Friday, 10 July 2015

Cross-dressing nuns and other fun things

After letting my membership at the university library lapse for a good while (mainly because the expense wasn't really justifiable), I decided it was nigh time to sign up again... It's way more cost effective to borrow than to buy, especially when most of the books I really want to read are often on sale for £60 plus – more than the library membership and more than I can excuse splurging on.

The kids are on holiday with my mother-in-law this week, so while they're away it seemed like a good time to go and sort things out; I get to spend as much time trawling through the shelves as I like, and I also spare them the abject boredom and effort of traipsing across half of Glasgow just to browse through stacks and stacks of musty books in an always overly stuffy building. Sometimes I'm a nice and thoughtful parent like that...

Anyway. Off I went and signed up again without any problems, and I went up to the Celtic floor on level 9. I had a list of books I was interested in, and I got the ones on my list that were still available (and looked more immediately interesting to me), along with a couple that I randomly picked up off the shelf. I also had a look through the Anthropology section to hunt up a book I'd borrowed last time but never had the chance to read, but unfortunately it wasn't there, and I took a look at Hilda Ellis-Davidson's The Celtic Seer. It's a small volume – a collection of articles by various authors – and from the looks of things only the first half is explicitly related to Celtic subjects. Of those, only one or two of the articles piqued my interest so I'm going to photocopy them next time I go if I can't access them online.

The books I did end up borrowing are:

  • Studies in Irish Mythology – Grigory Bondarenko
  • Playing the Hero: Reading the Irish Saga Táin Bó Cúailnge – Ann Dooley
  • Constructing Gender in Medieval Ireland – Sarah Sheehan and Ann Dooley (Eds.)
  • Early Irish Satire – Roisin McLaughlin
  • Selected Essays – Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
So not too many, because I'm aiming to actually read them (I have until October), or most of them, at least. And also the bookshelf in the living room collapsed under the weight of all my books so I don't really have anywhere safe to put too many at the moment... 

I've started on the first one listed and it shouldn't take too long because as a collection of Bondarenko's essays I've already read some of the ones that are online or published elsewhere (one of them being his article on 'Roads and Knowledge in TBDD' that was published in Celtic Cosmology, which I reviewed a while back, from the looks of it). It looks like there's some good stuff in here, cosmology-wise, so I think I'm going to enjoy it. I may well add it to my wish list so it becomes a permanent member of my collection. 

Playing the Hero is a book I've had my eye on for a while, and my interest is more because I spent a good amount of time studying it at uni than because it's relevant to my current research interests (though it has potential). The Constructing Gender book – a collection of articles from various authors – looks good too. Who can't resist a book with a chapter that starts with the sentence, "One of the odd things about early medieval Irish hagiography is its lack of cross-dressing nuns." 

I mean, really

But seriously, there does look like some good stuff here, including a chapter on Macha Mongrúad ('Playing for Power: Macha Mongrúad's Sovereign Performance'), another titled 'Travelers and Settled Folk: Women, Honor, and Shame in Medieval Ireland,' and one from Dooley called 'Speaking with Forked Tongues: Gender and Narrative in the Acallam.' 

I picked up McLaughlin's Early Irish Satire on a whim, but it really does look good – detailed, with lots of primary source material given and copious amounts of notes. I'm really hoping the library will get Jacqueline Borsje and Fergus Kelly's The Celtic Evil Eye and Related Mythological Motifs in Medieval Ireland in soon (I believe it's on order, though I think it's more that it's in the queue to be ordered once funds are available) because I'd really like to read it; it's come down in price so if I get impatient enough I might just buy it, but I think my credit card has received enough of a sponking lately for that to happen any time soon... 

All in all it was a fairly successful trip (and a bonus that Oscar didn't pee all over the house while I was out – he's a big boy now) and I'll try to put some reviews up as and when I have the time.