Scottish Gaelic women's poetry up to 1750

Frater, Anne Catherine (1994) Scottish Gaelic women's poetry up to 1750. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The intention of this work was not to provide a detailed study of all
the poems composed by women up to 1750, but rather to find the
threads which linked them to each other. These threads are mainly
thematic, although others, such as the songs connected with a story,
cross a thematic range while sharing a common link. The spectrum
of topics dealt with in the women's poetry is broad, and the aim was
to show the similarities and differences in the treatment of recurring
themes by the composers.
Songs were collected on the basis of ascription to a woman
author, clues in the text which indicated a woman author, and, in
some cases, nothing in the text which excluded possible female
authorship. The songs were collected from printed and manuscript
sources, and one version of each has been included in the appendix.
The ascription of some of the songs in printed collections seems
doubtful, and in such cases the song has been included in the
anonymous section of the appendix. Likewise, the 'anonymous' songs
for which an author can be identified with a fair degree of certainty
have been included under the name of the relevant poetess. The
dating of some of the songs is problematic, and textual evidence,
where it is present, has been relied on in order to place the
anonymous poems in as near to chronological order as possible in the
appendix. The compositions of named poetesses are placed in
alphabetical order, by surname; those for whom a name, but no
surname, is known being placed between these and the anonymous
The basic criterion for discussion of each song thus collected
was that its theme was not confined to one song or one author. A
song from the Thirty Years War, although included in the appendix,
is not discussed, as the conflicts dealt with by the other poetesses of
the period are those which directly concerned themselves and their
clans. Likewise, the religious poems of SIleas na Ceapaich have been
omitted, as she is the only poetess of the time who produced such
Comment on the metrical structures used takes a wider
viewpoint rather than overly concentrating on specific songs. As individual metrical analysis of such a large number of songs was not
possible in the context of this study, the aim was to identify the main
metres used, and the periods in which each was most popular, along
with a discussion of the origins and forms of these metres.
Where there is a doubt over the ascription of a song to a
particular author, as much evidence as possible was collected and
collated in order to verify or discount the ascription. Likewise,
where there is conflicting information as to the identity or background
of a poetess, the arguments have been studied in order to come to
what is hopefully a satisfactory conclusion, based on the available
While collecting the songs, it became evident that a large
number of them had a story attached which either explained the song
or the circumstances which brought about its composition. A number
of these have been grouped together in one chapter, although others
were more relevant in the chapters dealing with specific topics. One
must admit that some of the stories are not always directly related to
the composition of the song, but where these have been included it is
in order to illustrate a particular aspect of the subject being dealt
with, or the character of the person addressed.
Comparison of the women's songs with those of their
contemporary male counterparts would perhaps have been desirable,
but was not possible, given the time period and the number of topics
dealt with. In any case, the aim of this study was not to discover an
identifying trait which distinguished female poetry from that of men,
but to discuss the works of the women poets in relation to their
social situation, their lives, and each other.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Supervisor's Name: MacDoanld, Mr. Kenneth D.
Date of Award: 1994
Depositing User: Miss Fiona Riggans
Unique ID: glathesis:1994-701
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:24

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