The Annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture: Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh on "The Impossible and the Ridiculous: An Enduring Motif in Irish Tradition from Medieval to Modern"


Location: Webinar Format


Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh, Lecturer in the Department of Early and Medieval Irish at University College Cork, will deliver the 2021 Annual Breandán Ó Buachalla Memorial Lecture, a signature event in the Institute's academic year. The title of her lecture is: "The Impossible and the Ridiculous: An Enduring Motif in Irish Tradition from Medieval to Modern."

The lecture honors the memory of Breandán Ó Buachalla (1936-2010), who was the inaugural Thomas J. and Kathleen M. O'Donnell Chair of Irish Language and Literature at the University of Notre Dame and instrumental to the success of both the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Department of Irish Language and Literature.

The theme of Dr. Ó Dochartaigh's lecture: Visual representations of the ridiculous are widespread in the margins of medieval manuscripts, particularly from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, where snails attacking knights, reading monkeys, and armed hares abound. The theme is also widespread in medieval poetry, popular ballads and later folktales, where these impossibilities or wonders grew into a fully-formed comic genre with sequences of impossible or ridiculous images strung together. An obscure Irish poem may be the sole literary witness of such impossibilities in a medieval Irish context. However, the motif reaches a highpoint in Ireland much later in the Amhrán Bréagach genre, a song-type collected in a number of Gaeltacht areas in the twentieth century.


One example of a visual representation of "the ridiculous": This image of a musical pig, within a Cathedral misericord, is courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Ripon Cathedral.