An introduction to early Irish literature


Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-177-6
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ISBN: 978-1-84682-176-9
Catalogue Price: €22.45
ISBN: 978-1-84682-479-1

October 2009. 240pp; colour ills.

‘This is a tremendously useful book and one that has been needed for some time … Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin’s achievement is the production of a volume for students … it is thorough and comprehensive, packed with references for further reading, and yet still highly accessible … a valuable book’, Jessica Hemming, The Folklore Society UK (2012).

‘The author presents a digest of the current scholarly consensus in unshowy, attractive prose … Ní Bhrolcháin strikes a useful balance between overview and detail in her discussions … the book is handsomely produced and benefits from some very fine colour plates … the beginning student is provided with a sensible overview of the material, and is introduced to the major scholars who have worked on it', Mark Williams, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies (Winter 2012).

‘Ní Bhrolcháin has twenty-five years’ experience teaching medieval Irish literature and history at NUI Maynooth. Her book is a survey of literature in Ireland from AD 600 to 1200 and is aimed at both the university study and the general reader … the colour photographs of manuscripts and artifacts relevant to this subject make the book more attractive. Ní Bhrolcháin has achieved the difficult task of writing a book which is lively and undaunting but which still maintains its integrity as a serious study of its subject', Books Ireland (December 2009)

‘Dr Ní Bhrolcháin[‘s]…extensive scholarship and teaching experience are both evidenced in her book: it is a treasury of information replete with tales, and the style is that of the confident, sympathetic teacher who knows that the novice needs clear guidance. Consequently, the book can be enjoyed by amateurs and aspiring students alike, as an overview of the saga and poetic literature of the six centuries up to AD 1200 … the stories are told in an admirably clear style … apart from its readability, the book will stand as a work of reference and will guide readers to further material over a wide range of scholarship from the pioneers to the contemporary, as it has a comprehensive bibliography … the design, layout and general presentation of the book are all of a high standard', Siobhán Ní Fhoghlú, Books Ireland (March 2010)

‘The author’s style is a story-telling technique in its own right, which makes the book all the more enjoyable … illustrated with a number of colour reproductions, this is a very readable book, and readers will find much to interest them', Tom Condit, Archaeology Ireland (Spring 2010)

‘In providing students with a thorough, engaging, comprehensive introduction to early Irish literature and the society that produced it Ní Bhrolcháin fills a void in Irish Studies scholarship … Given the dearth of print materials on this general topic and the still-fewer studies that discuss all the important Irish myth cycles (mythologic, heroic, Fenian and the kings) in concert with one another and their historical contexts, this will be an invaluable resource to those interested in Irish studies and/or myth. Highly recommended', V.A. Murrenus Pilmaier, Choice magazine (May 2010)

‘Ní Bhrolcháin’s accomplishments in the subject are entirely her own, having lectured on it for some years past at Maynooth – which, as she reminds us in an aside, signifies Plain of Nuadu, god of the silver arm: the book is full of such touches, enlivening its fluent scholarship with the tone of good conversation, and never losing sight of the non-specialist reader. At the same time, while she offers accounts of the tales, she does so within a scholarly framework … The book is a marvel of condensation – of the tales themselves, their original context and the current issues surrounding them – and Ní Bhrolcháin’s writing overflows with the fascination of her theme … If your shelves groan with books about Ireland, you still need this one; if they don’t, you need it more. This learned and lively volume is what we’re about', Ciaran Murray, Journal of Irish Studies (2010).

‘It is quite clear throughout the book that here is an author who, in addition to being an academic of twenty five years standing, is also someone who stands within the tradition, knows and loves the Irish language in all its stages of development and possesses the breadth and depth of knowledge necessary to present such a comprehensive and readable overview. The documentation is thorough, careful and extensive and the bibliography provides an invaluable guide for students, researchers and others in the field. The illustrations are a nice bonus! This book, while building on past studies by Irish and other scholars such as Myles Dillon, Proinsias Mac Cana, T. Ó Cathasaigh, John Carey and many more, makes a significant and distinguished contribution to the field … The chapters are arranged clearly and logically, with an excellent discussion of the background which covers just about every aspect of the question, from the relationship between literature and history through the importance of place and time, to the relationship between narrators and audiences, between orality and writing and the social and political function of poets and their place in a complex hierarchy … I am surely not alone in believing that many people, not just those of Irish descent, or those studying early Irish literature, will find this book both ‘dulcis et utile’ in the fullest sense of the old maxim', W. Ann Trindade, University of Melbourne, Australasian Journal of Irish Studies (December 2010).