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Reckoning: Historical Practice in the Medieval Irish Classroom

Thursday 18 February 2021, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Dr. Elizabeth Boyle (Maynooth University)

What do we know about the mechanics of learning in the medieval classroom? There has been much stimulating scholarship on medieval pedagogy in recent years, and this paper aims to make a contribution to that discussion using evidence from Ireland. After some introductory background context, I will explore the large corpus of vernacular pedagogical poetry surviving from eleventh- and twelfth-century Ireland. I argue that so-called ‘poetic chevilles’ – ‘asides’ which are often dismissed as line-fillers, or formulaic phrases inserted to make up the syllabic requirements of early Irish poetry – actually constitute an overlooked source of evidence for genuine pedagogical practice. Far from adding empty syllables to the line, these phrases which speak of processes such as ‘reckoning’, ‘enumerating’, ‘calculating’, and ‘synchronising’, and which frequently invoke the authority of earlier written sources, can be used to build a picture of pedagogical techniques, historiographical practice, and some of the content of the history curriculum in the medieval Irish classroom.

Dr Elizabeth Boyle is the Head of Early Irish at Maynooth University. Her work focusses on the religious, cultural and intellectual history of medieval Ireland; Ireland’s contacts with Britain and continental Europe; the translation and adaptation of Latin sources into Old and Middle Irish; and the history of the discipline of Celtic Studies.

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This seminar will not be recorded. 

Location: Zoom