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O'Donnell Lecture 2021 - The Kindred of a Child without a Father: Merlin’s British Forebears and Irish Cousins

14 May 2021

Professor John Carey will deliver this year's O'Donnell Lecture at 5pm on Friday 14 May via Microsoft Teams. Admission is free, all are welcome.  

John Carey, 'The Kindred of a Child without a Father: Merlin's British Forebears and Irish Cousins' 

Geoffrey of Monmouth, the twelfth-century writer who turned the Welsh Myrddin into the Merlin of Arthurian romance, in fact told two Merlin stories: there is Merlin the all-knowing child, son of a mysterious spirit; and Merlin the wild man, uttering prophecies from his hiding-place in the forest. This lecture will undertake to situate both Merlins within the broader context of insular Celtic traditions, and will explore the question of the original significance of the name Myrddin itself.

Professor John Carey has been appointed O’Donnell Lecturer in Celtic Studies at the University of Oxford, for the academic year 2019-2020. The O’Donnell Lectures were established in 1954 in honour of Charles James O’Donnell; under the terms of his bequest the lectures can examine British or Celtic elements in the English language or in the existing population of England. The first O’Donnell Lecturer was J.R.R. Tolkien.

Previous O’Donnell Lecturers from UCC have been the late Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Professor of Medieval History (1996-1997: ‘Vikings in Ireland and Britain, Reconsiderations’); and Máire Herbert, Professor Emerita in Early and Medieval Irish (2008-2009: ‘British Saints in Ireland, Irish Saints in Britain: The View from Hagiography’).

Roinn na Sean- agus na Meán-Ghaeilge

Department of Early and Medieval Irish

Bloc A, Urlár na Talún, Áras Uí Rathaille / Block A, Ground Floor, O'Rahilly Building, UCC, Cork