EXC 2060 A3-15 - Ulster, Babel and Troy. Political and Religious Dynamics and Cultural Hybridization in Medieval Ireland

Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
Type of Funding
Subproject in DFG-joint project hosted at WWU
  • Description

    The project aims to analyze specific phenomena of cultural hybridization in medieval Ireland which are supposed to have emerged as a result of a creative adaptation of different traditions in the context of particular political circumstances. A product of these processes of entanglement can be seen in a specific cultural practice of historiography which includes highly diverse text in Latin as well as in the vernacular. As a strategy of authorization, most Irish dynasties claimed ancestry from mythical forefathers which allegedly invaded Ireland in pre-Christian times. The particular function of ‘pagan' traditions as resources of legitimation in medieval Ireland produced a sort of historical thinking in which Christian and pre-Christian traditions closely interacted in a highly creative fashion. The course of these processes will be studied in comparison with other cultures of history and phenomena of hybridization in medieval Europe. For the Irish literati which were concerned with the construction of genealogies could not confine themselves to producing an isolated ‘national' history. The tradition of the Gaels had to be inserted in the broader course of the history of the world, which made it necessary to correlate Gaelic History with the history of the Bible or the Romans. The canonical narrative, which relates the early history of the Gaels, the Leabhar Gabhála Érenn ("Book of the Taking of Ireland"), appears as a witness of significant processes of transcultural entanglement that is due to specific dynamics of tradition and innovation in religion and politics.
    The particular sort of cultural ‘diversity‘ in Ireland, combined with established practices of disambiguation, provided a context that seems to have been conducive to further processes of hybridization. The continuity of pre-Christian traditions, which were reproduced and written down because of their political relevance, was equally formative for those domains of Irish historical culture, in which other sources of ‘world history' were adapted. The Irish adaptations of Latin text of continental provenance frequently contain a number of cultural categories and concepts that do not have a counterpart in the original Latin version. Apart from Christian elements which were incorporated in the text, particular institutions, practices and values are repeatedly applied which are known from the secular Irish prose narratives or law tracts and therefore appear as fundamental constituents of a culturally specific repertoire of interpretation. Reading the sources in this perspective suggests that cultural categories of that kind could in fact serve to accomplish processes of adaptation and transfer and thus to foster the emergence of ‘hybrid' phenomena.
    The research project aims at analyzing such processes of entanglement in medieval Ireland, particularly in the specifically Irish culture of ‘history' and cultural memory that is related to highly diverse sources in medieval Irish and Latin. Historiography in Ireland is in particular suitable to investigate cultural hybridization in its connection with a specific dialectic of political strategies and religious constellations. By way of focusing on processes of entanglement and hybridization, finally, earlier views on the cultural ‘peculiarity' of medieval Ireland can be regarded in a different light.
  • Persons