The Destruction of Da Dergas Hostel: Kingship and Narrative Artistry in a Mediaeval Irish Saga

Hardcover | March 14, 2013

byRalph OConnor

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Irish saga literature represents the largest collection of vernacular narrative in existence from the early Middle Ages, using the tools of Christian literacy to retell myths and legends about the pagan past. This unique corpus remains marginal to standard histories of Western literature: itstales are widely read, but their literary artistry remains a puzzle to many even within Celtic studies. This book, the first to offer a systematic literary analysis of any single native Irish tale, aims to show how one particularly celebrated saga 'works' as a story: the Middle Irish tale Togail Bruidne Da Derga (The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel), which James Carney called 'the finest saga of theearly period'. This epic tale tells how the legendary king Conaire was raised by a shadowy Otherworld to the kingship of Tara and, after a fatal error of judgement, was hounded by spectres to an untimely death at Da Derga's Hostel at the hands of his own foster-brothers. By turns lyrical and laconic, and rich in native mythological imagery, the story is told with a dramatic intensity worthy of Greek tragedy, and the intricate symmetry of its narrative procedure recalls the visual patterning of illuminated manuscripts such as The Book of Kells. This book invites thereader to enjoy and understand this literary masterpiece, explaining its narrative artistry within its native, classical and biblical literary contexts. Against a historical backdrop of shifting ideologies of Christian kingship, it interprets the saga's possible significance for contemporaryaudiences as a questioning exploration of the challenges and paradoxes of kingship.

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Irish saga literature represents the largest collection of vernacular narrative in existence from the early Middle Ages, using the tools of Christian literacy to retell myths and legends about the pagan past. This unique corpus remains marginal to standard histories of Western literature: itstales are widely read, but their literary ar...

Dr Ralph O'Connor studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic and English Literature at the University of Cambridge before becoming a Junior Research Fellow in Irish and Icelandic Literature at St John's College, Cambridge. He is currently Professor of the Literature and Culture of Britain, Ireland, and Iceland at the University of Aberdeen...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:424 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.01 inPublished:March 14, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019966613X

ISBN - 13:9780199666133

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgementsNote on quotationsList of illustrationsIntroduction1. The text and its authors; or, how to write a saga2. A child of the Otherworld3. The plunderers' dilemma4. The road to Da Derga's Hostel5. The house of death6. The perfect spy7. Sovereignty shattered8. The Latin dimension: classical and biblical influence9. Conaire, Saul, and sacred kingship10. The message of the Togail: tract or tragedy?11. Afterword: reading the Togail