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Celtic Literature   By: (1822-1888)

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Celtic Literature by Matthew Arnold offers readers a comprehensive and insightful exploration into the world of Celtic literature. For enthusiasts of myth and culture, this book is a must-read, as it provides a well-researched and dispassionate analysis of the subject matter.

Arnold's writing style is both informative and engaging, drawing readers into the rich tapestry of Celtic traditions and folklore. He provides a detailed examination of various literary works from the Celtic canon, ranging from the epic tales of the Ulster Cycle to the Arthurian legends and the enchanting tales of Tír na nÓg.

One of the strengths of Arnold's book is his ability to contextualize Celtic literature within its historical and cultural background. He delves into the Celtic peoples' unique worldview and their relationship with nature, allowing readers to grasp the significance of their stories and legends within the broader Celtic tradition.

Furthermore, Arnold's analysis of the impact of Christianity on Celtic literature is thought-provoking. By exploring the tension between pagan and Christian influences, he showcases the evolution of Celtic thought and storytelling over time. This aspect of the book adds depth and complexity to the study of Celtic literature, giving readers a holistic understanding of the subject matter.

Another notable aspect of Arnold's work is his meticulous attention to detail. He provides extensive footnotes and references, ensuring that readers are able to further explore specific topics or references that capture their interest. This attention to detail not only enhances the credibility of Arnold's arguments but also serves as a valuable resource for scholars and researchers in the field.

Nevertheless, some readers may find Arnold's writing style to be overly academic or dense at times. While his thorough analysis is commendable, it may be a deterrent for those seeking a more accessible introduction to Celtic literature. Additionally, the book's limited focus on specific texts and genres within the Celtic tradition may leave some readers wanting a more comprehensive overview.

On the whole, Celtic Literature by Matthew Arnold is an essential resource for anyone interested in delving into the rich and captivating world of Celtic storytelling. Arnold's expertise shines through his meticulous research and analysis, providing readers with a balanced and insightful exploration into this fascinating literary tradition. Whether an avid enthusiast or a curious newcomer, this book offers a compelling gateway into the enchanting realms of Celtic literature.

First Page:



The following remarks on the study of Celtic Literature formed the substance of four lectures given by me in the chair of poetry at Oxford. They were first published in the Cornhill Magazine, and are now reprinted from thence. Again and again, in the course of them, I have marked the very humble scope intended; which is, not to treat any special branch of scientific Celtic studies (a task for which I am quite incompetent), but to point out the many directions in which the results of those studies offer matter of general interest, and to insist on the benefit we may all derive from knowing the Celt and things Celtic more thoroughly. It was impossible, however, to avoid touching on certain points of ethnology and philology, which can be securely handled only by those who have made these sciences the object of special study. Here the mere literary critic must owe his whole safety to his tact in choosing authorities to follow, and whatever he advances must be understood as advanced with a sense of the insecurity which, after all, attaches to such a mode of proceeding, and as put forward provisionally, by way of hypothesis rather than of confident assertion.

To mark clearly to the reader both this provisional character of much which I advance, and my own sense of it, I have inserted, as a check upon some of the positions adopted in the text, notes and comments with which Lord Strangford has kindly furnished me... Continue reading book >>

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