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IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 704: Reading Medieval Celtic Texts

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Karen Stöber, Department of History & Welsh History, Aberystwyth University
Paper 704-aDreaming Imperial Desire in Medieval Wales
(Language: English)
Jon Kenneth Williams, Columbia University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Celtic, Language and Literature - Other, Political Thought
Paper 704-bMadness, Morality, and Prophecy in the Celtic Wild Man Tradition
(Language: English)
Bridgette Slavin, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Sydney
Index terms: Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Celtic, Mentalities
Paper 704-cFrame and Chwedl in Chwedleu Seith Doethon Rufein
(Language: English)
Diana Luft, School of Welsh, Cardiff University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Celtic

Abstract paper -a: 'Dreaming Imperial Desire in Medieval Wales' will explore tropes of colonial desire as manifested in provincial and metropolitan dreaming in the Middle Welsh tale The Dream of Macsen Wiedig. I shall argue that this tale marks medieval Wales not so much as a site of contemporary resistance to English or Anglo-Norman colonial aggression but as an appendage of a larger, imagined imperial unit. Some attention would be paid to gendered depictions of provincial and metropolitan spaces within an imperial matrix, with emphasis on Wales as manifesting attributes of both. A limited number of citations in this paper would be in Middle Welsh.

Abstract paper -b: Medieval medical and theological theorists often equated an individual’s loss of reason with a deficiency in moral character. Even in pre-Christian antiquity disease and morality were linked. Yet, the literary tradition of the Wild Man illustrates that madness had redeeming qualities, namely in the development of prophetic capabilities. This paper will first compare the ethical and emotional instigations of madness among the wild men of the Celtic tradition. Grief over the death of his brothers sends Merlin, suffering from melancholia into the woods, while Suibhne Geilt flies to the trees from a battle after being cursed by St. Ronan. An examination will follow of the authors’ use of prophecy as an
agent to prove the existence of madness, but also to demonstrate the moral redemption of the madman.

Abstract paper -c: Scholars have been unwilling to consider the medieval Welsh versions of Historia septem sapientum outside of the context of translation, despite their popularity in the medieval and early-modern periods. In this paper I will look at Chwedleu Seith Doethon Rufein without reference to any other text on which it may be dependent, focussing instead on the relationship between the frame text and the stories contained within it. It is my contention that the individual chwedleu work against the frame story rather than reinforce it, providing anti-exempla which serve to entertain much more than to educate.