Borderlands and Frontier Zones: Transmaritime Interactions with the Celtic World

The Celtic cultures of medieval Britain and Ireland, though recipients of a considerable amount of scholarship in their own right, are often superseded in discussions of the history and literature of the British Isles by their more powerful Germanic and Francophone neighbors. While Celtic influence on neighboring groups is often acknowledged, modes of transfer and communication are little understood.

This seminar encourages an interdisciplinary approach to the study of medieval Celtic peoples and languages by drawing together a number of disparate voices, historical traditions and practices. With more attention given to the modes of interface between England, Scandinavia, and its Celtic neighbors, we might better understand both the quality and effect of the high degree of transmarine travel and cultural exchange which occurred between these various peoples. Proposed papers might fall into the following thematic strands: explorations of literary influence across borders, studies of textual transmission and manuscript networks, postcolonial concerns, discussions of ecclesiastical connections, economic ties and trade routes, cross-influence in insular art and palaeography, and examinations of portrayals of a neighboring group in historical chronicles and other writing. Geographical areas that are particularly fruitful for this line of inquiry are the March of Wales, northern England and southern Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Viking Dublin, though discussions pertaining to other frontier zones and borderlands, whether marked by sea or by land, are also welcome. Though the title of the seminar suggests a perspective external to the Celtic world, looking in, papers considering Celtic cultures from within, looking outward at external forms of influence, are equally encouraged.

Recent research consortiums and funded projects on cross-cultural frontiers, border writing, and multilingual exchange, especially pertaining to the interface between Anglo-Saxon England and the March of Wales, indicate that this important area of research has begun to receive more attention from scholars. It is hoped that this seminar will continue to heighten its profile and encourage future collaborative inquiries into a dynamic and multilingual world.

Session 1: Into and Out of Wales

Friday, November 3rd

“Gruffudd ap Llewelyn and the ‘Untamed’ Welsh in the Vita Ædwardi Regis and Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Joseph Shack, Harvard University

“Racializing Logic as Anti-Imperialism in the Brut y Tywysogion”
Coral Lumbley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Cross-Border Contact in Historical Writing of the Anglo-Welsh March”
Georgia Henley, Harvard University

Session 2: Ireland and its Influence

Friday, November 4th 

“Rewriting the Late Antique Locus Amoenus: The Phoenix and Early Irish Nature Poetry”
Joey McMullen, Centenary University  

“The Influence of Early Medieval Irish Literary Motifs in England: e Case of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Patrick R. McCoy, Harvard University

“Crossing Borders in Medieval Irish History and Literature”
Patrick Wadden, Belmont Abbey College

Session 3: Missionaries, Island Hopping, and Conduits of Learning

Saturday, November 5th

“Saints and Scholars across the Sea: The Hagiographical View of Educating Saints Abroad”
Sarah Waidler, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies  

“Columba and Beyond: Understanding Monastic and Ecclesiastical Connections in the Early Medieval Scottish Islands”
Erika Lauren Lindgren, Wartburg College

“Anglo-Saxons or Irishmen behind St. Sunniva’s Name?”
Gwendolyn Sheldon, University of Toronto

“Apostles Adrift: Navigating Apostolic Missions in Insular Apocrypha”
Kevin Kritsch, Kennesaw State University