This course is a general introduction to the literature of the Celtic peoples, particularly the Irish and the Welsh, from the seventh to the fourteenth century. Rather than attempt to survey each literature separately, the class studies the major texts in Irish and Welsh from a comparative point of view, looking at the assumptions they commonly share about the function of literature, the role of the prose narrator and bard in an aristocratic or monastic culture, the place of the ancient pagan mythology within a Christian literary milieu, and the character of traditional Celtic heroes and heroines. In an effort to understand the particularly Celtic character of the works under consideration, the class often looks to English, European, or modern Celtic authors themselves for their treatment of kingship, honor, shame, love, violence, and death. Also, because Celtic literature often preserves an archaic view of the structure of society, the course draws on the disciplines of comparative mythology and structural anthropology in order to inform the reading. As with the study of all early literatures, Celtic literature offers a unique challenge to modern critical assumptions and helps to broaden the concept of what literature is.
Prerequisites: ENGL 222 or permission of instructor.