Research

Since finishing my MA, I’ve continued with my independent research into medieval and early modern Irish literature. Here’s what that entails, and where you can find it…

Qualifications

MA Early & Medieval Irish (University College Cork), completed 2021. Final thesis: “Favourite charioteer, beloved foster-brother: the role of Láeg mac Ríangabra in medieval and early modern Ulster Cycle tales.”

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

Blog posts

The Case for Queer Theory in Celtic Studies” – A discussion of the validity and importance of queer readings and theoretical approaches to medieval Celtic literature and history

Understanding Standish” – A series of 5 blog posts exploring Standish James O’Grady’s The Coming of Cuculain from a medievalist perspective.

An Early Modern Melancholy” – Reflections on Oidheadh Con Culainn and Hamlet

Articles

‘Naming the Seven Maines’: published in Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 83 (Summer 2022). Winner of the 2022 CMCS Prize for Young Scholars.

This article includes an edition and translation of a fragmentary text from Trinity College Dublin MS 1336 (H.3.17) concerning the naming of the seven sons of Ailill and Medb. In the commentary that follows, I explore the relationship between this text and Cath Boinde / Ferchuitred Medba, as well as other appearances of the seven Maines across the Ulster Cycle. I consider ‘inconsistencies’ and variations between texts as to the names, fates, personalities, and even number of the Maines. Spoiler alert: there aren’t always seven of them.

Volume 83 of CMCS can be purchased for £5 here. Due to copyright restrictions, I can’t make this article available online, but if you’re unable to access it and need it for your research, please contact me at finn [at] finnlongman [dot] com, and we’ll work something out.

Faithful to the End: The Changing Role of Láeg mac Riangabra in The Death of Cú Chulainn‘: published in Quaestio Insularis 22 (2022).

Originally presented as a conference paper at CCASNC 2021 and adapted from a chapter of my MA thesis, this paper explores how the role of Láeg mac Riangabra differs between the medieval Brislech Mór Maige Muirthemne and the early modern Oidheadh Con Culainn. See below for full abstract. Quaestio Insularis is available to read online.

‘”What manner of man is this Hound?”: Gender, Humanity and the Transgressive Figure of Cú Chulainn’: to be published in the Proceedings of the Association of Celtic Students of Ireland and Britain VIII (forthcoming)

Adapted from my undergraduate dissertation and a paper given at the Celtic Students Conference in 2020 (see abstract below), this article explores theories of gender and monstrosity to examine Cú Chulainn as a liminal figure who transgresses boundaries and whose heroism is not undermined by but dependent on his status as an outsider. I explore how Cú Chulainn’s masculinity is presented as unconventional and challenged by those around him in a way that creates space for transmasculine readings, as well as how his ‘uncontrollable’ body can be read as monstrous and explored through paradigms more often used for the villains / opponents in other medieval literature.

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 problematises 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.