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TAMING THE LANDSCAPE AND SHAPING SPACE: MEDIEVAL IRISH NARRATIVES OF PLACE

3:00pm-3:30pm on Saturday 2 April

Times shown are in GMT (UTC +0) up to the 26th March. For events on or after 27th March times are in BST (UTC +1).

Faculty of English, G-R.06/07, 9 West Road, CB3 9DP

Place is an integral part of human existence, influencing life in various ways; imagining our environment in the past forms an important part of many story-worlds. This talk will focus on the rich landscape literature of medieval Ireland in which places are named with reference to the engagement of human beings with the natural world. Known as dindshenchas, place-lore, this extensive body of stories delineates interactions between humans and the environment. And so it constructs the history of Ireland as an overarching narrative of place.

Builders taming plains with axe, billhook and shovel, their actions embodied in the names given to these places; a woman honoured by felling a forest and in the name the reclaimed land acquired. Another woman’s actions causing a well to swell up and so engulf her; the flow of the resulting current formed a river, woman and water becoming one, as symbolised in their common name. Attempts like these at controlling physical surroundings dominate the dindshenchas, using fire, agriculture, mills, metalworking and the like. A literary monument of cultural significance, the dindshenchas depicts people organising a geographical universe, shaping their surroundings, and naming the places that come into being as a result.

In contextualising these stories and bringing them to life, Prof. Máire Ní Mhaonaigh of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, will show how human agency and imagination combined in the creation of a cultural history focussed on the relationship between people and place. Echoing through the centuries, the intimate interaction with the environment embodied in the dindshenchas is of enduring interest, as we continue to probe and articulate our engagement with landscape and the environment today.

Research on medieval Irish landscape literature forms part of a project funded by the Leverhulme Trust, ‘Mapping the Medieval Irish Mind: Ireland’s Literary Landscapes in a Global Space’. You can follow us @dindshenchas and at the departmental Twitter account @Department_ASNC. For further details of the Department’s work, see www.asnc.cam.ac.uk.

Booking/Registration is: REQUIRED

Additional Information

Age: All Ages
Format: Talk
Timing: In person
Cost: Free
Event Capacity: 45
Theme: Environment
Accessibility: Step-free access, Accessible toilet, Lift
Image copyright: Wikimedia Commons

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