Lainnir a' Bhauirn: The Gleaming Water : Essays on Modern Gaelic Literature

By Emma Dymock; Wilson McLeod | Go to book overview

Introduction
Modern Gaelic literature:
creative and interpretative challenges

Emma Dymock

’S nuair sheall mi troimh ’n raineach ’na sùilean/chunnaic mi lainnir a’
bhùirn ud/a ni slàn gach ciùrradh/gu ruig ciùrradh cridhe.
(from Ruaraidh MacThòmais, ‘An Tobar’, 1982, p. 48)

This book began with a conference held in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh in April 2009 on Gaelic literature in the twentieth century and beyond. It was a small conference but the discussions generated that day were rich, with papers ranging from critical analysis of poetry and prose to issues relating to the publishing and translating of Gaelic literature. Some of these papers are included in this book but we also cast the net wider to include chapters by several prominent scholars working in the field who were unable to attend the conference. The title of this book, and of the initial conference, is taken from Ruaraidh MacThòmais’s poem ‘An Tobar’ (‘The Well’). In this poem, Gaelic is envisioned as a well, about which an old woman tells the speaker in the poem: ‘chunnaic mi ’n raineach a’ fàs mu thobar a sùilean/’s ’ga fhalach bho shireadh ’s bho rùintean,/’s ’ga dhùnadh ’s ’ga dhùnadh’. Although the well is largely forgotten, it can be seen through the old woman: ‘S nuair sheall mi troimh ’n raineach ’na sùilean/chunnaic mi lainnir a’ bhùirn ud’ (MacThòmais, 1982, p. 48). The end of MacThòmais’s poem is far from optimistic; there is the worry that the well will remain overgrown and, by extension, the well and the Gaelic language will no longer be penetrable, even through the eyes of the old woman.

In the early years of the twenty-first century this concern is perhaps less evident in Gaelic literature than it was back in the 1950s, when

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