A versified Ireland

The Dindshenchas Érenn and a national poetics of space

in A landscape of words
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Chapter 3 considers the Dindshenchas Érenn (‘Placelore of Ireland’), a collection of around 200 poems and 200 prose pieces about named places comprising medieval Ireland’s most explicitly topographical narratives. The Dindshenchas Érenn was formally brought together as a cohesive corpus and first attested in the Book of Leinster manuscript. This chapter considers the narrative topographies of the Dindshenchas Érenn, looks at the role of place-making poets as medieval Ireland’s geographers and tracks ideas about the use of verse as the appropriate literary form in which to write and formalize Ireland’s landscape. The poets suggest that the verbalized territories of the dindshenchas poems, simultaneously real and imagined, were to be contemplatively accessed, virtually inhabited and moved through in an appropriative act. This, furthermore, was an act of collective national imagining. The island-wide bardic curriculum demanded that by the eighth year of training poets were able to recite the entire topographic corpus on demand, and multiple dindshenchas texts advertise the poets’ ability to conjure lost sites and spaces with their words and visionary abilities. The Dindshenchas Érenn thus becomes a national landscape, a virtual Ireland created, performed and preserved by the poets and scribes of Ireland.

A landscape of words

Ireland, Britain and the poetics of space, 700–1250

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