‘Fiona Macleod’ (William Sharp) (1855-1905) and the Celtic Revival in Scotland
‘Fiona Macleod’ was the secret cross-gendered pseudonym—really a secondary personality—of the Scottish Celtic Twilight writer William Sharp. Around the turn of the 20th century he posed as a Hebridean seeress and folklore collector, producing under her name a slew of misty, etheral faux-Celtic works on Gaelic folklore. These reached a wide audience, and influenced W. B. Yeats, among many others; they included poetry, occult reportage, and drama based on Irish myth. One work, The Immortal Hour, was even turned into a successful and long-running opera by the composer Rutland Boughton. This talk weighs up Sharp’s deeply peculiar cultural achievement, probing the role that ‘Fiona’ played in his complex life.
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
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