Love and gender in medieval Gaelic saga

MacLeod, Robbie Andrew (2024) Love and gender in medieval Gaelic saga. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the portrayal of love in medieval Gaelic secular tales. In particular, the focus is on tales written before medieval Gaelic literature experiences the influence of chivalric romance from the thirteenth century onwards. The idea that romantic love was not a concern in Gaelic literature before the appearance of chivalric literature from the twelfth century onwards is taken as a starting point for investigation. Beyond solely romantic love, the thesis takes an expansive approach, also examining religious and familial love. Instances of these different types of love in conflict with one another form nexus points for study. Particular attention is paid to how love is gendered. The saga texts being compared are approached through a literary critical lens informed by feminist and post-structuralist scholarship, along with the history of emotions.

The main body of the thesis comprises four areas. The first is a study of love terms in medieval Gaelic, setting out their semantic ranges and investigating their applications. Three types of love are then examined. The first is romantic love, covering phenomena such as men’s lovesickness, women’s love-in-absence, and interactions between the human and the Otherworldly. Love of the divine is then examined, manifestations of which range from maternal nursing, to fear of God, to sacrificing romantic fulfilment and earthly pleasures. The gendering of love of the divine is also scrutinised, taking in tropes of ‘foolish’ women and wild men. Finally, familial love is examined. An overview is given of familial and foster relationships in medieval Gaelic saga, followed by discussion of moments of loss in those contexts: through events animated by revenge and lamentation, some of the clearest examples of familial love are expressed.

Overall, it is shown that love was of concern to the creators of pre-chivalric medieval Gaelic saga. Love, in different forms, is portrayed with complexity and nuance in numerous saga texts. Love is also clearly gendered: women’s and men’s experiences of love are portrayed as different, causing different outcomes. There are also exceptions to gendered expectations in the texts, showing men and women as being capable of experiencing a full range of nuanced emotions relating to love. Further areas for research are then suggested.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages > PB1501 Scottish Gaelic Language
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Supervisor's Name: Parsons, Dr. Geraldine, Clancy, Professor Thomas and O'Connor, Professor Ralph
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84302
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 May 2024 09:23
Last Modified: 07 May 2024 09:25
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84302

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