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By Poetic Authority: The Rhetoric of Panegyric in Gaelic Poetry of Scotland to C.1700

M. Pia Coira

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13 Apr 2012
Dunedin Academic Press
464 pages - 234 x 156 x 38mm
Pia Coira presents a comprehensive survey of medieval and early modern Scottish Gaelic poetry and studies the particular form of poetic diction in the extant corpus. Through a fixed set of literary conventions the court poets of the period gave sanction to their patrons' leadership, an essential task which served to preserve the cohesion of society. These conventions, known as the panegyric code, were in a large measure borrowed by the more demotic vernacular poets, and indeed permeate all Gaelic literary genres, including annals and chronicles. Originally established in the poetic schools of Ireland, the code adopted some distinct forms in Scotland, reflecting particular social and political developments. This book is the first detailed and systematic collection and classification of the rhetoric of leadership in Scottish Gaelic poetry, from the earliest times to the beginning of the eighteenth century. Because of its social and political function, however, this poetry also reveals much about the society in which it flourished, particularly in respect of issues of Gaelic identity and loyalties, as Gaels, as Scots, and as members of the early-modern kingdom of Britain. Particularly helpful features of the book are its careful analysis of the 'panegyric code', including its composition and employment; its divergences from the established conventions received from the schools of Ireland; its discussion of issues of sovereignty, loyalties and identities as reflected in the poetry; and a novel systematic classification of Scottish kindreds (clans) according to their own genealogical claims. The book will prove an invaluable resource for those studying Celtic, Gaelic and Scottish literature and history of the medieval and early modern periods.
Preface. Spelling and nomenclature. Index of tables. Abbreviations. 1. Gaelic court poetry in Scotland: historical background; 2. Gaelic court poetry in Scotland: literary background; 3. MacDomhnaill and Mac Dubhghaill: the descendants of Colla Uais; 4. Caimbeal and Mac Leod: the descendants of Neimheadh; 5. Other patrons: from the Lennox to the Mearns; Mac Griogior, Mac Gille Eoin and Mac Coinnigh; Other Gaelic patrons , and patrons of Norman descent; 7. From the Dal Riada chiefs to the royal Stiubhairt: the kings of Scotnad and Britain; 8. By poetic authority: the language of authority in Scottish Gaeilc poetry. Appendix 1: Namha an cheird nach taithighthear. Appendix 2: Panegyric code motifs: selected glossary. Appendix 3: List of poems by subject, with sources. Bibliography. Index of poems. General Index.
Dr M.Pia Coira has worked as a Teaching Fellow, Celtic, School of Language & Literature, and as a Research Fellow, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen

‘This is an indispensable book. It combines into a wide and well-founded survey all that until now had to be laboriously culled from conference proceedings, periodicals and similar publications. Even if only the system of rhetorical codes in the panegyric poetry until 1700 had been presented, this would be a sufficient reason to value this book. However, Coira does not stop here. Against the backdrop of the historical and literary development of Gaelic poetry, the reader obtains a comprehensive picture of Gaelic society, its identity and structure of power, closely bound up with Gaelic literary culture.’ Review translated from Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie

'Dr Coira’s book is to be welcomed as adding comprehensively to the studies of the practice of poetry in Scotland that have emanated in recent years from a new generation of Scottish Gaelic scholars… For thoroughness of approach and originality of thought, this book makes a valuable contribution to the study of Gaelic poetry.' Scottish Gaelic Studies

'The importance of Gaelic to Older Scots literature is highlighted in M. Pia Coira’s 2012 monograph, By Poetic Authority: The Rhetoric of Panegyric in Gaelic Poetry of Scotland to c.1700, which presents a systematic examination of a wide range of poetry by both filidh (highly trained professional poets) and more amateur vernacular poets through the medieval and early modern periods. In tracing a history of the development of Gaelic panegyric poetry in Scotland, Coira demonstrates its reliance on Irish models and the Scottish poets’ determination to reshape the genre in a Scottish context. Her illuminating study highlights the possible overlap between Gaelic and Older Scots in future scholarship.'
Year's Work in English Studies

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