A spectacle of death? Reading dead bodies in Táin Bó Cúailnge II

Künzler, S. (2015) A spectacle of death? Reading dead bodies in Táin Bó Cúailnge II. Studia Celtica Fennica, 12, pp. 35-48.

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Publisher's URL: https://journal.fi/scf/article/view/51039


Although at times despicable to modern tastes, violence, killing and death are essential parts of medieval heroic literature and integral in shaping the heroic world of a text. This article investigates how certain dead bodies in Recension II of Táin Bó Cúailnge (TBC II) are read within the heroic discourse of fír fer and in relation to the posthumous reputation of a warrior, his fama. It argues that some corpses can become signs, purposefully ‘installed’ by Cú Chulainn and read (that is, interpreted to deduce information) by his adversaries, and that these episodes may instigate a critical engagement with the idea of reading bodies in TBC II. In order to contextualise the close readings of four carefully selected passages, some remarks on the discourse of violence and heroic combat in TBC II precede the individual analyses. To conclude, the importance of visually observing the dead bodies is stressed and paired with the idea of ‘specularity’, recently introduced to Irish studies by Sarah Sheehan (in relation to live bodies). The article thus discusses not just individual textual passages but also more general ideas about reading bodies in early Irish literature.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kuenzler, Dr Sarah
Authors: Künzler, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Journal Name:Studia Celtica Fennica
Publisher:Finnish Society for Celtic Studies

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