CAHSS Faculty Articles

The Irish Storyteller

James E. Doan, Nova Southeastern University


This is an excellent compendium of material dealing with the role of storytelling and storytellers in Irish culture from the time of the ancient sagas to the present, in both the Gaelic and English-language traditions. Zimmermann manages to weave together such disparate elements as theories on whether the early Fenian tales were orally composed before being written down; the role of medieval clerics in preserving these traditions; the Elizabethan suppression of bards, rhymers and other ‘dangerous’ elements in Irish society; eighteenth-century antiquarian rediscovery of Irish poets, harpists, seancha´õthe and sce´ala´õthe (referring to different types of storytellers); nineteenth-century literary renditions of Irish storytelling in the works of Maria Edge- worth, Sidney Owenson, Charles Maturin, Thomas Moore, Gerald Griffin, William Carleton and others; the representation of storytellers in works by Lady Gregory, W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, George Russell (AE) and George Moore; and twentieth-century collections and analyses of Irish folklore.