2013/14 Celtic Studies

Award PhD / MPhil
Attendance Full time, Part time
Campus Belfast, Coleraine, Magee
Faculty Arts
Level Postgraduate Research

General Description top

Celtic Studies is a designated area of very high importance at the University of Ulster with research in the subject being carried out within the Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, Celtic Studies at Ulster was awarded a maximum 5* while in the 2008 RAE it was ranked third out of 247 submissions in Modern Languages with 75% of its research being deemed either world leading or internationally excellent. The subject at Ulster was commended in particular for its world-leading research output and environment, with strong evidence of practices and activities conducive to a thriving research culture. The subject was also judged to have an outstandingly high income stream. Staff and student support arrangements were of world-leading quality, with excellent postgraduate training and on-going student recruitment.

The research infrastructure provided by the University is of a high quality. The Institute has a Director who is responsible for the day-to-day running and management of the subject area. There is also a Faculty of Arts Research Committee and a Faculty Research Graduate School. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor has special responsibility for research matters in the University and a Research Department oversees and administers all aspects of research provision. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor meets with the Director of the Research Institute on a regular basis to discuss strategy and priorities and to assess progress.

The main objective of the Institute is to foster and develop a vibrant research culture and ethos in all aspects of its work. This is reflected in a variety of ways, such as the number of high-quality publications by members of the group, externally-funded research projects, the organization of conferences and colloquia, international collaborations, and the large number of research students and research degrees awarded.

The Institute has close ties with the scholarly Societies, Societas Celto-Slavica and Societas Celtologica Nordica. Members of the Institute occupy the positions of President and Vice-President of these Societies respectively and edit their academic journals. The Institute also runs a series of research seminars on various aspects of Celtic Studies at which papers are presented by members of the Institute, including research students, and invited guests. Members of the Institute edit Studia Celtica Upsaliensia, Studia Celto-Slavica, European Studies in Culture and Policy, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, and the Irish Journal of Anthropology.

Specialisms include medieval Irish language and literature, textual scholarship, the transmission of senchas and historical verse, voyage literature, the Gaelic manuscript tradition, bardic poetry, place-names research, dialectology, lexicography, stylistics, minority languages, language policy and planning, the syntax and semantics of the verb in Irish, 18th and 19th century Irish language, literature and learning with particular reference to Ulster, modern and contemporary Irish literature, Scottish Gaelic literature from the eighteenth century to the present time, creative writing, Gaelic literature in translation, applied language studies (CALL, digitization, language corpora) and Irish and European ethnology and folklore.

Postgraduate supervision is available in almost all aspects of Irish and Scottish Gaelic language and literature and in a range of subject areas in the other Celtic languages.

Students are of central importance to the research culture of the subject and their progress is closely monitored: they maintain close contact with their supervisors and other staff; they are allocated dedicated space; and they are closely integrated into the fabric of the subject as a whole. In dealing with research students, the Institute collaborates closely with the Faculty’s Research Graduate School which has general across Faculty responsibility for research matters such as enrolment, training, progress, research space and other relevant issues.

The Institute has generated significant funding in this past five years and is engaged in a number of prestigious scholarly projects. Ongoing projects include the following:


  • Languages for the Future: Northern Ireland Languages Strategy (DENI-funded project)
  • Stories of the Sea: A Typological Study of Maritime Memorates in Modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic Folklore Traditions (AHRC-funded project)
  • Concise Irish-English/English-Irish Dictionary (RCUK-funded project)
  • The History of Celtic Studies Project
  • Tools for CLIL Teachers
  • The Power of Words in Traditional Medieval European Societies
  • Celtologica-Nordica, Celto-Slavica and Celto-Indica Studies
  • Displaced Poets: Migrant Writing from the Margins in a Scottish Gaelic Context – 1780 – 1930 and beyond (RCUK-funded project)


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Research Facilities top

Resources in Irish and Celtic Studies
Research students in Irish and Celtic studies are allocated dedicated space to carry out their research and they have access to computers, library carrels, and the Language Resource Centre. The University and Institute have materials on first and second language acquisition and learning; data banks on errors and error analysis; Modern Irish lexicographical data; a collection of Irish manuscripts of 18th and 19th century texts relating to south-east Ulster; the Enrí Ó Muirgheasa library collection containing important works from the period 1880-1940. The University is also a minority language and culture documentation centre and collaborates with a number of other Universities on minority language research, corpus linguistics and other projects.

Internet ResourcesThis guide contains pointers to Internet resources of interest to students and staff in Irish Studies at Ulster. It is not a comprehensive list but is intended to help you begin exploring the Internet : General Irish and Celtic Studies Sites, Irish and Scottish Place-names, Language, Newspapers and Magazines, Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias, Media, Literature, Electronic Journals (mainly table of contents only), Celtic Culture, Electronic Databases, Music, Discussion Lists, Booksellers and Publishers, Institutions specialising in Irish, Gaelic and Celtic Studies.

Princess Grace Irish Library (PGIL)
EIRData 2000 is an extensive set of electronic literary text files dealing with Irish literary authors and their works in all periods, and is a tribute to Irish achievements in literature as well as testament to the Princess Grace's attachment to her Irish roots. The project is conducted by the University under the aegis of the Princess Grace Foundation (Monaco) with funding dedicated for the purpose by the Ireland Fund Princess Grace Memorial Library in Monaco. PGIL EIRData is an ambitious Internet project in Irish studies comprising an extensive set of digital records dealing with Irish literary authors and their works in all periods. It is the most comprehensive reference source of its kind in any medium, thus providing a robust and uniquely flexible platform for future advances in Irish cultural informatics.

Staff Research Areas top

Professor Ailbhe Ó CorráinProfessor Ó Corráin has written extensively on aspects of Irish and Celtic linguistics and he also writes on Irish literature. His research interests include the syntax and semantics of the verb in Irish, stylistics, minority languages, Bardic poetry and Irish lexicography. He is author of A Concordance of Idiomatic Expressions in the Writings of Séamus Ó Grianna (Belfast, 1989), is Editor-in-Chief of Studia Celtica Upsaliensia and has edited a number of volumes in the series. He is a Senior Distinguished Researcher at the University of Ulster and Visiting Professor at the University of Uppsala. He sits on the Management Boards of the School of Celtic Studies, DIAS, the Digital Humanities Observatory (RIA), the DAH (TCD Long Room Hub) and HSIS (Humanities Serving Irish Society). With Professor Mac Mathúna, he is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Concise Irish-English/English-Irish Dictionary.

Professor Jacqueline BorsjeJacqueline Borsje was appointed Professor of Medieval Irish Culture and Religion in 2012. She is also Assistant Professor (NGO) in the Cultural History of Christianity at the University of Amsterdam. Her research areas are religion, mythology and literature. Monographs include The Celtic Evil Eye and Related Mythological Motifs in Medieval Ireland (2012), Saints and Spells: Miraculous Magic in Medieval Ireland (forthcoming 2013) and From Chaos to Enemy: Encounters with Monsters in Early Irish Texts (1996). She is member of the Board of the Dutch Society for Religious Studies, the Editorial Board of Yorkshire Celtic Studies; and the Consultative Committee for Peritia.

Niall ComerMr Comer is Lecturer in Irish at Magee and formerly Irish Language Technologist in the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. He is President of Comhaltas Uladh, the Ulster brach of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) and is working on a doctorate on the place-names of Coleraine and surrounding areas.

Dr Fionntán de BrúnDr de Brún’s main research interests are in twentieth century Modern Irish literature, the Irish Revival, cultural history, film and creative writing. He has written widely on Modern Irish literature, and is the author of the monograph Seosamh Mac Grianna: an Mhéin Rúin (2002). He is also editor of Belfast and the Irish Language (2006). Dr de Brún is in addition a creative writer in Irish and has a won a number of awards for his works.

Dr Maxim Fomin
Dr Fomin has research interests in Early Irish and Sanskrit. He has written a number of scholarly papers on the question of kingship in early Ireland and India and was Assistant Editor of the AHRC-funded eDIL project, the digitization of the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of the Irish Language. Lecturer in Humanities, he is a founding member and Secretary of Societas Celto-Slavica and is co-editor of the Society’s academic journal.

Dr Art HughesDr Hughes has written on various aspects of Irish and the other Celtic languages, including work on the Irish revival in Belfast in the 18th and 19th centuries, Irish place-names, the dialects of Ulster Irish, bardic poetry and the influence of the Irish language on Ulster English. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Celtic Linguistics and is Celtic languages and literature review editor for Seanchas Ard Mhacha.

Professor Ullrich KockelProfessor Kockel was appointed Professor of Ethnology at the University of Ulster in 2005, having been Professor of European Studies at the University of the West of England, Bristol, since 2000. In the 1980s and 1990s, following an earlier career in industry, he held research and teaching appointments in Germany, Ireland, England, and Scotland, including at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies and University College Cork’s Department of Geography. The author and editor of more than 10 books and an academician of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences, he is currently editor of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures and president of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore.

Iain Mac a’PhearsainMr Mac a’Phearsain is a lecturer in Scottish Gaelic and Director of the research project ‘Displaced Poets: Migrant Writing from the Margins in a Scottish Gaelic Context, 1780-1930 and beyond’. He has written and presented the acclaimed film Ìompaireachd nan Gaedheal which had its world premiere at the Belfast campus in 2007. Mr Mac a’Phearsain is also a creative writer and has published a number of poems in Scottish Gaelic. He was formerly Lecturer in Scottish Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye.

Dr Nioclás Mac CathmhaoilDr Mac Cathmhaoil is Lecturer in Irish at the Magee campus. A specialist in Ulster Irish of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, he was awarded his doctorate in 2010 for a thesis on the author and scribe Muiris Ó Gormáin which will soon be published. He is currently working on editing a number of bardic poems.

Professor Séamus Mac MathúnaProfessor Mac Mathúna is Professor Emeritus and has published widely on various aspects of Irish language and literature. His research interests include medieval voyage literature, Irish linguistics, bardic poetry, minority languages, and Irish lexicography. Founding President of Societas Celto-Slavica, he is joint editor of the Society’s scholarly journal, sits on the Editorial and Management Boards of the Dictionary of Modern Irish (Foclóir na Nua-Ghaeilge) based in the Royal Irish Academy, and is consultant editor and external reader for the academic series Studia Celtica Upsaliensia. Chair of the 2008 UK Research Assessment Exercise’s Celtic Studies Sub-Panel, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Member of the Royal Irish Academy. With Professor Ó Corráin, he is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Collins Concise Irish Dictionary.

Nóilín Nic BhloscaidhMs Nic Bhloscaidh is Lecturer in Irish at the Belfast campus. She has a Masters in Early Irish from University College Galway and is presently completing her doctoral dissertation on loan words in Irish.

Máire Nic Mhaoláin MA (Research Associate)
Máire is a distinguished Irish lexicographer and translator into Irish who was Managing Editor of Ó Dónaill’s Irish Dictionary and editor of An Foclóir Póca. She has translated a number of books from Italian, Welsh and English, the most recent being Dúile Fionnuisce [Freshwater Life] Pocket Guide (1996) and Réaltaí agus Pláinéid [Stars and Planets] Pocket Guide (1997). Eleven of her books have received awards from Oireachtas na Gaeilge. She is also a creative writer and reviewer of academic works. She is a major contributor to the Concise Irish-English/English-Irish Dictionary.

Gearóid Ó DomagáinDr Ó Domagáin is RCUK Fellow working on the Concise Irish-English/English-Irish Dictionary. He was awarded his doctorate on the present state of Irish in the parish of Gort a’ Choirce, Co. Donegal, in 2009. His is course director for the MA in Modern and Contemporary Irish at the Belfast campus.

Dr Caoimhín Ó DónaillDr Ó Dónaill has research interests in Early Irish and in the application of technology to the study of Modern Irish. He is Ulster’s representative on the Tools for CLIL Teachers, has been a researcher on the research project Linking Dictionaries and Texts, is Irish Language Technologist for the Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning, and has published an edition of Talann Étair in the Maynooth Monograph Series of the Department of Old Irish.

Dr Malachy Ó NéillDr Ó Néill was appointed to a Lectureship in Irish at the Magee campus in 2008. His doctorate – an edition of An Leabhar Eoghanach – was awarded in 2007. Formerly editor of An tUltach (2007-10), Dr Ó Néill is Irish language editor of Dúiche Néill. He was recently appointed head of the newly established School of Irish Language and Literature.

Dr Frank Sewell
Dr Sewell has research interests in Modern and contemporary writing in Irish, bilingual writing in Ireland, translation, creative writing, and international aspects of Irish literature, especially Russian and Slavonic links. He has written extensively on all of these areas and has received a number of prestigious awards for his work, including the Arts Council Literature Award in 1999 and 2001. He is author of Modern Irish Poetry: A New Alhambra (Oxford: OUP, 2000), published in 2001 and, with Alan Titley, of A History of the Irish Book, Volume Two: The Printed Book in Irish: 1567-2000 (Oxford: OUP, forthcoming).

Dr Peter Smith
Dr Smith has research interests in both modern and medieval Irish, Irish folklore and folk song, and sociolinguistics. Among his publications is a Bibliography of Irish literature relating to South-East Ulster and a number of articles in peer-reviewed publications on Irish historical verse. In 2008 he published Three Middle-Irish Historical Poems Ascribed to Gilla Cóemáin: A Critical Edition of the Work of an Eleventh-Century Irish Scholar.

Dr Iwan Wmffre
Dr Wmffre is Lecturer in Brittonic and Celtic Studies. He is a specialist on Breton and Cornish, Welsh place-names, and Celtic phonology and sociolinguistics. In addition to having published a number of academic articles in scholarly journals, he is author of Language and Place-names in Wales: The Evidence of Toponomy in Cardiganshire (Cardiff, 2003) and The Place-names of Cardiganshire (Oxford, 2004).

Disclaimer top

The information provided in this prospectus is correct at the time this page was published, but the research programme is subject to continuing development and the University reserves the right to make changes at any time before or after a candidate’s admission. As much notice as possible will be given of such changes.

Contact Details top

Professor Ailbhe Ó Corráin

Director, Irish and Celtic Studies Research Institute
Tel: 028 7167 5305
ap.ocorrain@ulster.ac.uk