Telling tales of gluttony, fantasy and profanity at NUIG

Dirty jokes, ribaldry, irreverence, bad behaviour, wine, women, and song were all in a day’s work for a mediaeval bard and the stories he would write and tell.

One such collection of gluttony, fantasy, and profanity is the Aislinge Meic Conglinne, a classic of Mediaeval Irish literature, also known as The Vision of MacConglinne. It will be discussed at the International Colloquium on Mediaeval Irish Classic at NUI, Galway, a one-day event on Friday September 12, organised by the university’s School of Humanities.

This comic masterpiece, composed around 1100, tells how the king of Munster came to be afflicted by a demon of gluttony, a monstrous parasite, and how a poor student’s fantasies of food eventually cured him.

The work is a satire on the clerical and learned orders of Mediaeval Ireland, on their pieties and sense of privilege. It also parodies the major literary forms of the time, making play of saints’ lives, voyage-tales, prophecies and even the Bible.

“Modern readers may be surprised by the degree of profanity and blasphemy in it, while students are likely to delight in its irreverence,” says Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, Ollamh le Sean- agus Meán-Ghaeilge at NUIG and organiser of the colloquium.

Aislinge Meic Conglinne also cast an influence over later Irish literature. There are versions by Yeats, Austin Clarke, Pádraic Fallon, and Peter O’Shaughnessy, while the Irish-language version is by Fr Peadar Ó Laoghaire.

The colloquium will be held in the Seminar Room of NUIG’s Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, starting at 9.45am with an opening address by Prof Steven Ellis, Head of the School of Humanities.

The line-up of speakers includes Celtic scholars from Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and North America. The main focus will be on the Mediaeval original, but the final paper, by Professor Melita Cataldi of Turin (at 4pm ), will focus on the modern retellings.

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