Edinburgh Research Explorer


After an undergraduate degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge, Abigail Burnyeat went to Glasgow for her postgraduate study, first in Medieval Studies and then in Celtic. She began working at the department of Celtic at Edinbugh in 2001, first as Research Assistant to Prof. William Gillies, and as lecturer from 2006. She has also taught at the University of Glasgow.

Her primary area of interest is in medieval Irish literary and textual culture, with a particular focus in the following areas: educational practice, bilingualism, orality, manuscript culture, medieval literary and textual theory. Her research focuses on the origins and development of the medieval Gaelic literary critical tradition. This has involved study of the interaction between Latin and vernacular literary culture, the development of vernacular Gaelic reflexes of Latin critical techniques, genre, form, & compilation. She has also written on on the development of vernacular grammatical traditions as a locus for critical activity, analysing in particular the grammatical text Auraicept na n-Éces and its associated commentary. Other research projects have explored ways in which oral literary theory can be brought to bear on glossed medieval Gaelic texts, looking at bilingual oral teaching practice as a method of understanding the development of vernacular critical terms and techniques. This has led to further research into medieval Gaelic schools and schooling.

Collaborative research projects include the Orality and Text in the Gaelic World project based in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and work underway on a variety of research areas connected with the Gaelic manuscripts held in Edinburgh repositories.

Other areas of interest include the Celtic Revival in Scotland, Pan-Celticism, and in particular the rôle in these of Elizabeth Catherine (Ella) Carmichael (1870-1928), the first female scholar of Gaelic in Scotland.

Research Interests

  • Medieval Gaelic literature
  • Medieval Gaelic manuscript culture
  • Medieval Gaelic and Hiberno-Latin education
  • Medieval literary theory
  • Medieval orality
  • Medieval bilingualism
  • The Celtic Revival in Scotland
  • Pan-Celticism

Current Research Activity

Abigail is currently working on a number of projects to do with medieval Gaelic manuscript compilation and medieval Gaelic literary and educational practice.

Current Research Projects

Study of B.L. Egerton 1782, in particular its extensive collection of miscellanea.

Biographical study of Elizabeth Catherine (Ella) Carmichael.


Research outputs

  1. 'Wrenching the club from the hand of Hercules': Classical models for medieval Irish compilatio

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  2. The Táin-complex in B.M. Egerton 1782

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

  3. Bile ós Chrannaibh: A Festschrift for William Gillies

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

View all (4) »

Research activities & awards

  1. Writing Violence: Medieval and Modern Perspectives

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

  2. Seachdain na Gàidhlig: Edinburgh Gaelic Festival

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventPublic Engagement – Schools engagement

  3. Royal National Mòd

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar

View all (33) »

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