Research

Since I post a fair bit about my medievalist activities and research, I thought it best to make a dedicated page for my academic work.

Qualifications

MA Early & Medieval Irish (University College Cork), to be completed late 2021. Thesis title TBC, but it’s about Láeg mac Riangabra.

BA (Hons) Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (University of Cambridge), completed 2018. Final dissertation: “A beardless boy: ambiguities of gender and sexuality in Táin Bó Cúailnge and related tales.”

“Public-facing” Research

The Grass Beard” – Appearance on the Motherfoclóir podcast in August 2021, discussing queer readings of the Táin

YouTube channel

Conference Papers

The 22nd Cambridge Colloquium in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (May 2021): “Faithful to the End: The Changing Role of Láeg mac Riangabra in The Death of Cú Chulainn”

Abstract: Láeg mac Riangabra, Cú Chulainn’s charioteer, is the hero’s closest and often only companion, and he remains faithful to his master even amidst mortal danger. Never is this more clearly illustrated than in ‘The Death of Cú Chulainn’, known variously as Aided/Oidheadh Con Culainn or Brislech Mór Maige Muirthemne, which shows the two in their final battle together. In this paper I will explore the significant differences between the Middle Irish and the Early Modern versions of this narrative, and the crucial – but different – role that Láeg plays in each. The Middle Irish version of the tale, from the Book of Leinster, reflects Láeg’s function as a double and narrative foil for Cú Chulainn himself, and his death shortly before Cú Chulainn’s prefigures the hero’s own downfall. Meanwhile, the Early Modern versions of the text show Láeg in his function as mediator and messenger for Cú Chulainn: he is wounded, but survives to assist the dying Cú Chulainn and to take news of his death back to Ulster, where he mourns him alongside Emer, Cú Chulainn’s wife. Although surviving in a great many late manuscripts, this later version lacks a full translation into English, and so these developments have largely passed unremarked. However, they provide a fascinating insight into the aspects or functions that Láeg performs in other Ulster Cycle texts, and illustrate both divergence and development in the tradition.

The 8th Celtic Students’ Conference (October 2020): “A beardless boy: exploring a transmasculine reading of Cú Chulainn in Táin Bó Cúailnge”

Abstract: The medieval Irish hero Cú Chulainn is often read as a hypermasculine figure, with his martial pre-eminence and extreme feats in combat seen as expressions of heroic masculinity. Yet he is small and beardless – facts frequently remarked upon by his opponents – and he is an outsider, marked by his exemption from the curse that renders the men of the Ulaid unable to fight. None of these traits are unique to Cú Chulainn: he can be read as conforming to a heroic ideal, reflected in Classical and chivalric literature, or as a precocious youth, made liminal by his age. However, I would argue that the Táin problematizes Cú Chulainn’s masculinity, repeatedly presenting it as atypical and outside of societal norms, and that by interrogating his gender more closely, we can disrupt these conventional readings and offer an alternative. I will therefore explore a transmasculine reading of Cú Chulainn, showing how he transgresses categorisation not necessarily (or solely) because he is precocious and has assumed a ‘man’s role’ before it is expected, but because he has done so without it being expected at all. Moreover, I will discuss how, far from undermining his heroic identity, this instead helps to constitute it.

Articles

More to come…