson, former head of the British Museum, will lecture for us on the Viking presence on the Isle of Man and the literary connections between Njal’s Saga, some of the other sagas, and the Isle of Man. He will also discuss the coming of Christianity to Man and Iceland and connections between the Norse democratic assembly, the Althing, and the Manx Tynwald. The Isle of Man plays an important role in the text which seems to reflect its place as the center of the Lordship of the Isles, a Norse-Celtic maritime kingdom which was independent of Norway, England, Scotland, and Ireland in the Middle Ages, yet inextricably connected to the fortunes of each. The Norse Althing, the Manx Tynwald, and the House of Keys (which was originally made up of representatives from various islands within the Lordship, a representative from Skye, from Mull, from Tyree, etc.) are orally based democratic assemblies which are largely ignored in the Greco-Roman narrative of the origins of western political thought and institutions. In fact, these medieval assemblies should properly be included in any narrative that seeks to thoroughly trace a potential path to Magna Carta and to the American constitution. We will have the opportunity to see firsthand the Tynwald, which claims to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world. As in previous seminars, we will have a special introduction to the assembly by Brian Stowell, official Manx translator for the Tynwald. Finally, we will discuss the medieval Arab Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s descriptions of sacrificial rituals and ship burials that he witnessed in his travels among proto-Russian Norse tribes, which closely resemble depictions in Beowulf and in Norse literature and which provide the inspiration for modern Viking re-enactments such as those that have become a popular attraction on the Island following the annual Tynwald assembly.

Week Two: During the second week, our focus will shift from Irish and Norse to Welsh and Latin influences on the Isle of Man and in medieval British culture and literature. Dr. Peter Davey, former head of the Centre for Manx Studies, will lead us on a one day archaeological tour of Rushen Abbey, and participants will research the Manx crosses that dot the Island’s landscape and often remain standing in the church yards where they have stood for over a millennium. Their research will culminate in presentations to the group at the parish church of Maughold, whose collection of Manx crosses is unparalleled on the island and whose history stretches back 1500 years to the earliest introduction of Christianity on the island. We will also visit Castletown and Castle Rushen, as they most clearly reflect Welsh and British influence on the island. Welsh language and culture is another important component in medieval Britain, and Dr. Sionad Davies, professor of Welsh at the University of Wales, Cardiff, will lecture on the linguistic and physical evidence of Welsh influence on insular manuscripts and literature. We will discuss differences and similarities between Irish and Welsh paleography and language, and we will read the entire Mabinogi in translation. The Mabinogi, which is not quite so outré as the Táin Bó Cuailgne, contains elements of ancient Celtic myth, Roman references, and a prose style and organization which effectively melds Celtic and Continental aesthetics. The Mabinogi is effectively the Welsh national epic; it is told in four main “branches,” the second of which is the story of a mythical war between the men of the “Island of the Mighty” (Wales) and the men of Ireland. The differences between Welsh and Irish language and literature are stark. The extant medieval Welsh manuscripts, for instance, are relatively neat, blocked, and minimal when compared to some Irish manuscripts. Welsh language and literature are more clearly leavened with influence from Anglo-Saxon, Classical language and culture, and Christianity. In our text we will read about the battle between Ireland and Wales represented in Branwen, the second branch of the Mabinogi, and we will discuss the nature of the strife between the islands in the medieval period. We will focus our discussion of the hero on the representation of Pryderi; of women on Arianrod, Rhiannon, and Blodwydd; and of children on Llew Llaw Gyffes. Welsh language and literature, like Irish, though it does seem quite familiar to us in some respects, is in other respects quite alien to Classical or modern Western aesthetic sensibilities. While differences are evident, we will also explore the not-so-apparent connections between the two cultures, the similarities and influences. Also during the second week we will discuss the relations between Ireland and Wales presented in the Mabinogi to see how that relationship played itself out in the real world of the Isle of Man. We will look at evidence of Irish and Welsh bilingualism on the island and attempt to isolate linguistic, literary, and cultural similarities and differences based on the Irish and Welsh texts that we have read, speakers we have heard, and archaeological sites we have visited.

We will concentrate an examination of insular Latin on excerpts from two texts, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and Gildas’s De Excidio. The former, one of the most important texts in medieval literature and history, will help us come to terms with the multiplicity of languages and cultures present in Britain in the early Middle Ages. The second text gives us the story of the early Anglo-Saxon invasions from a Brittonic perspective. Gildas sees the Britons as sinners and “sheep” whom Anglo-Saxon “wolves” prey upon as a part of God’s punishment. We will discuss the relation of the Latinate tradition to the Germanic and Celtic languages and cultures in the area and discuss “Roman,” “English,” and “Celtic” identities of the people in medieval Britain, keeping in mind some recent arguments that most of the Britons in pre-Anglo-Saxon England had actually given up their “Celtic” language and were monoglot speakers of Latin during the 400 years of Roman occupation. We will discuss such open-ended questions about the relation of Welsh and Insular Latin literature and cross-fertilization in our daily seminar meetings, and we will also discuss the relevance and relationship between the Welsh and Latin material and the Irish material we focused on in the first week. Another topic of discussion will be the role of the Isle of Man in this literature, which texts have variously presented as a place of exile or confinement, as an ideal Otherworld, and as a center of power, themes that certainly resonate with certain Bronze Age mythological traditions in the eastern Mediterranean.

We will also read and discuss excerpts from The Saga of the Volsungs and The Saga of Hrolf Kraki to note the possible influence on the great Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf. That the first great work of British literature features Geats and Danes, precursors of the Vikings, as its heroes, is significant for our seminar. All of these texts feature some of the same characters and are cross-referential in their attention to the early “history” of these peoples, detailing a time in which national identity had yet to be established and cultures and boundaries were fluid. These early peoples spoke a mutually intelligible language, and these texts reflect the type of cross-pollination that is a core theme of our seminar. This recognition can impact the participants’ teaching and contribute significantly to their students’ understanding of the interconnectedness of the British Middle Ages.

During this final week on the island, we will discuss the possibility that certain Celtic and Norse themes and stories in the Old and Middle English corpus were transmitted at some stage via the linguistic and literary amalgam that was situated on the Isle of Man. Recently, one scholar has argued that the author of Sir and the Green Knight was actually Stanley, 15th century Norman Lord of the Isle of Man. We will discuss the plausibility of this claim and try to piece together the nature and extent of multiculturalism and multilingualism on the island in the Old and Middle English periods and in the Viking period. We will also discuss the relationship between our texts and the archaeology that we have studied to ascertain the connection between language and culture in the medieval world. Do the stories reflect a real world which we also see manifested in the archaeological evidence, or is the world depicted in the stories too fantastic, too much an entertaining aesthetic construction to reflect any reality? On our final day on the Island, we will hike to a Neolithic burial site and dine at a historic venue overlooking Niarbyl Bay, from which beautiful sea views and the hills of Ireland are visible on a clear day

Week Three: As we move from Man to Glasgow, we will continue to study the Mabinogian before turning our attention to the Old English epic poem Beowulf. We will introduce students to the Old English language and contextualize Beowulf both as a literary text and as a remarkable cultural artifact. One of our concerns during the final two weeks will be to bring together fieldwork and scholarship, culture and linguistics, and we will be discussing the influence of the languages and cultures we have studied on medieval English language, literature, and culture. We will discuss the various explanations for the relative dearth of Celtic influence on the lexicon of the English language. As a trained philologist, I feel that the study of the history and development of the English language is imperative to understanding not only the texts that we read but also the fundamental question of culture. The intimacy of language is intrinsic in any discussion of identity and the shaping of worldviews.

The final two weeks will include more time for participants to do independent research on their chosen topic. To that end, we will have ample time for discussion and research but will also be busy in the museums and other cultural venues in Scotland. We will encourage participants to utilize the excellent resources in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at the University of Glasgow, where we will reside in university housing. Participants will also receive guest reader cards for the University Library, one of the premier research facilities in the world. I will be available for consultation and guidance through the intricacies involved in research. Of course, we will also tour the city of Glasgow.

While we are in Glasgow we will continue to meet five times per week for seminar discussions and conferencing. We are arranging for three guest lecturers/discussion leaders as well: Professor Thomas Clancy, chair in Celtic and Scottish Studies at Glasgow University; Professor Kathryn A. Lowe, the favorite speaker of our 2009 seminar and world authority on Old English and Beowulf; Dr. Graham Caie, professor of Middle English at the University of Glasgow. We will also have a special session with the University of Glasgow medieval manuscripts librarians, where we will learn about and view up-close the medieval manuscripts held by the University.

We will also take the short train ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh to spend a day at the National Library of Scotland, one of the most significant repositories of medieval British manuscripts, where we will be given a special tour of the medieval manuscript collection. We will arrange for special manuscript reader cards for all participants to experience the thrill of manuscript work. There is no substitute for actual contact with a medieval manuscript. The feel, the textures, the smell, the rarified atmosphere of the National Library, and the opportunity to witness firsthand scholars at work in the field, must needs, as on earlier seminars, prove unforgettable.

Week Four: While much of the final week will be taken up with independent research, writing, and presentations, our ongoing seminar discussions will focus on the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and Green Knight. This poem is analogous to the Isle of Man in that both function as nexuses of Irish, Welsh, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman language, literature, and culture. We also plan to take a second trip to Edinburgh to visit the National Museum of Scotland and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. We will pay particular attention to the medieval exhibits in the museum, especially the Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic material. During the final days of the seminar, participants will use the University of Glasgow libraries to complete their research. Our final session, in which participants sum up their field and library research experience and present their annotated bibliographies, pedagogical projects, and conference proposals, will be held at the Royal Overseas League in Edinburgh, overlooking Edinburgh Castle. As part of their final presentations, participants will share their abstracts, which may be either pedagogical or scholarly in nature. Additionally, participants may discuss how they intend to apply their fieldwork and research in their own classrooms and perhaps ways to extend their participation in the seminar beyond the summer’s activities. This final symposium will be the culmination of what we envisaged from the beginning as a collaborative enterprise. Pedagogical projects have included medieval lesson plans and curricula designed for the primary or secondary level, and research topics from previous seminars have included: medieval slavery; medieval democracy; comparative religion: confluence of Christianity, Norse Mythology, and Celtic mythology; “minority” languages and cultures; cultural imperialism; dispossession and language death;

NEH Narrative Schedule (pdf)
NEH Detailed Schedule (pdf)

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