Coire Sois, The Cauldron of Knowledge: A Companion to Early Irish Saga offers thirty-one previously published essays by Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, which together constitute a magisterial survey of early Irish narrative literature in the vernacular. Ó Cathasaigh has been called the father of early Irish literary criticism,” with writings among the most influential in the field. He pioneered the analysis of the classic early Irish tales as literary texts, a breakthrough at a time when they were valued mainly as repositories of grammatical forms, historical data, and mythological debris. All four of the Mythological, Ulster, King, and Finn Cycles are represented here in readings of richness, complexity, and sophistication, supported by absolute philological rigor and yet easy for the non-specialist to follow. The book covers key terms, important characters, recurring themes, rhetorical strategies, and the narrative logic of this literature. It also surveys the work of the many others whose explorations were launched by Ó Cathasaigh's first encounters with the literature.
Tomás Ó Cathasaigh is that rare scholar in Celtic studies whose work has much to say not only to advanced scholars in the field but also to specialists dealing with other literatures, comparative mythologists, and undergraduates. Our understanding of medieval Irish epic and saga is immeasurably enriched by his elegant writing style, his erudition, and his wide-ranging critical eye. It is indeed a bounteous blessing, then, to have collected in this volume Ó Cathasaigh’s best, most representative, and most useful work.”
Joseph Nagy, University of California, Los Angeles
"To read Tomás Ó Cathasaigh’s essays gathered and ordered in this splendid volume is to explore the web of early Irish literature with a learned and witty guide. Each chapter stops at a particular point in the early Irish literary record, but the light that Ó Cathasaigh sheds on each text or theme illumines the entirety of the landscape. His close attention to the nuances of language and his finely tuned sense of social relationships in medieval Ireland are but two of the qualities that make Ó Cathasaigh perhaps the most skilled reader that early Irish literature has ever had. Coire Sois will be an indispensable vade mecum for generations of students and scholars to come." Catherine McKenna, Margaret Brooks Robinson Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University