Abstract

The Scotsman James Macpherson’s treatment of Fenian tradition (stories centered on the figure of Fionn mac Cumhaill and his band of heroes) in his Ossianic poems is anticipated in key respects in the Fenian literature of medieval Ireland, particularly in the monumental text "Acallam na Senórach" ("Dialogue of the Ancients"). Among the shared features are the authorizing conceit that the written text is the extension of a disappearing oral tradition; the use of Fenian story to further a nascent sense of nation and of "us" versus "them"; and a pronounced interest in the emotional reactions of the characters to and in the narrative situations. This anticipation of the Macphersonian agenda provides a fascinating glimpse of folklorismus, as well as of folklore, in the medieval literary corpus.

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