Images and representations of the sea in early medieval Hiberno-Latin and vernacular literature: studies in intertextuality and innovation
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This research takes the sea and its creatures as the common focus for an investigation of a series of thematically linked early medieval texts’ interactions with each other and with texts ranging from contemporaneous Insular and Continental compositions to ancient Graeco-Roman sources. Representations of the sea and discussions of its geographical and cosmological characteristics are very numerous in the writing of the Latin West. The universality of the sea as a feature of the literature makes it ideal for the study of wide-ranging textual connections and of the transmission and development of ideas relating to the sea’s conceptualisation. This thesis aims to establish intertextual contexts for selected representations of the sea in early medieval Irish literature. The purpose of doing so is to inform the modern understanding both of the ways in which these texts could potentially be read by their early medieval audience and of the authors’ use and adaptation of available sources. These case studies reveal new evidence for the knowledge and use of sources by early medieval Irish writers and exemplify key aspects of the literary dynamics of this period. They demonstrate that many, often disparate, interpretations could be constructed around a single narrative by the medieval scholar-authors. Consequently, these case studies aim to contribute to the understanding of Irish literary culture as an active participant in the international mainstream.