What Do I Read Next?
P. W. Joyce's Old Celtic Romances, first published in 1879 and recently reprinted, is one of the first and most influential collections of translations of Irish tales. "The Children of Lir" is perhaps the best-known story in the collection, which leans towards romance and magic rather than heroic battle.
"The Death of Aife's Only Son" is included in Kinsella's translation of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. It is a tragedy worthy of the Greek drama. Cúchulainn is caught up in an inevitable tragedy of his own making. In this tale, unlike in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, a woman's advice represents wisdom and the finest prompting of human love. Emer, Cúchulainn's wife, out of love for him and for his son by another woman, pleads with him to acknowledge and spare his son, Connla.
W. B. Yeats' cycle of plays (On Bailie's Strand, The Green Helmet, Deirdre, At the Hawks Well, The Only Jealousy of Emer, and The Death of Cúchulain), based on Cúchulainn's exploits, transpose the hero into a world of late nineteenth and early twentieth romantic, nationalistic and aesthetic sensibilities, but nevertheless, demonstrate the enduring appeal of the Ulster Cycle.
It may be a reflection of a continuing Irish preoccupation with the land, reflected in the place name stories of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, but the landscapes of few countries have been as well or lovingly described as Ireland's in Frank Mitchell and Michael Ryan's Reading the Irish Landscape. The authors bring the geological and environmental history of the island forward from the earliest rocks to the present day pressures on the Irish environment.
The first volume of Clonmacnoise Studies, edited by Heather King, is a collection of wide-ranging studies of the monastery where the earliest extant manuscript of the Táin Bó Cúailnge was written. Taken together, they are a window on the world, both physical and intellectual, in which the author, scribe, and audience lived.
Paul Saenger's Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading is a demanding text, but for anyone interested in the development of western literacy and the way information is presented in text, the first ninety-nine pages are worth any difficulty they may present.