Welsh Literature


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An Introduction to Welsh Literature

Much Welsh literature is unknown outside the borders of the principality. Anglo-Welsh poets, on the other hand, such as Dylan Thomas are famous throughout the literary world. They wrote in English. The very nature of the Welsh language, so vastly different from every other in Europe (with the exception of Breton with which it shares a common heritage) restricts its understanding to perhaps no more than half a million people. One of these people is certainly not A.N. Wilson, "a writer of great reputation," the literary editor of the "Evening Standard" (an English Newspaper). As a literary critic, Wilson falls on his face, for he completely fails to recognize the two essential features of the Welsh poetic tradition: its antiquity and its continuity. Wilson's statement to the "Western Mail" is thus outrageous: "I love Wales and the Welsh," he said, "but Wales did not develop the way the Scots did, with an independent literary tradition. That is an historical fact." (cited in "Wales Review", September 1996, p. 57).

Those of us who know better recognize that from evidence of surviving works by sixth century poets Taliesin and Aneirin, Welsh can claim to be the oldest attested vernacular literature in Europe. (Surviving literature from England is in Old English and thus not in the vernacular: only scholars can read it for understanding; Scottish literature is mainly written in Middle English). In addition, both Taliesin and Aneirin were inheritors of an already old and sophisticated bardic tradition that was common to the Celtic peoples of Europe. Wales possesses a rich literature that amply rewards its study. It has a long and impressive history.

Chapter 1: Heroic Poetry
Chapter 2: The Saga Poems
Chapter 3: Arthuriana
Chapter 4: Giraldus Cambrensis
Chapter 5: The Mabinogion
Chapter 6: The Court Poets
Chapter 7: Poets of the Gentry
Chapter 8: Poetry of Discontent
Chapter 9: The Welsh Bible
Chapter 10: The Renaissance
Chapter 11: 17th Century Religious Literature
Chapter 12: 18th Century Wales
Chapter 13: Influence of London
Chapter 14: Influence of Methodism
Chapter 15: 19th Century
Chapter 16: 20th Century Pt I
Chapter 17: 20th Century Pt II
Chapter 18: 20th Century Pt III
Chapter 19: Conclusion
Chapter 20: Reading List

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