The Insane as Individual in Medieval Ireland


Location: 424 Flanner Hall


Feargal Ó Bearra, National University of Ireland, Galway presents "The Insane as Individual in Medieval Ireland" at noon, April 15th in 424 Flanner Hall. 

"The talk will consider the medieval Irish tale Buile Shuibhne, which relates how the pagan king Suibhne, having injured the honour of the holy man Rónán Fionn, is cursed by that saint and, as a consequence, loses his reason and military credibility on the field of battle. The text goes on to treat of the psychological and physical devastation caused by his spectacular fall from grace. While by no means a clinical description of mental illness, nevertheless Buile Shuibhne provides us with a valuable insight into the mind of the creator of an imaginative interpretation of the psychological disintegration of an individual. The author must have been a remarkable person, someone who perhaps knew only too well the inner plurality that all great artists require if they are to deal in a competent and sympathetic manner with the various voices that inhabit the human mind.

In my talk, I will look at some of the background to the tale, as well as discuss the lexicon created by the author to describe his mentally ill hero, before demonstrating the centrality given to the voice of the individual in the text."

Ó Bearra is currently at NUIG where he teaches postgraduate and undergraduate courses on Medieval Irish literature, Classical Modern Irish language, and Late Modern Irish grammar. He was Lecturer for Celtic Languages at the University of Bonn, and has also taught at the universities of Freiburg, Limerick, and Montréal (Concordia). His publications encompass all periods of the Irish language and include the monographs Síaburcharpat Con Culainn: a Critical Edition with Introduction, Notes, Bibliography and Glossary (forthcoming, Berlin: Curach Bhán); the dual language Bádóireacht: Bootsbau und Seefahrt in der westirischen Tradition (with Arndt Wigger); An Old Irish Primer (with Wim Tigges); and Glórtha Ár Sinsear: Béaloideas Oirdheisceart na Gaillimhe (with Pádraig Ó Baoill). Among his articles are “Gaeilge Uí Chadhain” (in: Ní Annracháin, M. (ed.), Saothar Mháirtín Uí Chadhain, Maigh Nuad: An Sagart, 103-130), the only full-length study of the background and motivations for Ó Cadhain’s creation of a distinctive literary idiom; a translation of Recension III of Táin Bó Cúailnge (in: Emania (Journal of the Navan Research Group) XV, 47-65); and ‘Ionmholta Malairt Bhisigh: An Caighdeán Oifigiúil 1958-2008’, a critique of An Caighdeán Oifigiúil (in: Ó Baoill, D., Ó hAodha, D. & Ó Muraíle, N. (eds), Saltair Saíochta, Sanasaíochta, agus Seanchais. A Festschrift for Gearóid Mac Eoin, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 247-260). His research centres primarily on the historical development of Irish but also includes matters literary, in particular the non-canonical literature of the period 1200-1950 – such as Aislinge Meic Con Glinne, Tromdhámh Guaire, Buile Shuibhne, and Ó Cadhain’s satirical incantatory drama Cré na Cille (1949).