The Department of Early Irish (Sean-Ghaeilge) at Maynooth University is home to a group of scholars with diverse, but complementary, interests: our research ranges across linguistics, literature, and cultural history in the Celtic-speaking world and beyond.
Aside from more specialist publications in academic books and journals, two of our department members have published the leading introductory textbooks in their respective areas: Professor David Stifter is the author of Sengoídelc. Old Irish for Beginners, which is used to teach the Old Irish language in universities around the world. Dr Elizabeth Boyle is currently leading an international project to produce a collaboratively-written Introduction to the Church in Pre-Norman Ireland, aimed at undergraduates and non-specialists. Dr. Deborah Hayden's interest lies in the native grammatical tradition of early medieval Ireland.
David Stifter is a leading expert in Celtic historical linguistics. He was the editor of an interactive dictionary of Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish, Celtic languages spoken in ancient northern Italy. He has also co-edited several books on Celtic and Indo-European linguistics, among them the four-volume collection The Celtic World. Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, and he is founder and chief editor of the academic journal Keltische Forschungen. He was the director of a groundbreaking project, based at the University of Vienna (where he worked until 2011), which makes available the lexicon of Old Irish as found as ‘glosses’ (that is, brief annotations and comments in medieval manuscripts) in a 9th-century manuscript in the Ambrosian Library in Milan: these short texts are among our most important sources for the Old Irish language. Currently he is, amongst other things, involved in collaborative international research to elucidate the usage of magic in Medieval Ireland.
Elizabeth Boyle works on the intellectual and cultural history of medieval Ireland, particularly the literary culture – both Latin and Irish – of Christianity. She has published on various aspects of medieval philosophy and theology, and is particularly interested in the ways that Irish writers used their native language to express ideas which they had originally read in Latin. She is also interested in the ways that medieval Irish intellectuals read and understood the Bible, and the ways they reshaped and adapted earlier written sources. Other interests include: apocalypticism and eschatology (that is, ideas about the end of the world), religious doctrine, church organisation, pilgrimage, and contacts between the Gaelic-speaking world and England, Wales and continental Europe. Lizzie has also worked on the history of the discipline of Celtic Studies, and was the co-editor of The Tripartite Life of Whitley Stokes, 1830-1909, which examines the fascinating life of one of the nineteeth century’s most important Celtic scholars.
Deborah Hayden's research centres on medieval Irish, Welsh and Latin language, literature and textual culture. She is particularly interested in the history of linguistic thought and education in classical and medieval tradition, and has published several articles on aspects of the early Irish grammatical compilation known as Auraicept na nÉces (‘The Scholars’ Primer’). Her interest in the vernacular literatures of medieval Ireland and Wales also encompasses legal and medical texts, as well as the later transmission and adaptation of early medieval manuscript sources. She is currently working on editions and translations of two Irish texts: one a tract on literary analysis and rhetorical doctrine associated with the Auraicept, and the other a discussion of practical medical matters from a sixteenth-century manuscript miscellany associated with the Beatons of Mull.
In sum, our research interests encompass all aspects of the written culture of the medieval Celtic-speaking world, from the history of the Celtic languages themselves, to the social, literary and religious culture of the people who spoke those languages.
We have the cool ChronHib project running in the department.