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Fund for Irish Studies at PU Presents “The Quiet Girls of Early Ireland: Women in Medieval Irish Literature”

Dr. Geraldine Parsons. Photo courtesy Dr. Geraldine Parsons.

On February 3 at 4:30 p.m., Princeton University welcomes University of Glasgow scholar Dr. Geraldine Parsons for a lecture entitled, “The Quiet Girls of Early Ireland: Women in Medieval Irish Literature.” This lecture is free to attend and open to the public. The event will be held at the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street.

Parson notes that Finn Cycle literature was the most enduringly popular branch of Irish-language literature from the early Middle Ages until recent times. It prioritizes the exploration of male perspectives and experiences: its tales and poems present two different timelines united by the prominence of men. One is the hyper-masculine warrior culture of ancient Ireland; the other is populated by the male ecclesiastics, warriors, and kings of Christian Ireland’s medieval Golden Age. The afterlives of these texts also suggest an enduring appeal among audiences typically gendered male: the oldest surviving manuscript to contain only this corpus of work was commissioned in the 1620s by an Irish captain in the Spanish army, and written by male scribes, explains Parsons. An association between this literature and Irish military culture, as well as the tradition of soldiery among Scottish Highlanders, continues today. This talk will seek to complicate the gender history of the Finn Cycle by recovering women’s roles in its production and in the narratives themselves.

Parsons is Senior Lecturer in Celtic and Gaelic and Head of Subject at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Her research focuses on the reception of medieval Irish literature in modern Ireland and 18th-century Scottish Gaelic reflexes of the fianaigecht tradition, with a particular interest in the material concerning the legendary hero Finn Mac Cumaill. Parsons has held visiting fellowships and professorships at Balliol College, the University of Connecticut, and Oxford University. She is the recipient of a 2022-23 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship.

For more information on the Fund for Irish Studies lecture series, visit fis.princeton.edu.

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