CCIV30110 Early Irish Myths & Sagas

Academic Year 2023/2024

Hundreds of myths and sagas survive from medieval Ireland. Many of these display intricate narrative techniques and structures, and their contents often reflect contemporary ideologies as well as inherited mythological motifs. In this module we will focus on one specific long narrative from the early Middle Ages and conduct a thorough and critical analysis of the text. No knowledge of Old Irish is required, as we will read the story in full in English translation, but throughout the module key Irish terms and concepts will be examined and their significance explained. The module provides a chance to closely read an early Irish narrative text and to analyse the author's ideologies and the techniques s/he used. It deepens the students' understanding of early Irish literature and culture.
Topics covered in the module include:
-- text version, recension and intertextuality
-- narrative techniques
-- ideologies of kingship, justice and gender
-- genres and cycles
Students are assessed by one short report and one final essay, as well as participation in online discussions and quizzes.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. an in-depth knowledge of a representative early Irish saga narrative.
2. the ability to conduct critical analysis of a text by focusing on the textual details (close reading)
3. a general acknowledge of the production and transmission of early Irish literature.

Indicative Module Content:

The module concentrates on the skill of close reading of early Irish narratives. Topics covered in the module include:
-- text version, recension and intertextuality
-- narrative techniques
-- ideologies of kingship, justice and gender
-- genres and cycles

Below are the topics of 2021-22 lectures, on reading the saga Togail Bruidne Da Derga 'the Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel':
- Introduction: what is a story in medieval Ireland? How many of them exist?
- What are the approaches to medieval Irish narratives?
- What is a text? How many 'recensions' are there for TBDD?
- Senchas and genres
- Prosimetrum and cycles
- Intertextuality
- Finding Conaire in the tradition
- Otherworldly connections
- The Otherworld in TBDD
- Geis
- Prophecies and omens
- Trying to be a good king
- A slippery way down to destruction
- Breaking bad of the warrior band
- Dual allegiance to both worlds
- The 'Sovereignty Goddess'
- Fair maidens and ugly hags
- Watching from the wall: narrative techniques
- A night to destroy a king: the not-so-grand finale
- Imaginary landscapes
- Conclusion

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
In this module we will adopt an interactive learning approach. Lectures will be delivered twice a week, face-to-face, but I will also try to record and make them accessible via Brightspace for students who cannot attend on campus. Students are required to read the whole narratives assigned to them and reflect on the structure and content of the narratives using the analytical tools they learn from the lectures.
Each week we will focus on one specific aspect of the narrative, and use problem-based learning methods to critically and fully engage with the story. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Weekly quizzes on Brightspace where students are asked to reflect on contents they have learned. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: participation in lectures and discussions. Unspecified n/a Graded No


Essay: Final essay on selected topics for 1500-2000 words Week 12 n/a Graded No


Essay: a short report on appointed topics (less than 1,000 words), combining critical reading of scholarly works and close reading of the narrative. Week 8 n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Quizzes on Brightspace will be graded and feedback given after they are submitted. Feedback on the essays will be given individually by the teacher, but students are encouraged to share their short report essay with other students and conduct peer-review.

The full reading list, including the required reading (about two articles each week) and extended reading, is available on Brightspace under each week's learning materials.
Name Role
Dr Jaqueline Bemmer Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Roisin McLaughlin Lecturer / Co-Lecturer