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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme



Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Wolfson College

PhD thesis: Interpretatio Hiberniana: Classical Influences in Medieval Irish Depictions of Otherworldly Characters


Research interests
1. Medieval Irish and Welsh language and literature
2. Celtic philology
3. Classical reception
4. Mythology
5. Intellectual history
6. Latin literature

Throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries, multiple Classical texts were adapted and translated into medieval Irish. These adaptations are more than word-for-word translations, and often feature reorganized or additional material drawn from multiple sources. I am particularly interested in how Irish adaptations translate words for divine and supernatural beings, and where such terms appear in other vernacular works from the same period. Roman attempts to translate other culture’s gods into their own mythological equivalents are traditionally known as interpretatio Romana. My dissertation will question whether a sort of literary interpretatio Hiberniana took place in medieval Ireland. I will examine the degree to which Irish authors looked to Classical texts to inform their depictions of their own Otherworldy characters and pre-Christian past, as well as what their native tradition might have contributed to their translation of Classical beings. Ultimately, I aim to elucidate the intellectual milieu of eleventh- and twelfth-century Ireland.


Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

I have always enjoyed studying mythology, especially when it involves finding connections between different cultures and religious traditions. During my undergraduate degree in Classics at Princeton, I became particularly interested in language, translation, and the interactions between Classical and medieval languages and texts. I was fortunate enough to complete an MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (ASNaC) at Cambridge and look forward to continuing my studies in such an interdisciplinary and unique department.


Plans for the future

I will be starting a four-year Junior Research Fellowship at St John’s College, Cambridge in October 2023. During my Fellowship, I will continue my study of medieval Irish Classical reception into the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, examining the development of the cath (‘battle’) genre of tales. These compositions drew heavily on Classical literature as well as on the earlier vernacular Irish adaptations of Classical epic produced during the tenth through twelfth centuries, which I investigated in my PhD thesis. They were also informed by wider trends in medieval European literature including Crusade narratives, vernacular romance, and translations of Classical literature into other European languages. Additionally, I am in the process of publishing my PhD research.