Literature according to the AHD is:

1. The body of written works of a language, period, or culture.
2. Imaginative or creative writing, especially of recognized artistic value
The texts discussed in these posts will primarily be Medieval, whether written in Medieval English languages like Old English, Middle English, Middle Scots, or Medieval Celtic languages like Old Irish, Middle Irish or Medieval Welsh. In particular, you’ll find posts about Medieval Romance, especially Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Orfeo and other Breton Lays, Arthurian texts in general, and later literature in English.
Medieval Irish texts of particular interest include the Táin Bó Cúailnge and associated tales, and Medieval Irish poetry. There are also posts about the Welsh Mabinogi and Mabinogion.
There are also posts about Old Norse saga, Medieval French texts, and of course, scholarly books and articles about all of these. You’ll also find posts about SF and Fantasy, in particular, about Tolkien's works. My definition of literature is pretty broad.

  • Literature

    John Donne Portrait Appeal Successful

    I posted about the National Gallery’s efforts to raise funds to purchase a fabulous portrait of John Donne. They raised the funds, and the future of the portrait is secured; you can read about it here. There’s also some more background about the painting here.

  • Literature,  Resource

    National Gallery John Donne Portrait Appeal

    There aren’t that many portraits of John Donne, and one of the best, the one you see here, has been in various private collections and less than accessible. This portrait was painted in Donne’s twenties, around the 1590s, the period when Jonson said “Donne wrote wrote all his best poetry,” the era in which we think most of the love poetry was written. The portrait was almost certainly done with Donne’s supervision. It’s Donne done as a melancholy lover, complete with disheveled and pricey expensive lace collars undone, and a Latin epigram. Donne is wearing an exceedingly romantic black floppy hat, and there’s a certain earnest directness to his gaze…

  • Celtic Studies Books,  SF and Fantasy

    When Bad Things Happen to Good Writers, Or: Earthsea in Clorox

    Ursula Le Guin speaks out regarding the wretched Earthsea miniseries: To this they replied that the TV audience is much larger, and entirely different, and changes to a book’s story and characters were of no importance to them. Via Bill Higgins, in a Making Light comment thread, who also pointed me here.

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  • Celtic Studies Books,  SF and Fantasy

    Neal Stephenson and Beowulf

    Neal Stephenson, one of my favorite authors, was interviewed by Slashdot. Stephenson is best known for his SF, especially for Snowcrash and The Diamond Age. His recent work, including a mammoth trilogyThe Baroque Cycle, has brought him to the attention of people who might not ordinarily read SF. Stephenson has also written In the Beginning was the Command Line, a very readable treatise on the nature of computer interfaces. In the Slashdot interview, Stephenson draws a distinction between two types of modern writers and, in an extended analogy, compares them with Dante, who had wealthy aristocratic patrons, and to the Beowulf poet. Regarding the Beowulf poet Stephenson says: But I…

  • Literature

    My Heid did Ake

    Teresa wrote “Oh god my head somebody please just shoot me now.” My friend Jasmin also suffers from migraine. I thought of this poem, by William Dunbar, (c. 1460 – c. 1520) one of the so-called Scottish Chaucerians. The text is is in Middle Scots, rather then the more usual Chaucerian Middle English, so there are various dialectical differences, most of them northern forms (even Norse forms), rather than southern or London dialect, and some rare borrowings from Gaelic. On His Heid-ake MY HEID did yak yester nicht, This day to mak that I na micht, So sair the magryme dois me menyie, Perseing my brow as ony ganyie, That…

  • Celtic Myth,  Celtic Studies Books,  History,  Literature


    My review of John Matthews Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman is up at The Green Man Review. I’m not overly impressed with Matthews’ Taliesin as a scholarly work. I do think a case can be made for Celtic poets engaging in and writing about shamanic behaviors, and I’ve written about some of the standard scholarly sources regarding Taliesin here.

  • Personal,  SF and Fantasy

    Firefly on DVD

    OK, so this is maybe a little off-topic (though I could make pointed remarks about feudal cultures and SF) but Joss Whedon’s Firefly is not only going to be a the basis for a new feature film, you can now preorder DVDs of the series, including three episodes that never aired.

  • Celtic Studies Books,  SF and Fantasy

    Byatt on Modern Fantasy

    In a New York Times piece, linked and commented on in Metafilter, author A. S. Byatt mourns the state of current fantasy literature, particularly Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Byatt refers to such books as “secondary secondary fantasy.” According to Byatt: Ms. Rowling’s magic world has no place for the numinous. It is written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip. Its values, and everything in it, are, as Gatsby said of his own world when the light had gone out of his dream, “only personal.” Nobody is trying to save or destroy…