Subjective constructions: Medieval and modern perceptions of women and women warriors in Early and Middle Irish legal and literary texts

Burrows, Erin Kathleen (2021) Subjective constructions: Medieval and modern perceptions of women and women warriors in Early and Middle Irish legal and literary texts. MRes thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

There is an apparent need among some modern scholars to read the women of medieval Ireland, specifically the warrior women of the Ulster Cycle, as feminist icons. The drive for such interpretations is a reflection of the lived experiences of contemporary women, but does it have some basis in the institutions that influenced the lives of medieval Irish women? The active debate over social constructions in early medieval Ireland, particularly perceptions of powerful women, rests on the informed assumption that women did not have an equal role in the patriarchal society in which they lived. Legal texts are the main source of evidence supporting this assumption. However, further arguments by scholars such as D.A. Binchy, Amy C. Mulligan, and Jennifer Dukes-Knight have suggested that extant pseudo-historical and saga literature were influenced by legal social constructions, providing valuable clues regarding the place of women in medieval Ireland. The purpose of this thesis will be to take up the current debate and explore whether or not the evidence in legal and literary sources precludes the possibility of finding a version of feminism in medieval Ireland. The initial focus will be on the extant legal texts composed in the seventh through ninth centuries to establish the perceptions and constructions of women, as defined in the law, during that time. This will be followed by an examination of the interdependence of law texts and pseudo-historical and saga literature during the flourishing of medieval Irish writing in the tenth through twelfth centuries, arguing that the two writing forms worked in tandem to redefine the social construction of mothers and martial women. Finally, a specific look at warrior women in the Ulster Cycle argues that the evidence of the androcentric society found in medieval Irish legal and literary texts does not preclude a positive feminist approach to the Ulster sagas, particularly for modern scholars.

Item Type: Thesis (MRes)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: medieval, Old Irish, women, Ulster Cycle, Scathach, Medb, law, warrior women, feminist critique, mothers, Ireland, Middle Irish, perceptions of women, 9th century Ireland, 10th century Ireland, 11th century Ireland, 12th century Ireland, saga, Cain Adomnain, oral culture, Brehon law, Tochmarc Emire, Tain Bo Cuailnge, Senchas Mar, Hibernensis.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages > PB1201 Irish Language
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Supervisor's Name: Parsons, Dr. Geraldine and Clancy, Prof. Thomas
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Ms. Erin K. Burrows
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82032
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2021 16:59
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2021 17:05
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82032
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82032

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