Faculty Fellow Amy Mulligan, Assistant Professor, Irish Language and Literature, and Fellow of the Medieval Institute, is the winner of the 2019 Four Courts Press/American Society for Irish Medieval Studies Michael Adams Prize for the best article or essay in Irish medieval studies.
Her article, “Poetry, sinew, and the Irish performance of lament: keening a hero’s body back together,” was published in Philological Quarterly 97.4 (2018), 389-408. Dr. Mulligan wrote the article, in part, in memory of her mentor, Dr. Claire Sponsler, who served as professor at the University of Iowa.
Using the critical lens of Claire Sponsler’s scholarship on subversive performance, Professor Mulligan’s essay considers the warrior Cú Chulainn’s lament for his foster-brother in the medieval Irish Táin. This ritualized spectacle washes clean and revivifies the slain hero’s body: poetry’s incantatory alliterations and rhymes re-fuse the dismembered body and animate it with story.
“By considering the lament in terms of caoineadh (“keening”), a genre typically associated with women,” she says, “we gain insights into the subversive potential of Cú Chulainn’s performance. A man’s transgressive performance of caoineadh provides a critique of gender and disempowerment: the surrounding narrative provides multiple examples of young warriors, noble daughters, and other figures whose bodies and lives are pawned to execute the wishes of morally bankrupt kings and queens. This lament thus participates in the caoineadh’s mode of protest, as a cry against the slaughter of youth in the wargames of the powerful.”
The overarching goal of Professor Mulligan’s research and teaching has been to put medieval Celtic literature into transnational contexts and to demonstrate how these texts inform and are informed by other North Atlantic literary, cultural, and political traditions. Her work has been supported most recently by NEH and Fulbright US-UK fellowships. Her monograph, A Landscape of Words: Ireland, Britain, and the Poetics of Space, 700–1250 (Manchester University Press, Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture Series), has just been published, and she has also edited, with Else Mundal, the volume Moving Words: Literacies, Texts and Verbal Communities of the Nordic Middle Ages, forthcoming from Brepols in the fall of 2019.