We are excited to provide summaries of Scottish Gaelic Studies courses in the Spring 2019 semester at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, offered by Dr. Tiber Falzett during the second half of his inaugural one-year Visiting Lectureship (the “Scottish Heritage USA Visiting Lectureship in Scottish Gaelic Studies”). The Visiting Lectureship and these courses are under the aegis of the Department of English and Comparative Literature.
First Year Seminar (Spring Semester, 2019, UNC-CH): Scottish Gaelic Folksong and Vernacular Verse in the North American Diaspora
In this seminar, we will delve into the treasure trove of Scottish Gaelic song tradition and vernacular verse transmitted and composed in the North American Diaspora, from the earliest surviving examples of verse made in Revolutionary eighteenth-century North Carolina to the living Scottish Gaelic song tradition in Cape Breton Island, Canada. Scottish Gaelic texts will be engaged in English translation and students will be encouraged to participate fully from discussing a text’s imagery to singing its choruses. Rooted in over four-centuries of oral tradition, these compositions give voice to a dynamic yet, to the outside observer, subaltern tradition of song-making carried across the Atlantic by emigrants and exiles from the eighteenth century onward.
This large corpus of material that offers vivid insights into the experiences of Scottish Gaels in what are today the United States of America and Canada remains largely underexplored within the academy. This is in-spite of the fact that it offers some of the earliest examples of poetic expression among minoritized immigrant groups in the continent. Key concepts to be explored will include oral and literary frameworks of representation, the function, performance and transmission of song and verse in the social world, and the methods of documentation and collection of oral texts that by the mid-twentieth century became increasingly endangered with rapid attrition of the Gaelic language as the vital force in expressing everyday experience.
At its heart, this verse was composed to be sung and shared at the communal level, representing a poetic lifeblood that gives voice to Scottish Gaelic experience over generations in which the lines between composer, performer, and audience were often blurred. For this reason, the texts examined will be placed in the functional contexts of their oral performance by engaging archival recordings made in the twentieth century. Attention will also be given to the popularization of these rooted songs now performed globally from commercial recordings that top the record charts to soundtracks for feature-length films. Ultimately, this unique body of knowledge represents an unparalleled literary inheritance that has been both highly valued and devotedly maintained in the collective memory of Scottish Gaelic-speaking communities on both sides of the Atlantic.
FOLK 487. Everyday Stories: Personal Narrative and Legend. 3 Credits.
Narrating the everyday and the extraordinary are universal forms of expression. This course will explore the many ways in which oral narrative is communicated from migratory legends to song-making to a conversation at the kitchen table. Specific focus will be given to the ways in which individual and shared experience have been and continue to be communicated through various forms of Scottish Gaelic verbal art as found in both Scotland’s Highlands and Hebrides as well as within the Scottish Gaelic Diaspora from North Carolina to Atlantic Canada. These narratives range from everyday conversations on how to give a fiddle tune the right ‘flavor’ (blas) for dancing, to immigrant memorates of treacherous emigrant crossings, to songs composed from the perspective of hungry sheep-thieving bears.
They also entail extraordinary yet frequently expressed supernatural encounters with ambivalent fairies, shape-shifting witches and seal-wife ancestors as well as the foretelling of future events through the ‘gift’ of second-sight (an dà shealladh) and comet-tailed ghost-lights. Taken together, these narratives reveal the many ways each of us makes sense of our experience in the world by artfully and effectually communicating it to others.
ENGL 377. Introduction to the Celtic Cultures. 3 Credits.
A broad survey of the living Celtic languages, literatures and cultures of Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. Special emphasis will be given to the Scottish Gaelic language and its wealth of cultural expression as found in both Scotland’s Highlands and Hebrides and its Diaspora, from North Carolina’s Cape Fear and Sandhills to Canada’s Maritime Provinces.