Saturday, 26 May 2012

In which I suck at photocopying

Thanks to some generous relatives sending me thoughtful gifts of cash for my birthday, I decided it was time to treat myself and renew my membership at the university library. I know. I'm just that exciting...

Anyway. I took myself off to Glasgow this afternoon, after enjoying my Saturday lie in, and eventually managed to renew my membership. It took a couple of failed attempts at trying to pay by card (the machine wasn't working), then having to hobble off to the nearest cash machine to get cash out and then try again, only to find I had some unpaid fines still on my account. Luckily I anticipated the possibility and had enough to cover it without having to hobble another half a mile to cash machine, and I was good to go. Off I went, returning to my natural habitat after a long year's absence: the largest academic library in the UK (or it was when I was a student, anyway).

For once I managed to remember the list of books and articles I wanted to look up, which made things considerably easier than usual. Most of them are relatively recent books, published in the last ten years or so, and after a quick flick through of some of them, I think I'll have plenty to be keeping me occupied for the next few months. I've been wanting to find some books that are a bit more up to date, so I'm a very happy bunny. They are, in case you're interested:

Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe - Lisa Bitel and Felice Lifshitz
Celtic Curses - Bernard Mees
Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales, 700-1700 - Mark Williams
Ireland and the Grail - John Carey
The Cult of the Sacred Centre: Essays on Celtic Ideology - Proinsias Mac Cana
Celtic Christianity and Nature: Early Irish and Hebridean Tradition - Mary Low
Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages - Próinséas Ní Chatháin and Michael Richter

And I got some articles photocopied too. Except some of them didn't turn out too well thanks to my inability to get all of the text on each page in properly...Arse. On the plus side, one of them is already online - Rules and Legislation on Love Charms in Early Medieval Ireland. The others I'll just have to make do until I go back.

I think all of the books I've got justified the cost of renewing my membership. I've already had a look at a preview of Williams's Fiery Shapes online and I've been eyeing it for quite a while. It's been out of my price range, sadly, so I'm glad the university had already bought it (they tend to be quite slow getting new titles in). Celtic Curses is a book I've not heard of before but it looks good - it seems to be mostly covering Gaulish and British examples under Rome's influence but there are several chapters on Irish evidence as well, and it looks like a good read so far.

The book on Gender and Christianity by Lisa Bitel doesn't seem to have much to do with Ireland but there was an article on the idea of sex and gender in medieval Europe in general that gave some food for thought, discussing the idea of a third gender, or a "clergy gender." I'm not totally convinced by the idea but it's certainly something to chew on.

I still have plenty of books to look up on my next visit, though I don't have to return this bunch until September. I'm sure that will give me plenty of time to get everything I need from them, even if I don't get the chance to read them all from cover to cover.


Kathryn Price NicDhàna said...

Does Bitel adequately source her idea of "third gender" in *Irish* examples? Or do you see signs of reliance on the problematic theory held by some anthros and newagers, that has relied on outsider misinterpretations and homogenizations of some things from NDN cultures?

If she is equating a "third gender" with clergy... is she basing this on Catholic clergy and implying celibacy?

Seren said...

Bitel's just the editor, the article itself is called 'One Flesh, Two Sexes, Three Genders?' by Jacqueline Murray. It's more an exploration of medievalist academics current thinking, but the idea of the 'clergy gender' is one of the threads that's explored more thoroughly. Eunuchs and slaves are also considered (in the sense of occupying a lesser or "less than" status in society).

To the article's credit there's no mention of NDN cultures at all, it's all based on current academic theory in European medieval studies. There's very little mention of Ireland per se but as a general look I think it could be applicable to Ireland in a general sort of way...It does seem that the idea of third gender as "clergy gender" is effectively equated with the need for celibacy in order to fulfill the role (although it's also the spiritual role that contributes towards it; the adoption of a different persona or identity in society - the othering of the role, in effect), which is one of the things I find problematic. In Ireland in particular, it was centuries before the clergy habitually and wholly embraced celibacy, so it's not an exact fit.

Otherwise there's a heavy reliance on Aristotlean theories of sex and gender as they relate to the humours and such (male being hot and dry, female being cold and wet etc).

Ancestral Celt said...

Just wondering, do you follow Dr. Mark Williams's blog?

Seren said...

Do you have a link? I wasn't aware he had one!

Ancestral Celt said...

He has a public one: The Cantos of Mutabilitie; an eclectic mix of posts.

Seren said...

Tapadh leat!

nefaeria said...

This looks like an interesting list, especially "Rules and Legislation on Love Charms in Early Medieval Ireland". :) Not too long ago I found an article that may be of similar flavour, "The Evil Eye in Early Irish Literature and Law" {Fergus Kelly is one of the authors} that might be of interest to you:

Seren said...

Yes, thank you! It's a good article, to be sure. I found another one from Jacqueline Borsje the other day, it seems to be an amalgamation of the love charms article with some stuff about Brigid and her role in performing love magic on a couple:

Love Magic in Medieval Irish Penitentials, Law and Literature: A Dynamic Perspective.