“Venerable Relics of Ancient Lore”

Medieval Welsh Literature as Postcolonial World Literature

In: Journal of World Literature
Coral Lumbley New York University USA New York, NY

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As England’s first colony, home to a rich literary tradition and a still-thriving minority language community, Wales stands as a valuable example of how premodern traditions can and should inflect modern studies of postcolonial and world literatures. This study maps how medieval, postcolonial, and world literary studies have intersected thus far and presents a reading of the medieval Welsh Mabinogion as postcolonial world literature. Specifically, I read the postcolonial refrain as a deeply-entrenched characteristic of traditional Welsh literature, manifesting in the Mabinogion tale of the brothers Lludd and Llefelys and a related poetic triad, the “Teir Gormes” (Three Oppressions). Through analysis of the context and reception of Lady Charlotte Guest’s English translation of Welsh materials, I then theorize traditional Welsh material as postcolonial, colonizing, and worlding literature.

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