Deirdriu of the Sorrows – 27 Feb 2023
This final talk introduces one of the most famous heroines of Irish literature, whose story was turned into numerous plays in the Irish Revival of the turn of the 20th century. Deirdriu – sometimes called ‘the Irish Helen of Troy’ – is a heroine of great vividness, caught up in a pitiless, brutal struggle for self-determination and her own desire. We will look at the earliest version of the story, The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu, and then hear how and why it was adapted and reworked in modernity.
Reading: The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu, translated by Vernam Hull here:
don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day
Dr Mark Williams is Fellow and Tutor in English at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. He is a specialist in the medieval languages and literatures of Wales and Ireland, and the author of Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth (Princeton, 2016), and The Celtic Myths that Shaped the Way We Think (Thames & Hudson, 2021). He is in training as a Jungian psychoanalyst
W. B. Yeats, ‘Rosa Alchemica’ in Mythologies (many editions)
George Russell, ‘The Legends of Ancient Eire’ https://www.teozofija.info/Russell_Legends.html
Celtic Myth by Dr. Mark Williams
These lectures introduce a range of famous figures and fascinating stories from the medieval Irish and Welsh past, including many characters who number among the gods and goddesses of the Celts. The aim is to explain their cultural context and status as literature, showing who produced these stories in the form in which we have them, and why. Each lecture also draws attention to the ways any given story has been reimagined in modernity, being forged anew for our own times. In each case I have suggested one paperback to read beforehand.