Women’s poetry in medieval Gaelic Scotland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Abstract / Description of output

Women’s poetry from medieval Gaelic Scotland is represented idiosyncratically in its preserved literature, biased towards élite women connected to male-centered poetic culture and vulnerable to uneven distribution geographically and insecure or much later attribution. Prior to 1800, approximately 250 items of Gaelic poetry may be attributed to female poets, some of whose names are known, but fewer than a fifth were composed prior to 1600 and, of this earlier group, only 4 poems with attributed female authorship were recorded even roughly contemporary with the time of their suggested composition. For knowledge of the rest, we are indebted to versions preserved by the still-flourishing oral tradition of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd collected during and after the later eighteenth century, in anthologies of Gaelic poetry that became popular after the 1760s. While many critics now accept that anonymous items of poetry employing a female voice may well represent women’s work, the propensity for male and female poets to adopt opposite-gendered voices in composition remains problematic for the definition and criticism of “women’s poetry” in Gaelic. Nonetheless, a limited amount of fully attributed women’s voices from medieval Gaelic Scotland has been preserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Encyclopedia of Medieval Women's Writing in the Global Middle Ages
EditorsMichelle Sauer, Diane Watt, Liz Herbert McAvoy
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9783030762193
ISBN (Print)9783030762193
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Gaelic poetry
  • Scotland
  • lament
  • Amour courtois
  • bardic culture


Dive into the research topics of 'Women’s poetry in medieval Gaelic Scotland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this