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Lecture by Dr. Geraldine Parsons — “The Quiet Girls of Early Ireland: Women in Medieval Irish Literature”

February 3, 2023 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm


Dr. Geraldine Parsons, Senior Lecturer in Celtic and Gaelic and Head of Subject at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, lectures on “The Quiet Girls of Early Ireland: Women in Medieval Irish Literature.”

Finn Cycle, or fiannaíocht, literature was the most enduringly popular branch of Irish-language literature from the early Middle Ages until recent times. It prioritizes the exploration of male perspectives and experiences: its tales and poems present two different timelines united by the prominence of men. One is the hyper-masculine warrior culture of ancient Ireland; the other is populated by the male ecclesiastics, warriors and kings of Christian Ireland’s medieval Golden Age. The afterlives of these texts too suggest an enduring appeal among audiences typically gendered male: the oldest surviving manuscript to contain only this corpus of work was commissioned in the 1620s, by an Irish captain in the Spanish army, and written by male scribes. An association between this literature and Irish military culture, as well as the tradition of soldiery among Scottish Highlanders, continues today. Parsons’ talk will seek to complicate the gender history of the Finn Cycle, by recovering women’s roles in its production and in the narratives themselves.

geraldine parsons smiles with shoulder length brown hair. she wears a black sweater and a beaded necklace.
Photo courtesy Geraldine Parsons

Dr. Geraldine Parsons is Senior Lecturer in Celtic and Gaelic and Head of Subject at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Her research focuses on medieval Irish literature, with a particular interest in the material concerning the legendary hero Finn mac Cumaill (later Fionn Mac Cumhaill/McCool) that formed the most popular branch of Irish-language literature from about the twelfth century down to recent times. Her work is often concerned with the great text at the heart of this corpus, Acallam na Senórach (‘The Colloquy of the Ancients’), composed c.1225; this is the subject of a monograph currently in progress. Other interests include the reception of medieval Irish literature in modern Ireland and eighteenth-century Scottish Gaelic reflexes of the fíanaigecht tradition. Her recent publications include The Gaelic Finn Tradition II (editors S.J. Arbuthnot, G. Parsons & S. Ní Mhurchú, Four Courts, 2022); the article “Ancient Ireland” in The Oxford Handbook of W.B. Yeats (editors L. Arrington and M. Campbell, Oxford University Press, 2023); and an article co-authored with M. Mac Craith, “Reformation, Conquest and Exile 1534–1611 | An Reifirméisean, an Concas Eilíseach agus Deoraíocht thar lear 1534–1611” in Bone and Marrow/Cnámh agus Smior: An Anthology of Irish Poetry from Medieval to Modern (editors B. Ó Conchubhair and S. Fisher, Wake Forest University Press, 2022). Parsons has held visiting fellowships and professorships at Balliol College, the University of Connecticut, and Oxford. She is the recipient of a 2022-23 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship.

Introduced by Visiting Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Professor in Irish Letters and Chair of the Fund for Irish Studies Fintan O’Toole. Part of the spring 2023 Fund for Irish Studies lecture series.

Tickets & Details

The event is free and open to the public. No advance tickets or registration required.

Get directions and find venue information for the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street.

COVID-19 Guidance + Updates

Per Princeton University policy, all guests must either be fully vaccinated, or have recently tested negative (via PCR within 72 hours or via rapid antigen test within 8 hours of the scheduled visit) and be prepared to show proof if asked, or wear a face covering when indoors and around others.


symbol for wheelchair accessibilityThe James Stewart Film Theater is wheelchair accessible. Visit our Venues and Studios section for accessibility information at our various locations. Guests in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or email LewisCenter@princeton.edu at least one week in advance of the event date.


February 3, 2023
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
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James Stewart Film Theater
185 Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States
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