Neag Lecture: “Strength in our Arms”

Date/Time: April 11, 3:30pm

Location: Austin 246 (Stern Room)

Dr. Geraldine Parsons will present the Neag lecture “’Strength in our Arms’: Violence in the medieval Irish tale Acallam na Senórach.”

Acallam na Senórach ‘The Colloquy of the Ancients’ is a complex narrative tale composed in late Middle Irish (c. 1200). Probably the longest literary work to survive from medieval Ireland, it comprises the centrepiece of fíanaigecht literature. Also known as the Finn Cycle, this corpus of Irish-language tales and poems was written from at least the seventh century and these tales of the legendary warrior Finn mac Cumaill and his fían (warband) became the dominant mode of secular written literature from the twelfth century.

Acallam na Senórach makes for perhaps the most interesting of all case-studies of the representation of violence in medieval Gaelic literature. Given its status within a corpus defined by its focus on a warband, it is striking that a reluctance to confront violence can be identified within the work. This paper will use that observation as a springboard for questions about the conventions of Finn Cycle literature, asking if the depiction of violence is a defining characteristic of Finn Cycle works and what the Acallam’s distinctive take on violence indicates about its relationship to the rest of the corpus.

Parsons is a lecturer in Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow. She is currently the Neag Visiting Professor in Residence. Her interest is centered on medieval Irish/Gaelic literature, particularly on the fíanaigecht, or Finn Cycle, corpus.