Celtic Myth and Legend in Early Ireland

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Course Information
Cultural Studies
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This interdisciplinary course offers students an introduction to Irish heroic literature and Irish fairy tales and legends.  We will read a selection of the early Irish tales that form The Mythological Cycle, The Ulster Cycle and The Cycle of Finn, questioning what literary genres our stories fit into, the significance of recurring themes and symbols, and the origins of Arthurian legends as based upon Celtic prototypes.  These stories offer a fascinating insight into the complex world of pre-Christian Ireland by painting vivid portraits of life, culture and legends in pagan times.  Significantly, they also bring to light the crucial role early Irish literature played in the composition of some of the greatest legends ever written in English literature.  In addition to the literature aspect of this course, we will explore Celtic archaeology and early Irish history, both of which will enable us to place our stories within a tangible, historical framework.  We will also examine legends of otherworldly beings that are particular to Ireland, such as the banshee, the leprechaun, the merrow and the pooka—discussing how, over time, the mythology and pagan beliefs of early Ireland came to form Irish folklore and superstitions.