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Title: The development of style in traditional Gaelic narrative, with special reference to 'runs'
Author: Muhr, Mary Kay
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1978
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Gaelic society included a professional class of men of learning, whose origins go back to the prehistoric period. The learned men called filid were guardians of a native literature in prose and verse, transmitted by recitation and memory. Oral recitation is continuous and influential despite the introduction of writing. Within the narrative literature prose and verse maintain different roles. Narrative is in prose, while verse is reserved to heighten important utterances of the characters. Other dialogue is in realistic direct speech, terse and ironic. Verse was probably sung, prose spoken, and dialogue given dramatic expression, providing a variety of sounds in performance. The characteristic brevity of the dialogue was adapted in narrative prose by the monastic scribes, who first recorded the native tales for reference. In Middle Irish the narrative becomes fuller, as in modern oral recitation; which cultivates dialogue, though rarely verse. Conventional descriptive passages or 'runs' appear first in ninth century manuscript tales, but preserve ancient traditions. Some of the early types are found in archaic stressed metre, and the ornaments of alliteration and rhythmic repetition found in stressed verse become regular in prose descriptions. Many of the manuscript 'runs' are preserved in modern oral tradition, where they are spoken differently from the prose narrative, in a rapid chant. They are a highly esteemed part of the oral tellers' repertoire, recited word for word at an appropriate point in any tale. Such a usage would explain their exclusion from the early recordings of individual tales. In Early Modern Irish tales the style of the 'runs' influences the narrative, as the practice of reading aloud allowed whole tales to be transmitted in ornamental language. Nevertheless the variation of prose narrative, run, and dialogue, re-established in modern oral tales, appears to be, with the addition of poems, the oral style once cultivated by the filid.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available