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Research Seminar: Dr Geraldine Parsons, University of Glasgow

A lullaby, a sleep-song, or a lovers’ duet? Gráinne, Diarmaid and the lay “Cotail becán becán bec”

Wednesday 17 April 2024 | 13:00
Seòmar Shomhairle, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Livestream will also be available

This seminar addresses some of the challenges of interpreting the Finn Cycle lay known by its opening words ‘Cotail becán becán bec’ (‘Sleep a little, just a little’). The poem, which is among the earliest evidence for the story of the ill-starred lovers Diarmaid and Gráinne, has been read variously as a song sung by Gráinne to put Diarmaid to sleep and as a dialogue between them. How should it be interpreted? And what are the implications of assigning speakers to this poem for the much larger task of understanding the medieval stories and poems depicting Finn mac Cumaill and his fìan (an Fhèinne)? This seminar will consider the presentation of women’s voices and gender relations in an androcentric tradition, and ask how a possibly eleventh-century poem like ‘Cotail becán’ might relate to ‘women’s poetry’ in the more recent Gaelic traditions.

Dr Geraldine Parsons

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