Analysis: Pagan Survivals by Tomás Ó Cathasaigh Essays

Analysis: Pagan Survivals by Tomás Ó Cathasaigh Essays

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Tomás Ó Cathasaigh’s article, “Pagan survivals: the evidence of early Irish narrative,” is primarily concerned with elucidating the approaches used by scholars in the study of the literature. The article begins with a discussion concerning the relationship between pre-existing traditions and Christianity’s entrance into Ireland. Ó Cathasaigh questions W.G. Wood-Martin’s assessment that the influence each entity had on the other is easily disentangled. However, he remarks that Ireland has the benefit of a large body of literature from an early medieval time, a set of literature marked by an evident interest in pre-Christian mythology. While potential avenues of discussion regarding these works are vast and equally complex, the article instead chooses to limit itself to an overview of the methodology utilized for the study of early Irish narrative.
The purpose of the overview is to afford the reader insight into how evidence is extracted from its sources when approached from a variety of perspectives. The author supplements this outline by acknowledging certain issues scholars encounter through the use of one approach or another in this field of study. Ó Cathasaigh structures his overview by drawing on a system derived from the work of Mark Abrams that divides the content of the article into four distinct sections; the work, the artist, the universe, and the audience. Ó Cathasaigh notes that even though the work should be and is frequently at the heart of any scholarly inquiry, the artist and the universe just as often find themselves a central focus considering the unique context of early Irish literature. A fifth and final section includes an excerpt from Cath Maige Tuired and commentary in order to demonstrate the pract...

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... Murphy’s inclination toward the oral tradition carries more weight considering the Christian influence is felt only with minor inclusions along the lines of the reference to the Holy Spirit in the excerpt. The mimetic perspective is discussed briefly with the possibility of an actual Celtic chief having possessed a silver prosthetic limb and is followed by the Generation Conflict as a focal point and source of debate for mythological and textualist critics. In concluding his overview, Ó Cathasaigh highlights the significance of early Irish narrative as a unique and invaluable body of literature brought about by the coalescence of two distinct cultures.

Works Cited

Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, ‘Pagan survivals: the evidence of early Irish narrative’, in P. Ni Chathain and M. Richter (eds), Irland und Europa: die Kirche in Fruhmittelalter (Stuttgard, 1984), pp. 291-307.

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