Spring 2022

Visit Celtic courses at the Harvard Course Catalog

Celtic 101. Irish Heroic Saga. Joseph Nagy. MW 12-1:15 plus Discussion Section TBA

A study of the ways in which the hero is represented in early Irish sources, especially in the saga literature. The texts reflect the ideology and concerns of a society which had been converted to Christianity, but continued to draw on its Indo-European and Celtic heritage. The biographies of the Ulster hero, Cú Chulainn, of his divine father, Lug, and of certain king-heroes are studied in depth. The wisdom literature, and archaeological and historical evidence will be taken into account.

Irish 133r. Intermediate Modern Irish. 9-10:15am. MTuWTh

A continuation of Irish 132, developing students' fluency in spoken and written Irish. As our knowledge of the language expands, we venture into storytelling, journal writing and writing and performing short skits. Internet, audio and video resources complement the study of grammar and select prose texts.

Irish 201r. Continuing Old Irish. Joseph Nagy. MW 3-4:15

Further grammatical study, with continued reading of saga texts.

Irish 208. Readings in Early Modern Irish. Natasha Sumner. MW 1:30-2:45

Readings in selected texts. Recommended prep: Irish 160r or permission of the instructor

Welsh 227. Welsh Bardic Poetry. Catherine McKenna. Tu 12-2:45

Readings from the hengerdd, the beirdd y tywysogion and the beirdd yr uchelwyr; consideration of the social and political contexts of their poetry, its forms, and its relationship to other medieval European poetic traditions.

Gen Ed 1081. The Celts: People or Construct? Catherine McKenna. TuTh 10:30-11:45 plus Discussion Section TBA

We are exposed every day to terms referring to ethnic groups, and we tend to accept these terms uncritically, assuming that we know what they mean and to whom they refer. These labels help to shape our sense of ourselves, of others, and of ourselves in relation to others. Yet the ethnic identities associated with such terms are in fact ambiguous and malleable, constructed of a shifting array of elements, including genetics, shared history, language, religion, economy, political institutions, music, architecture, and foodways. Ethnic descriptors encode attributes, either positive or negative, with which people want to associate themselves or others. So, in order to understand the claims implicit in the use of an ethnic label, we need to evaluate the bases for assigning it and who allows a people the identity they claim for themselves. This course takes as a case study the idea of the “Celt,” a term thrown around so freely that it sometimes seems to be as much a brand as an ethnonym. In our readings and a series of hands on exercises, we explore the ways in which the history, languages, material culture, and cultural mythology of Celtic peoples are used both to construct and to deconstruct Celtic identity. Then we examine the cultural and political forces that have motivated these constructions and deconstructions. Studying what “Celt” has meant over the course of the past 2500 years, you will develop tools for analyzing the bases of ethnicity claimed by a people or attributed to them by others. And by examining the ways in which the name “Celt” has been both adopted as a badge of honor and assigned as a way of dismissing conquered peoples, you will better understand the ways in which ethnic labels manipulate attitudes toward the groups with which they are associated.