Catherine McKenna


Professor McKenna

  • Margaret Brooks Robinson Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures
  • Department Chair

Catherine McKenna, the Margaret Brooks Robinson Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures, has taught at Harvard since 2005. Her research focuses on the narrative prose and bardic poetry of medieval Wales, particularly the literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and on medieval saints’ cults and hagiography, particularly that of Saint Brigit. She teaches courses in Medieval Welsh, the narrative traditions of medieval Wales, and the literature of medieval Celtic Christianity. She has also taught at New York University and the City University of New York. Catherine McKenna holds a PhD in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard.

Selected publications:

‘Py ganwyf?’ Some terminology for poetry in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Wales, 26th Annual H.M. Chadwick Memorial Lecture. Cambridge: Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, 2016.

“Terms of Art: Theorizing Poetry in the Earliest Welsh Anthology,” in Ollam: Studies in Gaelic and Related Traditions in Honor of Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, ed. Matthieu Boyd. (Madison NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 2016), 287-98.

“A Night of Storytelling and Years in the ‘Z-Closet’: The Re-discovery and Restoration of Oidhche Sheanchais, Robert Flaherty's ‘Lost’ Irish Folklore Film,” Folklore 126 (2015), 1-19. (with Natasha Sumner and Barbara Hillers)

“The Grammar, Rhetoric, and Exegetical Logic of Ultan's Hymn,” in Rhetoric and Reality in Medieval Celtic Literature: Studies in Honor of Daniel F. Melia, ed. Georgia Henley and Paul Russell, Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 11–12 (Hamilton NY: Colgate University Press, 2014), pp. 114-27.

“The Well of the Saints in an Ascendency Lens,” in The Language of Gender, Power and Agency in Celtic Studies, ed. Amber Handy and Brian Ó Conchubhair (Dublin: Arlen House, 2014), pp. 123-50.

“Inventing Wales” in Visions of Community in the Post-Roman World: The West, Byzantium and the Islamic World, ed. Walter Pohl. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2012.pp. 137—52

“The City of Chester in Gruffudd ap Maredudd’s Awdl i’r Grog o Gaer,” in Urban Culture in Medieval Wales, ed. Helen Fulton. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2012. pp. 205-22

"Reading with Rhydderch: Mabinogion Texts in Manuscript Context," in Language and Power in the Celtic World: Papers from the Seventh Australian Conference of Celtic Studies, ed. Anders Ahlqvist and Pamela O’Neill (2011)

"The Prince, the Poet and the Scribe: Reflections on the Elegiac Tradition in Medieval Wales", in Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 10, ed. Morgan T. Davies (2011)

"Angels and Demons in the Pages of Lebor na hUidre," in Narrative in Celtic Tradition: Essays in Honor of Edgar M. Slotkin. Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 8/9, ed. Joseph Eska (2011)

"‘What Dreams May Come Must Give Us Pause’: Breudwyt Ronabwy and the Red Book of Hergest," Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 58 (Winter 2009), 69-99

“The Colonization of Myth in Branwen Ferch Lyr,” in Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 6 (2007)

“Performing Penance and Poetic Performance in the Medieval Welsh Court,” Speculum (2007)

“Revising Math: Kingship in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi,” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 46 (2003), 95-117.

“Between Two Worlds: Saint Brigit and Pre-Christian Religion in the Vita Prima,” in Defining the Celtic, ed. Joseph F. Nagy (2002)

“Apotheosis and Evanescence: The Fortunes of Saint Brigit in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” in The Individual in Celtic Literatures, ed. Joseph F. Nagy (2001)

“Learning Lordship: The Education of Manawydan,” in Ildánach, Ildírech: A Festschrift for Proinsias MacCana, ed. John Carey, John T. Koch and Pierre-Yves Lambert (1999)

"Bygwth a Dychan mewn Barddoniaeth Llys Gymraeg," in Beirdd a Thywysogion, ed. Morfydd E. Owen and Brynley F. Roberts (1996)

The Medieval Welsh Religious Lyric: Poems of the Gogynfeirdd 1137-1282 (1991).

Editor of the poetry of Llywelyn Fardd I, Llywelyn Fardd II and selected poems of Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch and Bleddyn Fardd for Cyfres Beirdd y Tywysogion, ed. R. Geraint Gruffydd (1994-6)

Current research:

Books in progress: Woman Ever Availing, on the hagiography and cult of Saint Brigit from the seventh through the twenty-first century, and Past as Future in the Mabinogi.