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Writing westwards: medieval English literature and its early modern Irish audiences

Byrne, A. (2016) Writing westwards: medieval English literature and its early modern Irish audiences. In: King, A. and Woodcock, M. (eds.) Medieval Into Renaissance: A Festschrift for Helen Cooper. D. S. Brewer, Cambridge, pp. 73-89. ISBN 9781843844327

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Quite a few texts from England were translated into Irish in the fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries. The number of these texts was significant enough to suggest that foreign material of this sort enjoyed something of a vogue in late-medieval Ireland. Translated texts include Mandeville’s Travels, Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hampton, Fierabras and a selection of saints’ lives. Scholars have paid little attention to the origins and initial readerships of these texts, but still less research has been conducted into their afterlife in early modern Ireland. However, a strikingly high number of these works continued to be read and copied well into the seventeenth century and some, such as the Irish translations of Octavian and William of Palerne, only survive in manuscripts from this later period. This paper takes these translations as a test case to explore the ways in which a cross-period approach to such writing is applicable in Ireland, a country where the renaissance is generally considered to have taken little hold. It considers the extent to which Irish reception of this translated material shifts and evolves in the course of this turbulent period and whether the same factors that contributed to the continued demand for a range of similar texts in England into the seventeenth century are also discernible in the Irish context.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:63683
Publisher:D. S. Brewer

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